Funding boost has been welcomed by bus operators

Michael Matheson

The Scottish Government has approved additional expenditure of £46.7m to support bus operators as the country comes out of lockdown.

Bus travel typically accounts for just under three quarters of all public transport journeys but this has fallen substantially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government had continued to make payments totalling £34.3m to 155 bus operators, covering concessionary fares reimbursement and Bus Service Operator Grant at pre-lockdown levels.

However, Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson said he recognised it was a “difficult time for our bus industry” and that physical distancing will impact fare-paying passenger revenues significantly.

As a result he has released additional funding of £46.7m. This aims to serve the anticipated travel needs of communities as the lockdown loosens, while keeping them safe, by enabling physical distancing. Bus operators will be expected to progressively ramp up services and the Scottish Government has left the door open for further funding if needed.

Matheson continued: “As more lockdown restrictions are eased our analysis shows that up to 55% of employees could be travelling to their normal workplace, a rise from 30% in full lockdown. That could result in an increase in the number of passengers on public transport by around by a third from current levels of 225,000 per day.

“As a result of physical distancing measures public transport is operating at around 10-20% of normal capacity at this time. While the Scottish Government will continue to do what it can to support our bus industry and our public transport network it is important that everyone plays their part in helping to keep Scotland moving for those that need to travel most.”

He paid tribute to transport operators and staff who have kept Scotland’s key workers moving in recent months. “Equally, I want to thank everyone right across the country who is helping to manage demand across the transport network by following our travel advice and guidance,” he added.

The funding boost has been welcomed by bus operators.

Paul White, director for CPT in Scotland said: “We’re pleased the Scottish Government recognises the important role the bus network is playing in helping people return to work safely and is working with us to ensure a more comprehensive network is in place. Operators are working around the clock to get more buses on our roads as quickly as possible.

“This funding is designed to cover the costs associated with the running of an increased network, but with significantly reduced capacity, until passenger numbers are able to return to normal levels.

“We will continue working with passengers, businesses and local authorities to provide a safe, flexible bus network which allows those who need it to make their essential journeys.”

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox. CLICK HERE to subscribe to our e-newsletter.