The biggest bus operator in Wales has issued an April 1 ultimatum to the Welsh Government over plans to slash spending on concessionary travel

Stagecoach has given the Welsh Government a deadline of April 1 to re-think its decision to set a new rate at which bus operators are reimbursed for providing concessionary travel, which would result in a £24m cut in the scheme’s budget, or face a potential judicial review.

Legal advice Stagecoach has received from Herbert Smith Freehills suggests key failings in the process the Welsh Government has followed. The government may also be liable to pay compensation for “violation of EU law”.

Lawyers have also written to 10 local authorities in Wales who are responsible for implementing the concessionary travel scheme in areas covered by Stagecoach operations, pointing out that following the Welsh Government’s new guidance would be unlawful.

The Welsh Government’s concessionary travel scheme provides free travel to more than 720,000 concessionary pass holders in Wales, including armed forces’ personnel and veterans.

Last month it confirmed a three-year funding package of £189m for the scheme across Wales – a reduction of more than 11% on the £213m package provided over the past three years.

Legal experts suggest the Welsh Government has erred in law by capping the scheme to fit within an allocated budget rather than following the statutory “no better, no worse off” principle.

John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach in Wales, said legal action was a last resort. However, he added: “We want to protect people from the devastating impact of these brutal, flawed and unlawful cuts.”

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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