QUESTIONS have been raised over a scheme offering discount bus tickets to young people in Wales after it was revealed the Welsh Government had vastly over-estimated how many would use it.

The MyTravelPass scheme entitles 16 to 18-year-olds one third off bus tickets, and was launched as a pilot scheme in September 2015 with a £14.74 million Welsh Government investment. The project was rolled out across the whole of Wales in March 2017.

Although the Welsh Government had estimated 80 per cent of eligible young people - about 90,000 people - would apply for the scheme by the end of the pilot, a report by the Wales Audit Office has found fewer than 10 per cent applied for passes during this period. This had increased to around 18 per cent by August last year.

The report also found expenditure on the scheme had fallen dramatically since the end of the pilot. Although £14.74 million was spend on the scheme from September 2015 until March 2017, in the following 12 months this fell to just £1.09 million, and is estimated at £1 million between April 2018 and March this year. The report suggests this is due to far less having to be paid out to bus operators in compensation for the discounts.

A WAO statement said the findings "raise obvious questions about the value for money of the £14.74 million spent during the initial pilot phase, even accounting for any up-front implementation costs."

The scheme is due to be extended to cover 19 to 21-year-olds. Although this was due to come into force last month, it has been delayed.

Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay, speaking as chairman of the Welsh Assembly's Public Accounts Committee said the report "raises important questions" about the scheme's value for money.

“While the scheme costs are now much lower, it is also clear that the scheme has not attracted the level of interest from young people that was first envisaged," he said.

"This suggests that there are important lessons to learn for the marketing of the scheme as it is extended to cover 19 to 21-year-olds."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The report recognises the pre-announcement of the scheme’s funding before negotiations had taken place with the bus industry impacted on the initial cost.

"MyTravelPass has driven an estimated 1.344 million discounted journeys in 2017-18, encouraging more young people to use the bus for more journeys, reducing road congestion and improving air quality.

"We continue to work closely with the bus industry and our local authority partners and provide direct investment to help build a sustainable bus network, and a socially-responsible, greener and prosperous Wales.”