The DfT was preparing to announce a fresh round of Covid-19 emergency funding for bus services outside London as LTT closed for press. It is expected to commit to continue paying support for the foreseeable future.
LTT understands that the Department will announce £218.4m for eight weeks backdated to this week. This will be paid direct to operators, the Government having ruled out the Urban Transport Group’s request that this round of funding be paid to combined authorities (LTT 24 Jul).
The DfT is also expected to announce that funding will continue to be paid thereafter for as long as it is needed, at a rate of
£27.3m a week.
The grant pays operators to provide levels of service above what can be commercially justified while patronage remains far below pre-Covid levels and social distancing limits the capacity of buses.
This will be the DfT’s third round of Covid-19 emergency funding to the bus industry.
The first round of the Bus Service Support Grant (BSSG) was worth £166.8m over 12 weeks and paid for a basic level of service at the height of lockdown restrictions.
The second tranche (‘BSSG Restart’) was worth £254m over 12 weeks and paid for operators to ramp-up service levels as movement restrictions were eased. This commenced on 12 May and ended on 4 August.
The DfT is continuing to pay Bus Service Operators Grant at pre-Covid levels. It has also asked local transport authorities to continue paying operators tendered service funding and concessionary fares reimbursement at pre-Covid levels. This is despite many tendered services not operating and concessionary passholder patronage being much reduced.
A number of local authorities are unhappy with this arrangement. Luton Council has said it cannot afford to continue making such payments (LTT 10 Jul).
One industry analyst told LTT this week that operated mileage in England outside London is currently probably in the range 85-100 per cent of pre-Covid levels, but that patronage is probably just 40-50 per cent.
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