On March 1 bus operators in England will notify traffic commissioners of extensive cuts to services – unless the Treasury extends emergency funding

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis (second from right) led a statement by seven of England’s nine metro mayors

The Treasury is being urged to extend emergency funding to support local bus services in England to allow more time for passenger numbers to recover.

Bus operators say they could be forced to axe up to 30% of their services if emergency revenue support ends on April 5 because they are only carrying 70% of pre-Covid patronage. The deadline for notifying traffic commissioners of these cuts so that they can be implemented from that date is March 1.

Bus operators, metro mayors and other stakeholders have warned the government that such a large and unprecedented loss of vital sustainable transport links will undermine its ambitions on net zero and levelling up.

We are at a critical tipping- point: unless they act at once, the damage will be done

A statement by seven of England’s nine metro mayors, led by South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, said: “We are at a critical tipping- point: unless they act at once, the damage will be done. The failure to extend support appears to be based on wishful thinking that the impact of Covid is in the past… We should be maximising the chances of a full recovery in passenger numbers. Instead the government is standing by as fares are sharply increased and services are slashed – virtually guaranteeing that full recovery will not happen.

The statement continued: “If we want to realise the potential of our buses, this is strategic short-sightedness of the worst kind. It is wildly incompatible with the National Bus Strategy’s stated aim to get patronage ‘back to its pre-Covid level, and then to exceed it’ – an aim we fully support.”

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