Extended NAT route targets last municipal joint operation

Britain’s last route operated jointly by municipal companies faces a competitive onslaught from Cardiff-based New Adventure Travel. Cardiff Bus and Newport Bus operate three buses per hour between their respective home cities, but NAT’s new service will run four times per hour. NAT also says its fares will be competitive, argues that its overheads are lower than the municipals’ and says its annual turnover has overtaken that of lossmaking Newport Bus.

New service X11, starting on 4 September, is essentially a westward extension of NAT’s commercial N1 east-west service across Newport. Unlike the municipals’ service 30, this will offer direct travel to central Cardiff from Newport’s eastern suburbs. It will also cater for commuting to the Celtic Manor hotel and resort, east of Newport, where construction has begun on an £84million convention centre.

NAT launched its first cross-city commercial service, X1, in Cardiff in May 2015. The MetroCity single-deckers bought new for it are now short of capacity at times and will be transferred to the X11. Six new Mercedes-Benz Citaros will take over the X1, which may later be converted to double-deck operation. NAT has trialled several possible vehicles, including a Chinese-built triaxle BCI Enterprise from Ensignbus.

As Buses went to press in early August, Cardiff Bus was preparing a launch ceremony for another 10 new Citaros for its fleet, with bilingual audio and visual next-stop announcements, contactless payment ticket machines, free WiFi and at-seat USB chargers.

■ Since May, NAT has been operating what are believed to be the first hybrid buses in Wales. The two 13-plate Optare Solo SRs were previously with Reays Coaches of Cumbria. NAT did not publicise that they were hybrids because initially it wanted to ensure they were suitable for operations in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Welsh government has never offered any grants to operators to help with the purchase of lowemission buses, unlike its counterparts in England and Scotland.