Government support for buses extended
An extension of the government funded £2 fare scheme has been announced. The news comes as the Transport Secretary confirms £80m of funding from 1 April to 30 June to protect bus services.
The government has announced plans to provide up to £75 million so that bus operators can continue to cap single bus fares outside of London at £2 until the end of June. The scheme was originally due to end in March after three months.
With bus patronage still at around 85-90% of pre-Covid levels, there are a number of ongoing challenges for bus operators. The government reports it is working closely with the sector on the challenges being faced with changing travel patterns since the pandemic and says it will continue to work on delivering the National Bus Strategy.
The government’s existing £60 million investment to cap single bus fares has already shown early signs of increased bus use, with an independent survey of 1,000 people from passenger watchdog Transport Focus showing 7% of people saying they are using the bus more.
“I want to make bus travel affordable for all” – Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “I want to make bus travel affordable for all, that’s why we’re continuing to cap fares at £2 and protecting local routes, ensuring we have a modern and efficient network that’s accessible for everyone.
“Getting more people onto reliable and affordable buses will strengthen communities and help grow the economy – connecting people to jobs, driving pensioners to see friends and family, and helping people attend medical appointments or access education.
“I’m determined to ensure that no matter where you live, you have the same opportunities to get around easily and can feel pride in your local area – which is why protecting our local bus services is so important.”
“It is now critical all parties use this three-month extension to move away from short-term funding fixes and instead, build a sustainable settlement to unlock the economic, net zero and social wellbeing potential of buses” – Confederation of Passenger Transport’s CEO, Graham Vidler
The Confederation of Passenger Transport’s CEO, Graham Vidler, said: “We welcome the Government’s extension of the Bus Recovery Grant, which will help protect vital passenger services for a further three months.
“It is now critical all parties use this three-month extension to move away from short-term funding fixes and instead, build a sustainable settlement to unlock the economic, net zero and social wellbeing potential of buses.
“The Government’s continuation of the £2 fare cap is also a good move to help make buses more attractive during a cost of living crisis and we will work with our members to understand how they can maintain this initiative.”
“We’re providing £155 million to help passengers save money on fares, get more people on the bus and protect vital bus routes” – Transport Secretary, Mark Harper
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Travelling by bus remains the most popular option for commuters and families across the country, but the sector is still trying to recover after the end of the pandemic.
“We’re providing £155 million to help passengers save money on fares, get more people on the bus and protect vital bus routes – helping with the cost of living and enabling people to get where they need to in an affordable and convenient way.”
The recovery grant support comes in addition to government investment of £3billion in bus services by 2025, including over £1billion to improve fares, services and infrastructure.
In 2021, the Government published the National Bus Strategy, and asked all English Local Transport Authorities outside London to publish their Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) setting out local visions for the step-change in bus services that is needed, driven by what passengers and would-be passengers want.
Since then, over £1 billion has been awarded to 34 counties, city regions and unitary authorities to deliver service improvements, bus priority and ambitious fares initiatives. In addition £5.7 billion investment has been provided to eight mayoral combined authorities in England to support integrated, cross-modal transport networks over the next five years through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement(CRSTS), including supporting bus infrastructure.
“We know that around a half rely on the bus with no other option available to them, so this funding is welcome news” – Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “We know that around a half rely on the bus with no other option available to them, so this funding is welcome news.
“We also know that bus passengers want simpler, better value for money fares. Many are facing particular financial challenges at the moment. The extension of the £2 fare bus fare is a welcome step to help attract passengers back on board and or encourage non-users to give bus a go. Our recent data shows that satisfaction with value for money has increased since the £2 trial.”