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Bus grant puzzle explained

15 May 2020
 

Different rates of concessionary fare reimbursement and the lower – or complete absence – of minimum bus service level specifications in Scotland and Wales, help explain why their governments have not set up  dedicated Covid-19 emergency funds for the bus industry like the one   operating in England. 

The DfT launched a £166.8m Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant (CBSSG) for bus operators in England in March to pay for them to provide 40-50 per cent of scheduled commercial mileage (LTT 03 & 17 Apr). The arrangement ensures that services are provided for key workers and for others to get to food shops and other essential services. 

The DfT grant runs alongside continuing payments of Bus Service Operator Grant and the Department’s request that local authorities continue to pay operators concessionary travel reimbursement and tendered service support at pre-Covid-19 levels. 

The Scottish and Welsh governments have similar policies for the continuation of existing bus grant payments. But neither devolved administration has set up a grant equivalent to CBSSG. 

A bus industry insider told LTT that the lack of an emergency grant scheme in Scotland was the product of  it having a “slightly more generous concessionary fares reimbursement scheme” than England, and the Scottish Government setting a Covid-19 mileage ‘floor’ of only 30 per cent, compared to the 40-50 per cent in England.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has not imposed any minimum mileage requirement on operators. Consequently, operators have generally reduced mileage by a larger amount than in England in order to break even.     

The bus industry is in talks with the Scottish and Welsh governments about funding  to deliver services as lockdown restrictions ease. 

 
 
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