Transport Secretary announces £254m funding package to help bus operators increase service levels

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Further funding to protect and increase transport services, level up infrastructure and regenerate local economies after coronavirus was announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Saturday 23 May.

In total, a further £283m has been made available to increase the number of bus and light rail services as quickly as possible so that people who need to travel, including critical workers in the NHS, can do so safely.

The funding – amounting to £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail – will help protect and increase services, allowing people traveling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. The funding will be kept under review to ensure that full services can be up and running as quickly as possible.

Backdated to 12 May, the £283m investment will help increase bus and light rail services in line with social distancing guidelines, with measures to keep staff and passengers safe during the pandemic, including adjustments to vehicles, signage, deep cleaning and the provision of hand sanitiser.   The light rail funding will support operators in Sheffield, Nottingham, Tyne and Wear, Manchester and the West Midlands.

Transport Secretary and Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Grant Shapps, said:  “From NHS staff to transport and shop workers, teachers, volunteers and all those staying at home, people across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe.

“To make sure people can travel safely when they need to, we are increasing capacity on buses and light rail, as well as helping local authorities fast-track plans to support cyclists and pedestrians, further reducing pressure on our transport network.

“These measures will help keep passengers safe now, but we must also prepare for what comes next. Strengthening vital road and railway connections, as well as encouraging cycling and walking, will be essential to our ambition to level up the country, secure a green legacy, and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of Covid-19 and look to the future.”

Looking to the future, the Transport Secretary has also laid out further plans to transform the country’s transport infrastructure to help the country ‘build out’ of Covid-19, supporting the nation’s economy, and delivering on the Government’s key agenda of levelling up the country.

The Government has announced the preferred route for the £1bn A66 Transpennine upgrade, which will provide vital improvements to a key regional link which helps to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich, improving journey times, reliability and resilience for communities across the North. The new scheme will dual the five remaining single carriageway sections of the route and upgrade key junctions, speeding up journeys, easing congestion and boosting growth. The road is an important link across the Pennines and is a key connection used on routes between ports around the country, meaning that the wider UK economy will benefit from improvements and faster journeys.

CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler said: ”We’re pleased the Government has recognised the important role the bus network is playing in helping people return to work safely and we look forward to receiving further details of the proposed funding.

“This is the first step towards delivering a more comprehensive bus network in the coming weeks and months and we will aim to have more buses on our roads as soon as possible. The funding review process announced today will be critical to ensuring the right level of resources are in place to provide communities with the bus services they need.”