Bus and tram services in England will receive extra support worth up to £256m

 
Transport minister Baroness Vere said the new funding would ensure that sufficient service levels were available as the economy opens up and more people use public transport

 
England’s bus and tram services will receive extra support worth up to £256m to help them ramp up services ahead of expected increases in public transport use in September, the government has announced today.

Bus services across the country will receive up to £218.4m of support over the next eight weeks, with rolling funding at up to £27.3m per week afterwards, “until a time when the funding is no longer needed”.

From today, tram services also have access to up to £37.4m over 12 weeks, at a rate of up to £3.1m a week, “with funding to be reviewed at the end of the period”.

Currently, passenger numbers on bus and light rail services are significantly below normal levels despite the bus network now running at over 80% of normal service levels. The five light rail systems are also running at similar levels. The funding announced today will enable operators to mitigate the impact of the loss of revenue, while continuing to build back to normal service levels.

The latest round of funding – key to safely getting young people back in education settings and workers back to their offices – means total support during the pandemic for bus and tram services will reach at least £700m.

This means that the government has supported tram services as follows during the pandemic:

  • Manchester Metrolink: £44m
  • Sheffield Supertram: £6.8m
  • Nottingham Express Transit: £12.1m
  • West Midlands Metro: £5.7m
  • Tyne and Wear Metro: £24.7m

The announced allocations for bus services which now total at least £600m, alongside a further £27.3m per week, means that government funding has helped to support over 13,000 local bus services across England, outside of London, as at the end of July.

This extension of funding pushes our overall support past £700m and means people across the country will have access to the transport services they need

“As we continue to open up the economy more people are using public transport and need sufficient service levels in order to travel safely,” said transport minister Baroness Vere.

“That’s why we took swift action at the start of this outbreak to ensure that these services were maintained for key workers then and would still be there for people when the economy opened back up. This extension of funding pushes our overall support past £700m and means people across the country will have access to the transport services they need.”

This latest funding is designed to cover the gap between the costs and income in running a comprehensive bus network

CPT Chief Exec Graham Vidler said: “Buses are essential in getting millions of people to work, education, retail and leisure venues and to see family and friends. Operators have put in place extensive safer travel arrangements and it’s great to see passengers responding by returning in increasing numbers. It remains important for passengers to follow guidance on safer travel, particularly the requirement to wear face coverings.

“Continued social distancing measures mean capacity on buses remains reduced and income from passenger fares is still significantly lower than normal. This latest funding is designed to cover the gap between the costs and income in running a comprehensive bus network.

“Bus operators remain committed to working with government, passengers, businesses and local authorities to provide a safe, flexible and sustainable bus network for local communities.”

Further to today’s funding, the government also announced that it is actively working on ways to ensure the bus sector can operate independently and be commercially viable.

“The government is committed to a sustainable future for bus services across the country recognising the services are vital to millions of people’s everyday lives,” said today’s Department for Transport statement. “To ensure future bus services work for everyone the government will publish a National Bus Strategy to set out how it plans to support this vital sector going forward.”

We know from our research that many bus and tram passengers have limited travel options and they are often the only real means of transport available to them, so they will welcome this funding

Commenting on today’s announcement, David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “We know from our research that many bus and tram passengers have limited travel options and they are often the only real means of transport available to them, so they will welcome this funding.

“Bus and tram operators must survive to keep services running in these challenging times and help people get back to school, further education and return to work in the coming months.”

Martin Kearney, chief operating officer at Nexus, which operates the Tyne & Wear Metro, said: “This is vital funding support that will enable us to sustain Metro services while customer numbers continue to recover.

“The Covid-19 crisis has had a major impact on Metro journeys and they remain around 40% of what we would normally expect. There has been gradual growth since lockdown has eased, shops have re-opened, and more people have returned to work, which is positive news.

“However, we expect the recovery to be slow going, which is why government support is essential for Metro.

“We remain on dialogue with the Government about longer term funding support for the services we deliver.”

 
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