Passenger numbers have fallen on buses, leading to cuts to services. (Image: Flickr/Alan Sansbury)
Around 12 per cent of people living in Wales have no access to public transport links in their local area, according to a new study by active travel charity Sustrans.
The charity warned that little has improved since its previous report on transport poverty published a decade ago, with rising fares and cuts to services leaving thousands without adequate access to public transport.
Director of Sustrans Cymru, Christine Boston called for “decisive action” on transport to create a Wales “where absolutely everyone has the freedom and ability to travel affordably, sustainably, and safely”.
The report examined the scale of “transport poverty” across Wales, defined as a household needing to spend 10 per cent or more of their income on running a car, regardless of whether they actually have one or not.
It found that more than 50 per cent of households face transport poverty in all but two of Wales’ local authorities, demonstrating a need for “centralised solutions”, Sustrans said.
More than one in five (23 per cent) of people in Wales have no access to a car or van, and are badly affected by poor public transport links, according to the report.
One asylum seeker quoted in the report said she was forced to walk long distances to get to volunteering opportunities as she couldn’t afford the £4 bus ticket.
“Many of us walk these long distances so are constantly tired and dehydrated, resulting in consistent illness,” she said.
The report found that low-income households, ethnic minorities and disabled people in particular face barriers to accessing public transport or active travel options like cycling, with 34 per cent of Welsh railway stations inaccessible for wheelchair users.
Though a significant chunk of the population has no access to a private vehicle, passenger numbers on buses have fallen dramatically over the past two decades, leading to a vicious cycle of cuts to services and numbers falling even further.
To address this, Sustrans has said the maintenance and development of public transport should be “driven by its role as a public service” rather than by profit, with research showing that improving bus connectivity could result in a 3.6 per cent reduction in social deprivation.
The charity called on the Welsh government to take urgent action as the cost of living crisis threatens to drag more people into transport poverty.
Their recommendations included setting out a clear plan of action for addressing transport poverty, delivering improved access to public transport for the most disadvantaged and improving safety for active travellers such as cyclists.
Director of Sustrans Cymru, Christine Boston, said: “We know that transport poverty contributes to a vicious cycle where people can’t access quality education or much needed services, which ultimately makes it more difficult to lift themselves out of poverty in the future.
“Here at Sustrans, we want to see a Wales where absolutely everyone has the freedom and ability to travel affordably, sustainably, and safely.
“Not enough has changed since Sustrans Cymru published its initial report ten years ago – there needs to be decisive action taken now, or we risk things getting even worse for those most affected by transport poverty.”