The Department for Transport (DfT) has told bus operators in England that it expects an average of 80% of the pre-COVID-19 service level to be provided outside London during the current period of movement restrictions.
Such a figure was disclosed in a letter sent on 20 January by Deputy Director, Local Transport COVID-19 Response Division Matthew Crane. One week earlier, Director Local Transport Stephen Fidler told the industry in England that DfT expects to see “the minimum level of bus service necessary to support essential journeys safely.”
Mr Crane says that while 80% is an average figure, “we expect to see significant variation by route and local transport authority (LTA).” Where services run infrequently, or where they primarily serve essential workers or provide access to a vaccination hub, “it would be inappropriate to cut service levels significantly.”
In his earlier letter, Mr Fidler did not give any anticipated figure for the scope of reductions. Instead, he stated that service levels should be “noticeably lower” than pre-lockdown provision. Mr Fidler also outlined that the encouragement of unnecessary travel should be avoided when settling service levels.
Further emphasised in Mr Crane’s letter was the importance of partnership working between operators and LTAs.
Such an approach has functioned well throughout the pandemic in determining suitable service levels, he says, adding his hope that “these positive working relationships can continue, beyond this lockdown and beyond the end of the pandemic.”
It remains the case that operators that are in receipt of CBSSG Restart funding should complete a survey to demonstrate that they are working with LTAs in deciding service levels. Besides asking for basic details, the consultation requires operators to input the actions that they have taken on service levels following discussions with LTAs.