Welsh 20mph limit makes buses late and could lead to cuts in services

20mph illustration
The Welsh Government argues that the limit has been brought in to save lives

Wales’s new 20mph speed limit has caused buses to run late and has forced one major operator to change its timetable.

Arriva, one of Wales’s biggest providers, said the 20mph limit had lengthened journey times, leading to more buses being late.

The provider, which serves routes throughout North Wales, said it was now undergoing a “large-scale review of its network” that could result in changing routes and frequencies to buses.

The Welsh Government introduced a 20mph speed limit on all residential roads on March 17 2023.

It met with widespread criticism, including concerns over the impact on emergency service response times and bus operations.

On Monday, Prof Stuart Cole, a Welsh transport expert, warned that the new speed limits would mean providers would have to cut frequencies of services and hire more drivers.

Impact on punctuality

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Arriva Wales said: “Arriva has been closely monitoring its timetables since the 20mph speed limit has come into force and is planning a review of its networks.

“So far, there has been an impact on punctuality as journey times have lengthened, which has been particularly noticeable on longer journeys or those connecting towns.

“This is creating challenging operational conditions.

“We are undertaking a large-scale review of the network and it’s going to a require a combination of additional resource, changes to frequencies and changes to routes to improve punctuality so we can better serve our customers.

“It is early days and we need more time to assess the data before making a final decision on the network.”

Arriva provides dozens of services throughout Bangor, Anglesey, Llandudno, Rhyl, Wrexham and Mold.

Newport Bus, which runs services in Newport and Chepstow, made changes to its timetable earlier in September, flagging bus funding, travel habits and the new speed limits as the reasons.

Cardiff Bus, which runs services in the Welsh capital, also listed the new restrictions among several reasons for changes to its timetable.

The introduction of the 20mph zone across the country has been widely opposed by drivers, with a Senedd petition to reverse the law receiving a record 430,000 signatures.

The Welsh Government argues that the limit has been brought in to save lives and encourage more people to cycle and walk.

‘Causing devastating damage’

Natasha Asghar, Conservative shadow transport minister, said: “I have warned for many weeks about the consequences of the blanket 20mph speed limit rollout and now we are starting to see the devastating damage it is causing Wales.

“Bus services are now being affected as a direct result of the ludicrous policy. With the industry already facing cuts and people feeling stranded in rural areas, the last thing the service needs is further challenges because of Labour’s madcap policy rollout.”

In his interview with The Telegraph, Prof Cole also suggested that urban buses were not engineered to travel at 20mph.

He said: “Most urban buses are automatic and they’re designed to be hardworking at 10mph and 30mph. They are never designed to travel 20mph.”

He said that buses were geared to either move in slow traffic or venture up to 30mph, the standard speed limit, when they hit less congested roads.

“But they can’t now, so the driver is expected to adjust the gearing constantly to override the system, which is a nuisance,” Mr Cole added.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have been clear from the outset that we would monitor any impacts of the 20mph on bus services.

“We are working closely with bus operators, local authorities and TfW to tackle the challenges the industry is facing.”