Financial support for Scottish operators continues

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Funding for bus services in Scotland is to be extended until October to continue to help the post-pandemic recovery

The Scottish Government has confirmed that additional funding of £25.7 million is being provided to extend recovery funding for the bus sector. The Network Support Grant (NSG) Plus, a temporary scheme intended to support the bus network during the recovery from the pandemic, has been extended until October 2022 to support services and protect fares while patronage continues to recover.

Scottish Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said: “We continue to deliver on our commitment to provide additional recovery funding and we have supported bus operators through the most difficult periods of the pandemic. As services continue to recover, this additional £25.7 million will support our bus sector to continue to navigate their way through and out of the pandemic.

“This in in addition to the up to £210 million we have already provided that has ensured our bus operators are well positioned and at the forefront of our green recovery. Looking ahead, it’s important that the support we give transport operators continues to adapt and evolve to make sure it remains fit for purpose.

“Over 10 million journeys have been made since January through the provision of free bus travel to U22s. We continue to invest in bus priority infrastructure and have offered local authorities flexible powers to work in partnership with operators should they wish. For our health, our climate and our communities, we will continue to support our bus industry and encourage the shift away from cars and towards sustainable public transport.”

CPT Scotland welcomed the continuation of recovery funding to support services for bus passengers. The industry body said: NSG Plus was introduced to help cover the difference between reduced revenue and increasing costs, largely due to the continuing impact of Covid-19. The £40m scheme was frontloaded to give support to the network primarily over the first four months of the financial year. However, CPT was informed in May the scheme would likely end early.

“CPT Scotland has been working with its members to make the case to government that this vital grant needed to continue at current rates to provide a protective roadmap through the summer. In the autumn, the bus network will hopefully be in a stronger position due to the return of students, an increase in commuter travel, and the expected launch of a Government-supported national marketing campaign to encourage people to take the bus.

“The bus sector is facing the most challenging landscape it has ever faced. We are experiencing driver shortages, surging fuel, energy, maintenance and staff costs, along with supressed passenger numbers, as people’s travel patterns evolve and concerns about the safety of public transport use post-covid linger. Many of these challenges will remain when NSG Plus ends in October and difficult decisions will continue to have to be made as our bus networks adapt this year to the ever-changing landscape. However, although this funding will not stop all changes currently happening now, continuation of NSG Plus funding until October will likely help mitigate the scale of changes that will be required come October.”

Paul White, CPT Scotland Director, commented: “We welcome that Transport Scotland has listened to the concerns of the bus sector about the impact this would have had on passengers and agreed to continue vital recovery funding until October this year. By working constructively with Transport Scotland and securing this funding, CPT Scotland hopes bus operators now have the certainty and time to carefully consider what routes and services may look like in a world where transport needs are evolving, making sure they provide the best possible services to passengers. Today’s announcement means this recovery and planning can happen while the sector continues to operate a comprehensive network of sustainable, reliable, and affordable services, rather than to the likely background of deeper cuts that would have followed had a continuation of funding not been forthcoming.”