£397 million allocated to boost support for UK bus operators
Posted: 3 April 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
The package, agreed jointly with the bus industry, aims to keep key routes running to provide a lifeline for those who cannot work from home, including those travelling to jobs on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, such as NHS staff.
England’s buses will continue to serve those who rely on them thanks to a funding boost totalling £397 million for vital bus operators, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced.
New funding of up to £167 million 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 per cent of normal service levels.
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.”
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 £200 million 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 £30 million of extra government bus funding, originally earmarked for starting new services, which will instead be paid to local authorities to maintain existing services.
Bus Users, the charity that campaigns for accessible, inclusive transport, has welcomed the announcement. Claire Walters, Chief Executive of Bus Users, said: “Buses have been a lifeline during the current crisis. They have ensured keyworkers get to where they are needed, and that people without access to private transport can make essential journeys to buy food and medication and to care for others.
“Bus services have kept the UK moving during extremely challenging times and we are pleased to have helped persuade the government of their vital role. It is now essential that local authorities and the industry ensures this funding gets to the frontline without delay.”
Commenting, Matthew Gregory, FirstGroup Chief Executive, said: “I am pleased that by working with the Department for Transport (DfT), devolved government and local authorities, we are demonstrating that we are able to secure the necessary support to continue running bus services, recognising the unique and essential role they play in sustaining our local economies and communities.
“These arrangements will enable us to continue working closely with councils and our other local stakeholders to ensure that key workers can reach their destination, be it hospitals, supermarkets or distribution centres. When the present restrictions on travel are over, we will be ready to work quickly to re-connect people and communities as the country emerges from the effects of the pandemic and a return to normality is sought. I want to express my gratitude and thanks to all our employees who are working so hard to keep buses going at this difficult time.”
Bus & Coach