More support needed for industry, warns Urban Transport Group

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The Urban Transport Group has released a statement outlining what it believes the government needs to do to support the transport industry during the coronavirus crisis.

“As the transport authorities for England’s largest city regions (serving more than 20m people in London, Greater Manchester, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire), we are working tirelessly to maintain a vital service for those that need to travel during the coronavirus pandemic whilst at the same time protecting our staff,” the organisation said.

“Outside London, we are particularly concerned that the short-term viability of bus services is already under threat,” it continued. “As a result, we face the very real possibility of, in different areas and at different times, operators ceasing to provide any services overnight, or rapidly scaling back to below the level of service which is necessary for the provision of a critical public transport network for essential users.

“In letters we have sent to the Department for Transport and the Chancellor, we are stressing the need to ensure that the government is:

  • Providing us with the financial backing we need in order to continue to pay for services that aren’t being provided at a time when we are also losing revenue from the services we directly provide (such as trams, metros and light rail systems);
  • Recognising the danger that transport authorities risk, missing out on both the additional funding for local government (as this does not directly come to us) and additional funding for private sector transport providers;
  • Giving us the legal comfort and support we need to keep services running through clear legal guidance and greater freedoms and flexibilities to pool currently separate funding pots so that finance can be best directed to the overall task of responding to this emergency in the most appropriate way locally;
  • Creating a better symmetry in the dialogue and priority the government is giving between private sector operators and city region transport authorities; and
  • Recognising the key role that city region transport authorities can play, not only in responding to the immediate crisis but also in recovery and legacy, to avoid the danger of an expensive and ineffective patch and mend operation which leaves urban public transport in a poor position when the recovery begins.

“The government has stood behind the NHS and food retailers in both a strategic way and in supporting their work publicly (and at the highest level), as well as reflecting their messages to the general public. We are providing the public transport which moves the workforce of the NHS and gets other key workers where they need to be, and we therefore urgently need the government to take the same approach to supporting transport authorities that it has given to the NHS and food retailers.”