Buses given £300m, but coaches miss out

Coach and inbound tourism support lacking in Spending Review

A £300m investment in transforming bus services is one of the headline announcements in the Government’s Spending Review 2020. However, noticeably absent from the Review was any mention of coaches.

Announced by Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the bus investment is part of the Government’s support for the regeneration of towns and communities. The Spending Review also provides £120m for zero-emission buses in 2021-22 which, in combination with the DfT’s existing commitment to complete the first All Electric Bus Town this financial year, will support delivery of over 800 ‘cleaner, greener, quieter zero-emission buses’. This investment will move further towards delivering the Prime Minister’s goal of rolling out 4,000 of these buses.

The Government plans to invest £300m in 2021-22 to drive transformation of bus services. This funding will be drawn down in the first instance for any further Covid-19 support that may be required, while progressing reform to deliver better outcomes.

A new Levelling Up Fund worth £4bn for England, that will attract up to £0.8 billion funding for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is planned to be introduced. Among the projects expected to benefit from this fund are bus lanes and other town centre improvements.

Over £58bn of investment is confirmed for road and rail transport between 2021-22 and 2024-25, delivering some of government’s largest capital portfolios across the country. This includes record investment in strategic roads and rail.

The investment in transport is aimed at improving connectivity across the UK and growing the economy by enhancing the transport network on time and on budget. Tackling climate change and enhancing air quality by decarbonising transport is at the heart of it. It is also about building confidence in the transport network as the country recovers from Covid-19 and improving transport users’ experience, ensuring that the network is safe, reliable and inclusive.

‘Forgotten industry’

Commenting on the Spending Review, CPT Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said: “The £300m announced today to transform bus services is a welcome first step in delivering a passenger led recovery from the pandemic but falls short of what is needed by the country’s most used form of public transport. Buses can play a vital role in delivering a green recovery but today’s investment is in stark contrast to the record levels of investment in our road and rail networks.

“Bus will be central to the country’s economic recovery and delivering on vital environmental goals. Further investment in the short term, on top of some of today’s longer term commitments, will be required to enable it to play its full part.”

“Today’s record investment in roads and rail does nothing to help the coach industry recover from the Covid-19 pandemic” – Graham Vidler, CPT

Graham Vidler also commented on the lack of coach support: “Today’s record investment in roads and rail does nothing to help the coach industry recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Coaches contributed 10% of the value of UK tourism in 2019, get 600,000 children to school each day and provide environmentally friendly transport to millions each year. All of this is being placed at risk by the failure of the Government to help this important, family run, sector.”

“We are the forgotten industry” – Joss Croft, UK Inbound

Concern was also raised over a lack of support for inbound tourism. CEO of inbound tourism group UKinbound, Joss Croft, said: “Today’s Spending Review announcement from the Chancellor was a missed opportunity to provide targeted support for struggling inbound tourism businesses that, if supported now, will significantly aid the country’s economic recovery. We are the forgotten industry. The Treasury continues to lack a clear understanding of the inbound tourism export industry, its value and contribution to the UK economy, and that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work.

“It is essential that the Government provides targeted support in the form of a Tourism Resilience Fund to help inbound tourism businesses, such as tour operators and DMCs, who have been left in the cold by existing Government support schemes leaving many facing a bleak future.”

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