The Scottish Government has announced a £47.6m eight-week grant for bus operators to pay for enhanced service levels as the country comes out of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Bus mileage in Scotland has been operating at about 30-40 per cent during lockdown, facilitated by the Government continuing to pay operators concessionary fares reimbursement and Bus Service Operator Grant at pre-Covid-19 levels. This had amounted to £34.3m as of last week.
Until now, the Scottish Government has not supported services with a specific grant akin to the DfT’s Covid-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG). This is because Scotland’s nationwide concessionary travel reimbursement rate is more generous than the local schemes that operate in England (LTT 15 May).
LTT understands that there were also no ‘Barnett consequentials’ for the devolved administrations from the DfT’s grant spend because the money was found from within other budget lines rather than amounting to new public expenditure.
The final details of Scotland’s scheme were resolved this week and service ramp-up will start next week. Stagecoach said that, from 29 June, it would provide around double the number of services that have been running as part of its emergency timetable since March.
The expectation is that the Government will request service mileage to be progressively ramped up, so for instance, 60 per cent for the first two weeks, 70 per cent for the next two, 80 per cent for following two, and 100 per cent in the final two.
The Government is not expected to make these figures compulsory. LTT understands it will instead request that operators provide about 77.5 per cent of their mileage over the eight-week duration of the grant.
The grant scheme could be extended for more time.
Bus operators and local authorities in Scotland are also grappling with the resourcing and funding of home to school transport. Scottish schools are likely to return at the end of the summer holidays in mid-August (the holidays end a month earlier than in England). Challenges includes how to maintain social distancing, and the affordability of service provision if more vehicles are needed to transport the same number of pupils.
Nicola Sturgeon has said she will review the two metre social distancing rule on 2 July.
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