‘Inconsiderate’ cut to bus route in Heath leaves elderly and disabled stranded

Bus users in Heath are forced to find other modes of transport after Cardiff Bus decide to get rid of the suburb’s only bus service

ELDERLY and disabled residents in Heath are campaigning to save bus route 86 because without it there will be no accessible public transport service where they live.

The route will stop running on March 30 because Covid-era funding from Welsh Government to support bus routes is coming to an end on April 1. The route is not profitable enough to pay for itself without the subsidy.

When the route terminates, every street inside the orange boxed area on the map below will be without a bus service. Their closest bus stops will be up to a 30-minute walk away for some residents, such as those living on St Gildas Road.

The 86 route currently runs from the city centre through Gabalfa and Heath – including the hospital – and onto Birchgrove, Llanishen, Lisvane and Thornhill.

The decision to cut this route leaves residents such as 91 year old Ted Turton “isolated” and unable to socialise.

At a resident’s meeting on February 8 at St Malo Road, Ted said that because of the cut to the bus service, he will be mostly confined to his house.

Ted describes how the bus service allows for him to get out the house for coffee and to socialise. The bus drivers know him, and stop right by his house, making sure he gets in ok.

These changes mean that Ted would have to wheel himself at least 15 minutes away, which is something he could not physically do.

“It is not that we think able bodied people can’t walk the five minutes to the other side of Maes-Y-Coed Road, it is the people less able that I am concerned about,” said Heath Councillor Graham Hinchey.

Heath holds a majority elderly population, and these people rely heavily on the bus to get around.

Ted was one of 20 attendees at the residents meeting organised by Anna Brancazio, 68. Anna uses the service to visit her mother in a nursing home and to get into the town centre. She does not drive.

Anna describes her concerns of losing the bus service that she uses up to five times per week.

What confused Anna the most however was that in 2021, the Welsh Government released its ‘strategy for an ageing society’ which outlined the importance of transport in the quality of life for elderly people.

The strategy states: “Accessible public and community transport can be a lifeline for people of all ages and is frequently cited as a priority issue by older people’s groups and individuals.

“It is imperative that we create an age friendly transport system that is accessible to all older people.”

So why has Cardiff Bus terminated the bus route?

The 86 route is operated by Adventure Travel, which is employed by Cardiff Council to provide this service.

They were able to run this service because New Adventure Travel received emergency funding from the Welsh Government after the pandemic.

As this funding runs out at the end of March 2024, services that are no longer commercially viable will become entirely funded by the local authority.

“During the pandemic, public bus routes across Wales that became unviable without additional financial support were granted emergency funding from Welsh Government,” said Laura Evans, Marketing and Communications Officer at Adventure Travel.

“Since then, passenger numbers have gradually increased but have not reached pre-Covid levels on many routes.

“From April 1 onwards, the emergency subsidy scheme will be replaced by a series of local authority tenders, for all public bus routes other than those that can operate commercially (i.e. without additional subsidy).”

This means that the bus routes that do not make enough money to subsidise themselves, are the ones most likely to be discontinued.

  • IS YOUR AREA AFFECTED? See changes to other Adventure Travel bus routes here

Many Heath residents have an over-60s bus pass which means they can travel for free on Cardiff buses. Anna believes this could be among the reasons why the 86 bus does not subsidise itself.

Ted Turton pictured near where he usually waits for the bus, 10 metres from his house.

Sue Hoare, 63, of St Gildas Road, uses her bus pass to get to work every day. She says without the 86 bus service, she will consider leaving her job.

“The bus pass is the only ‘benefit’ that I have ever had from the council, which I have been paying into for my entire working life,” said Sue.

“Without the 86 bus stopping on Heathway, I will have a 30-minute walk added onto my commute.

“My neighbours are in their late 80s and look after their 50-year-old disabled son. I see them catch the 86 bus every day to get him to his care provider. They won’t be able to get him there without a route stopping on Heathway.”

Is there a solution?

Cardiff Bus will be altering its 29 service to replace the part of the 86 route which runs through Lisvane, starting from April. This still means there will be no bus service running through the heart of Heath.

Heath and Birchgrove Councillors and Transport for Wales (TFW) are pushing to adjust the nearby 101 bus service so that it travels through Maes y Coed Road, Heathway, and parts of Heathwood Road. However, even if these changes are decided, residents will still have to wait until at least May for them to be put into practice.

“I am working with Cardiff Bus on how quickly they can do this, but they want to wait for the changes in April to bed in so they can better understand any impact before making further changes,” said Stephen Gerrard, TFW Network Operations Team Leader.

Concerned residents discussed creating a petition to bring a bus service back to the main roads in Heath.

Meanwhile, Anna Brancazio urges residents to write to Cardiff Council and Cardiff Bus expressing their issues with the service cuts.

Come April 1, disabled and elderly residents living in the area of Heath known as ‘the Saints’, will be left to find other modes of transport into the city centre and the hospital.