Bus operators warn that tens of thousands of jobs could go within weeks unless Government agrees immediate rescue package

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Ministers are being urged to get behind the industry now or risk the decimation of a national bus network that is getting critical sector employees to work during the current crisis and is central to communities and regional economies all year round, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has said in an urgent statement.

The statement continued by saying that passenger numbers are reported to have fallen by 50% already, and it is estimated that revenues outside London are set to fall by £50million per week, threatening the ability to pay the wages of nearly 100,000 drivers as well as all the support staff and then indirect employees required to deliver a national network. The decision to close schools – and the stay-at-home policy for over 70s – could push this fall to 75%, it believes, even before any ‘lockdown.’

The industry is asking the Government to guarantee budgeted sources of income for coach and bus operators and to support up to 80% of staff costs, to will enable major operators as well as numerous smaller bus companies to maintain routes vital for taking NHS staff and other key workers such as refuse workers, cleaners and supermarket staff to their places of work.

The CPT and wider industry recognises that the  country is being challenged like never before in peace time and accepts the necessity of the Government’s advice to avoid unessential travel to protect all of our health. It says that bus companies stand ready to help the national response to the coronavirus crisis in any way possible and are drawing up plans to use buses as mobile grocery stores for people forced to self-isolate, and as mobile testing units for the NHS, but without extra funding, the network outside London could disappear. A rescue package now will ensure an industry vital for the country remains in place once the crisis in over.

The CPT says that the industry employs 100,000 drivers and supports a further 120,000 jobs in the supply chain, including the bus manufacturing sector. Overall, buses are said to deliver an aggregate £64billion a year benefit to the UK economy.

Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the CPT, said: “We appreciate that we are living in unprecedented times and more than ever we are ready to play our role in maintaining a vital national network and supporting the fabric of daily life across Britain. But bus operators are under extreme pressure and facing impossible choices over which routes they have to cut and how many staff may have to go.

“Buses are crucial to keeping workers moving – and must remain a vital backbone of public transport once this crisis is over. We urgently need the Government to help bus workers and their employers now to secure the future of the industry.”