Shapps tells MPs that bus sector is next in line for help, and writes letter to CPT boss Graham Vidler

 
Shapps said that the plight of smaller bus operators was a particular concern

 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told MPs this week that buses would be the next sector to have a specific deal to help them respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Addressing an informal meeting of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee via Skype on Wednesday, Shapps said that the bus package would be announced in the next few days. He could not give detail to pre-empt the package, but he said that a lot of work had been done in this area.

Shapps said that the plight of smaller bus operators was a particular concern. He said that the Department for Transport was looking to be as helpful as possible while adhering to the chancellor’s first principle about cross-economy solutions rather than sector specific ones.

Buses minister Baroness Vere has been engaging with the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the bus and coach industry. On Wedneday evening CPT chief executive Graham Vidler received a letter from Shapps outlining steps the government will take to support the bus and coach industry during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The government will pay Bus Service Operators Grants based on estimated pre-pandemic service levels

In his letter Shapps acknowledged that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the industry, and that bus services remain crucial to communities, key workers and people taking essential journeys. To enable these services to continue the government will pay Bus Service Operators Grants based on estimated pre-pandemic service levels.

The letter made clear that it is the government’s strong desire that operators do all they can to ensure the provision of services which local authorities consider necessary and that timetable changes are communicated well to passengers. The government has requested that all operators allow use of concessionary passes all day, an action which many operators have already taken. In return the government will urge local authorities to continue payments for tendered bus services and concessionary fare reimbursement at pre-pandemic levels.

CPT said it was continuing to press the government hard for further funding to meet the full costs of operating socially necessary services during the pandemic

CPT said it was continuing to press the government hard for further funding to meet the full costs of operating socially necessary services during the pandemic and to ensure the industry emerges from the pandemic ready to provide the bus service the nation will need as it returns to normal.

To support the coach sector, which has been hit particularly hard, the DfT have confirmed that they will be writing to all local authorities to set out the expectation that home-to-school services are paid as if the full network was in operation. CPT said this was “a significant and welcome development reflecting the work of the CPT team in highlighting the need for urgent financial support for the industry”.

The Scottish Government has already announced that it will provide bus operators with additional financial assistance to maintain essential services.

 
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