English buses get £397m boost
England’s buses will continue to serve those who rely on them thanks to a funding boost totalling £397m for vital bus operators.
Announced by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, the package was agreed jointly with the bus industry. It is intended to keep key routes running to provide a lifeline for those who cannot work from home, including key workers. New funding of up to £167m will be paid over 12 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% of normal service levels.
Operators will also be required to keep passengers properly informed about revised timetables to ensure that people know which services are running and when. The Government has also promised that £200m of existing funding under the Bus Services Operators Grant will continue to be paid as normal even though not all services may run during this time. This is in addition to up to £30m of extra Government bus funding, originally earmarked for starting new services, which will instead be paid to local authorities to maintain existing services. Councils have also been encouraged to maintain their existing subsidies for concessionary fares to ensure that older and disabled people can still travel when they need to.
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. Our buses are a lifeline for people who need to travel for work or to buy food – including our emergency services and NHS staff – and it’s absolutely vital we do all we can to keep the sector running. 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.”
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, and we thank the thousands of staff doing an incredible job to keep routes running.
“This funding is designed to plug the gap between the costs of running essential routes and revenue currently being received, and will help the country through the outbreak by allowing critical journeys to continue.
“We’re pleased the Government is working with us to ensure essential bus journeys can continue and will work closely with them to ensure the network remains viable.”