Scotland gives bus assistance

The Scottish Government will provide bus operators with additional financial assistance to maintain essential services. This is intended to offset the impact that reduced demand is having on the viability of local services for key workers and to protect the industry for the future.

The intention is to maintain concessionary travel reimbursement and Bus Service Operator Grant payments at the levels forecasted prior to the impact of COVID-19, where we would typically spend over £260 million every year in supporting bus services.

Operators will receive additional payments matching the difference between actual payments and those previously forecasted levels. This arrangement will be kept under review to best support our bus industry and keep Scotland moving.

COSLA has issued correspondence and guidance for local authorities to ensure that they continue to pay operators of home to school transport. This will help ensure that bus operators are able to provide these important services once the outbreak is over. We are actively working with COSLA on the detail of this in the context of national reliefs and supports. COSLA is also developing further guidance for local authorities and their partner providers, which will assist supported bus services over the coming days.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “We are doing everything we can to support our bus industry in this unprecedented time. This action will enable critical services to continue to run, helping our key workers get to their work and to carry out their essential roles across the country. I also recognise that our bus industry will be vital to our economic recovery – and we must take steps to protect that recovery now.

“People are changing their travel patterns to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and we’ve seen a real dip in public transport use across Scotland. Figures from Transport Scotland analysts show that concessionary bus journeys in particular had dropped by 81% in the last two weeks – and I would expect this to fall even further in light of the latest guidance.

“Over the next few months we will effectively make up the difference in concessionary travel and Bus Service Operator Grant payments. We will allow operators to access the £260 million that we spend every year on supporting bus services, irrespective of the decline in passengers. This will help protect the industry, support our key workers and ultimately assist the nationwide response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I want to also thank the many public transport workers right across the sector who are enabling key workers to get to their places of work every day. Even though services have been scaled back due to reduced demand, I know many are working tirelessly to maintain punctual services our key workers can rely on.”

Paul White, Director for CPT in Scotland said: “CPT welcomes the government’s commitment to continue Concessionary reimbursement and BSOG funding at pre-Covid-19 levels. This support is a vital element of the measures required to allow bus and coach operators to continue to operate lifeline services through this period of social isolation.

“Operators are working tirelessly to ensure that Scotland’s bus network is robust enough to keep communities connected, providing socially necessary services and facilitating commuter trips for essential workers. To this end, we will continue to prioritise key routes such as those that serve medical centres and hospitals, with timetables that recognise NHS shift patterns.

“We need the bus and coach sectors to survive this period so that, once we are able to return to normality, Scotland’s citizens have access to the public transport that is so fundamental to so many of our daily lives. This announcement demonstrates that the Scottish Government recognises the key role bus services play and will greatly help support Scotland’s bus passengers.”

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