CPT proposes new Recovery Partnerships for post-Covid boost

CPT is proposing a model for continued government support for the bus industry beyond the Covid pandemic in order to rebuild passenger numbers. The trade body is seeking Recovery Partnerships with the government which would see funding from central government and a joint marketing campaign, plus at least £1.2billion of investment in bus priority measures to speed up journey times. 

CPT says that getting more passengers back on the bus will help get people back into work, rejuvenate town and city centres and help meet air quality and net zero carbon targets as the country seeks to recover from Covid-19. 

The proposed Recovery Partnerships would be entered into once the current support mechanism ends under the Coronavirus Bus Service Support Grant. CPT is calling for £500million of ring-fenced funding to be allocated  in 2021-2022 in the forthcoming spending review.

CPT chief executive Graham Vidler says: “Buses remain fundamental to millions of people’s daily lives. As we recover from the pandemic we will need to review and reset services to meet the needs of passengers as people go about their lives differently.

“Recovery Partnerships will deliver the local flexibility to allow tailored solutions and sustained improvements for passengers and ensure that bus networks continue to play a central role in delivering thriving communities and helping people live healthier lifestyles.”

The proposed Recovery Partnerships need to be seen in the context of the continuing debates about enhanced partnerships and franchising however, and the pre-pandemic tussles on this have just been parked, rather than going away. The response from the Urban Transport Group, which represents regional and metropolitan transport bodies, challenges CPT’s suggestion that the system should be funded and controlled by central government. 

UTG director Jonathan Bray argues that funding should be devolved to city region transport authorities, “so that public transport services as a whole can be planned and delivered in a coordinated way that best meets the distinctive needs of each area during the pandemic whilst ensuring best value for money for the taxpayer. 

“This would also provide a sound basis for an orderly transition to either enhanced partnerships or franchising, depending on local circumstances and ambitions. In this way public transport can support city region economies as they build back better from this crisis whilst ensuring that there is local accountability for this key public service which, as the pandemic has underlined, so many of our poorest communities are reliant on.”