The Government is providing up to £60 million over three months to fund the scheme, subsidising operator costs and incentivising greener travel
Millions of travellers across England will save money through a new £2 cap on single bus journeys set to be introduced from January until March, backed by up to £60 million of funding from the Government, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 3 September. The Government says the move, which draws from its existing Department for Transport budgets, will help passengers with travel costs for work, education, shopping and medical treatments over the winter months while they are facing pressures from the rising cost of living.
The average single fare for a three-mile journey is estimated at over £2.80, meaning that the new fare could save many passengers almost 30% of the price every time they travel. The funding follows the Government’s announcement of £130 million last month to protect vital bus routes and services across the country.
The Transport Secretary said: “This £60 million boost will mean everyone can affordably get to work, education, the shops and doctor’s appointments. We know people will be feeling the pressure of rising costs this winter, and so we have been working hard this summer to provide practical concrete help that will lower daily expenditure.”
The Government said that introducing the fare cap by January enables it to work with operators and local authorities to implement a scheme that most effectively delivers real savings for passengers. It added that operators representing around 90% of the bus market have expressed support for the scheme, and hoped that all bus operators will participate, though it remains to be seen how much additional administrative burden the scheme will generate.
The fare cap builds on lots of offers around the country in areas with high bus demand, which include daily, weekly and monthly ticket options and promotional offers. Single fares which are already lower than £2 will not be affected by the cap.
The Government also said that it will continue to work closely with bus operators and local authorities and, importantly, added that it will consider future support to help passengers continue accessing reliable and affordable bus services after the end of the recently-announced extended Bus Recovery Grant funding in March alongside the current end date for the £2 fare promotion.
Responding to the news, Alison Edwards, Policy Director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “Bus fare caps at £2 are an eye-catching initiative which could help attract new passengers onto the bus, particularly at a time when networks are adapting to new travel patterns, and both customers and operators are facing cost of living and business cost challenges. We look forward to understanding in detail how the proposed fare cap will work in practice to ensure it supports the long-term sustainability of bus networks, which are vital in connecting communities with jobs, education and skills, as well as friends, family and essential public services.”
Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director for England for charity Bus Users, added: “The cap on fares will bring welcome, short-term relief to the millions of people who rely on buses to access education, employment and health services. Buses make a vital contribution to society and Government support is critical in protecting services for the future.”
Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport Paul Tuohy commented: “This will be very welcome news for the millions of people who rely on the bus to get to work, to the shops, to medical appointments and to connect with friends and family. It will also encourage more people to find their nearest bus stop and give the bus a try… where could you go for just £2?
“Buses have great potential to cut traffic and carbon emissions, to connect communities and ease loneliness. This £2 fare cap – which we have called for – will help set buses on the road to a bright future.”
The flat-rate fare pilot scheme which was launched in Cornwall in January and backed by £23.5m of Government funding has reportedly already seen an indicative 10% increase in passenger numbers. Running over four years, the ‘Any Ticket Any Bus’ scheme includes a £3 day ticket within towns or a £9 day ticket across all of Cornwall, which is valid on all bus operators.
Meanwhile, capped bus fares in the Greater Manchester region of £2 adult and £1 child were launched by Mayor Andy Burnham on Sunday 4 September; not to be outdone, Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin also launched what is being called ‘The Mayor’s Fares’ on the same date. Single journeys in the region are capped at £2 and the MCard DaySaver is £4.50, reduced from £5.50 – offering a 20% saving on the current price.