New funding, totalling £167m over three months, comes on top of pledge to guarantee existing £200m investment

Shapps: ‘This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links’

The government has today announced a £397m funding package, agreed jointly with the bus industry, to keep England’s bus services running in England during the coronavirus pandemic.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the package would keep key routes running to provide a lifeline for those who cannot work from home, including those travelling to jobs on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, such as NHS staff.

The package include new funding of up to £167m, which will be paid over 12 weeks (£14m a week) 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% of normal service levels.

The government has already promised that £200m 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 £30m of extra government bus funding, originally earmarked for starting new services, which will instead be paid to local authorities to maintain existing services.  

Councils have also been encouraged to maintain their existing subsidies for concessionary fares to ensure that older and disabled people can still travel when they need to, for example to reach the shops, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

Our buses are a lifeline for people who need to travel for work or to buy food – including our emergency services and NHS staff

“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,” said transport secretary Grant Shapps.:

“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.” 

Representing bus operators, Graham Vidler, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “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. 

“We’re pleased the government is working with us to ensure essential bus journeys can continue and will work closely with them to ensure the network remains viable.”

The Scottish Government has already committed to continue Bus Service Operators Grant at pre-pandemic levels and the Welsh Government is doing the same with its BSOG equivalent, Bus Services Support Grant.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have also committed to reimburse concessionary fares at levels prior to the pandemic.