Coronavirus support for UK buses and trams extended to £700 million
Posted: 10 August 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
The British Government has allocated a further £256 million to support bus and tram services in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bus and tram services will receive an extra £256 million funding to help them increase services ahead of an expected rise in public transport use in September, the British Government has announced.
Bus services across the country will receive up to £218.4 million of support over the next eight weeks, with rolling funding at up to £27.3 million per week afterwards, until a time when the funding is no longer needed. Tram services also have access to up to £37.4 million over 12 weeks, at a rate of up to £3.1 million a week, with funding to be reviewed at the end of the period.
The latest round of funding means total support during the pandemic for bus and tram services will reach at least £700 million.
Roads Minister, Baroness Charlotte Vere, said: “As we continue to open up the economy more people are using public transport and need sufficient service levels in order to travel safely.
“That’s why we took swift action at the start of this outbreak to ensure that these services were maintained for key workers then and would still be there for people when the economy opened back up. This extension of funding pushes our overall support past £700 million and means people across the country will have access to the transport services they need.”
Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, added: “Continued social distancing measures mean capacity on buses remains reduced and income from passenger fares is still significantly lower than normal. This latest funding will help us keep running a comprehensive bus network that millions of people rely on.
“Bus operators remain committed to working with government, passengers, businesses and local authorities to provide a safe, flexible and sustainable bus network for local communities.”
Further to the funding, the Government announced that it is also actively working on ways to ensure the bus sector can operate independently and be commercially viable. It will publish a National Bus Strategy to set out how it plans to support the sector going forward.
Commenting on the announcements, FirstGroup Chief Executive, Matthew Gregory, said: “The further funding packages confirmed by the UK and Scottish Governments enable us to keep people travelling safely on our essential services, allowing social distancing to be maintained on our vehicles. Bus networks are vitally important to local economies, both now as people return to education and workplaces, and in the future as they offer a sustainable transport alternative to the car.
“I want to express my thanks to our people who are working so hard to keep our crucial bus services running for our communities.”
Responding to the announcement, Stephen Edwards, Chair of the Urban Transport Group and Executive Director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “We welcome the Government’s continuing financial support for urban public transport at a time when patronage remains low because of COVID-19. However, capacity on board vehicles will go on being limited for the duration of social distancing and will also take time to recover afterwards. Funding support will therefore be needed throughout social distancing and beyond to enable services to recover sufficiently to become commercially viable once more. Premature removal of this support risks the loss of essential public transport services.
“On bus, whilst the introduction of rolling funding removes cliff edges to some extent, it does not provide certainty. Support could be removed at any time with just eight weeks’ notice. At present there is no clarity on what the criteria will be for termination, and, in particular, whether this will be linked to the end of social distancing. On light rail, we face a funding cliff edge in just 12 weeks’ time. Both bus and light rail provide vital transport links, supporting the return to work and education for millions of people and underpinning the restart of our economy. It’s essential that we have long-term certainty over future funding and support for both bus and light rail while social distancing measures are in place.
“Extra funding specifically to provide the additional bus and coach capacity that will be needed to get children to school safely in September, in the context of social distancing, is yet to be finalised and we need the Government to move quickly to confirm what support will be available.
“This continuing uncertainty reduces our ability to plan further ahead in seeking to provide the safe public transport networks that the city regions need.”