The 65 Monmouth to Chepstow bus service is now fully equipped to accept contactless payments, making the daily commute even more convenient and efficient for travellers. In light of this development, the service will start transitioning to a fully cashless system, Friends of the 65 Bus have announced.
The last day to use cash payments on the 65 bus service will be Saturday, 15th April. Starting Monday, 17th April, cash payments will no longer be accepted on the bus. Friends of the 65 bus sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this change may cause, but the decision was made with the aim of streamlining the payment process and enhancing the overall experience for passengers.
The transition to contactless payments aligns with the growing trend of cashless transactions across the United Kingdom. As more and more individuals rely on digital methods to pay for goods and services, cashless systems are becoming increasingly commonplace in a variety of sectors, including public transportation.
In 2018, residents' petitions saved the 65 bus, connecting Monmouth, Chepstow, and villages along the Wye Valley high road, from being axed by the Monmouthshire County Council. Since then, the route has flourished with the addition of a new bus, an expanded timetable, and the formation of the Friends of the 65 Bus group to promote and develop the service for local residents and tourists.
But now, with Covid-era funding for Wales' bus network set to expire in June 2023, the future of this crucial community link is once again uncertain. Deputy Transport Minister Lee Waters has announced that there is no available money to extend the Bus Emergency Scheme (BES), which kept services running during the peak of the pandemic when passenger numbers plummeted. The Welsh Government has not yet confirmed how it will fund the bus industry beyond this summer, coinciding with the announcement that all major road projects in Wales have been cancelled.
Monmouth MP David Davies has warned that cutting funding would be "catastrophic" for areas where bus services are the sole form of public transport connecting rural villages. Davies, who has supported the 65 bus service between Monmouth and Chepstow for the past five years, recognises its vital role in combating rural isolation and loneliness, providing a lifeline to services, and supporting the independence of people without cars. The potential reduction of Wales' bus network to a skeleton service when Covid-era funding ends goes against the policy for a net-zero future and an enhanced role for public transport, according to Davies.
Brian Mahony, Rosemary Corcoran, and Jane Gilliard, representing Friends of the 65 bus, described the threat of a significant loss of bus services as a "frightening prospect" for all passengers. The group expressed their confusion over the Welsh Government's proposal to dismantle the bus network in Wales, leaving passengers isolated and eliminating the opportunity for people to transition away from private motor vehicle use.
Acknowledging the declaration of a "climate emergency" in Wales and the urgent need to adopt a low-carbon lifestyle, the group emphasises the increasing importance of bus travel. To seize the opportunity for bus services, concentrated efforts in promotion and marketing of bus use are necessary, rather than the abandonment of bus services.
David Davies criticises the Welsh Government's transport policy and supports Friends of the 65 Bus' calls for a new bus industry funding package to be prioritised. He stresses that this issue is not only significant for the 65 bus but also for all bus services, passengers, and communities in Wales. Any reduction in the network, availability, and regularity of bus services within Monmouthshire and across Wales must be firmly opposed.