Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that England’s bus operators will receive a funding boost totalling £397 million. The support will keep key routes running to provide a lifeline for those who cannot work from home, including those travelling to jobs on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, such as NHS staff.
This includes £200 million of existing funding under the Bus Services Operators Grant, which will continue to be paid as normal even though not all services may run during this time. This funding is usually paid according to fuel consumption, and so the government’s commitment to pay this on pre-COVID-19 levels will help ensure that bus companies are able to benefit despite fewer fare-paying passengers travelling.This is in addition to up to £30 million of extra government bus funding, originally earmarked for starting new services, which will instead be paid to local authorities to maintain existing services. ?
The new additonal funding announced yesterday, of up to £167 million, will be paid over twelve weeks under the new Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant. As a condition of the funding, bus operators will be required to maintain necessary services at a level which is sufficient to meet much reduced demand, but also to allow adequate space between passengers on board. This is expected to be up to 50 per cent of normal service levels.
Similar agreements are already in place in Scotland and Wales. The deal in Wales includes free bus travel for NHS workers.
Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Chief Executive Graham Vidler said: ‘Bus operators of all sizes across the country are providing an essential service at a time of national emergency. We thank the thousands of drivers and other staff doing an incredible job to keep routes running. We're pleased the Government has recognised the necessity of an emergency bus network at this time, and is working with us to ensure it is delivered.
‘This funding is designed to plug the gap between the costs of running the emergency network and revenue currently being received by operators and will help the country through the outbreak by allowing key workers to get to work, and other essential journeys to be made. We will work closely with Government to ensure that network remains viable. The industry is ready to gear up to a full network as quickly as possible once it is appropriate to do so.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We have been very clear during the outbreak that the best way to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS, is to stay at home if possible.
'This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long term.’?
Operators will also be required to keep passengers properly informed about revised timetables to ensure that people know which services are running and when.
Back on 23 March 2020, the Confederation of Passenger Transport called for £1bn of Government emergency support for bus and coach operators over the next three months because of COVID-19.
The CPT said back then the official advice for people to work from home and avoid social interaction was likely to cost bus operators £50m a week in revenue. Patronage on scheduled bus and coach services was “set to fall 75 per cent. As further measures are introduced to help protect the over-70s, concessionary travel is also likely to drop to near zero.’
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