‘Recovery Partnerships’ touted for England, but Urban Transport Group wants new model for an industry that is ‘now reliant on public funding’

 

 
Positive news about a vaccine has led many to dream of a post-pandemic world, but there are opposing views on the best funding model for England’s bus industry as it seeks to rebuild its depleted revenue base in the Covid recovery period.

The government has already provided more than £800m of additional revenue support to bus operators in England during the pandemic and this figure is rising at a rate of £27.3m a week. Bus Service Operators Grant and concessionary travel funding has meanwhile been maintained.

When the time comes to withdraw the current funding mechanism, the Confederation of Passenger Transport wants local authorities to be given funding from central government to help implement local measures that will boost buses, such as:

  • funding for new services;
  • support for existing links which aren’t viable in the short term;
  • bus priority measures; and
  • targeted fare initiatives.

We are looking for the government to allocate £500m in the Spending Review to ensure funding is available from next year

“This funding would be conditional on the creation of a Recovery Partnership which would be the first step towards longer term partnerships between local authorities and bus operators,” said CPT. “We are looking for the government to allocate £500m in the Spending Review to ensure funding is available from next year.”

CPT also wants a government and industry backed marketing campaign to lure passengers back and “at least £1.2bn” of investment in bus priority measures.

Responding to CPT’s proposals, Urban Transport Group said that current emergency arrangements are not efficient or robust. The forthcoming national bus strategy “offers the opportunity to simplify and streamline funding arrangements for an industry that is now reliant on public funding”.

“The best way to do this is devolve funding for bus 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,” said Urban Transport Group director Jonathan Bray.

“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.”

Making the case for a new tranche of funding support, CPT pointed out that bus passengers have returned twice as fast as other modes of public transport.

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

“Buses remain fundamental to millions of people’s daily lives,” said CPT chief executive Graham Vidler. “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.”

 
This story appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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