Almost £400million has been allocated by the government to support bus services in England in the wake of COVID-19.
The funding package, agreed jointly with the bus industry, is designed to keep key routes running to provide transport for those who cannot work from home, including those travelling to jobs on the front line of the UK’s fight against Covid-19, such as NHS staff.
New funding of up to £167million 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.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps says: “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 informed about revised timetables to ensure that people know which services are running and when.
The Government has also promised that £200million 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 funding is usually paid according to fuel consumption, and so the Government’s commitment to pay this on pre-Covid-19 levels will help ensure that bus companies are able to benefit despite fewer fare-paying passengers travelling.
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.
CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler adds: “Bus operators of all sizes across the country are providing an essential service at a time of national emergency, and we thank the thousands of staff doing an incredible job to keep routes running.
“This funding is designed to plug the gap between the costs of running essential routes and revenue currently being received, and will help the country through the outbreak by allowing critical journeys to continue.”