Bus service funding to carry on beyond October

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Up to a further £130 million of Government funding has been announced to support vital bus services across England

Buses across England will benefit from up to £130 million of support from the Government, which it says will ensure services keep running and millions of passengers can continue using affordable transport. The funding package, announced on Friday 19 August, will cover the six months from October to March, and builds on almost two years’ worth of unprecedented Government support to keep bus networks running. The latest funding means that almost £2 billion has been made available to over 160 bus operators during the pandemic.

The additional funding is intended to help protect bus services and routes, which the Government recognised are particularly important to people facing pressures due to the rising cost of living; it says it is using every tool at its disposal to help people, from ensuring they can access affordable travel, to providing £37 billion of support for the most vulnerable households.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This funding will ensure millions across the country can continue to use vital bus services, and brings the total we’ve provided to the sector throughout the pandemic to almost £2 billion. At a time when people are worried about rising costs, it’s more important than ever we save these bus routes for the millions who rely on them for work, school and shopping.”

A CPT spokesperson reacted to the news by saying: “We welcome the Government’s announcement of recovery funding to support bus services for a further six months. Today’s announcement will help bus operators and local authority partners to balance a network of reliable and affordable services in the short-term as bus networks adapt to new travel patterns.

“For the longer-term, we will continue to work closely with central Government and local authorities to encourage existing and new passengers to get on board the country’s buses, ensuring they are provided the best possible services”.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority reacted to the news by saying that local bus operators had reported that if the grant ended as planned at the start of October, they would withdraw services, potentially affecting up to 100 routes, around one-sixth of West Yorkshire’s bus network.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Mayor Tracy Brabin said she had been clear with operators that they must not continue with any planned cuts to services following this commitment of an extra six months of funding to protect bus routes until March 2023: “We’ve been clear that Government inaction would have decimated vital bus services and pushed people onto more expensive forms of transport such as taxis during the cost of living crisis – a time they can afford it least.

“This shows how mayors can be powerful voices to advocate for their region – and I’m delighted that my colleagues across the North joined my push for action. We can be stronger together than the sum of our parts. Now I am cracking on with rolling out cheaper bus fares across the region next month, including a £2 cap on journeys – to help ease the burden on household budgets.”

Operators are required to give almost two months’ notice of service changes, which offers passengers confidence in the network, but it means that changes to services in October would need to be publicised now. Without the Bus Recovery Grant, it was feared that many areas could have lost services after 1900hrs, and some would have seen services withdrawn completely, in both urban and rural areas.

The Government says the measure is to protect bus routes which people rely on at a time of rising costs. RICHARD SHARMAN