The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that the bus industry in England will receive a further six months’ recovery funding beyond the planned end date for the Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) on 6 April.
Over £150m has been allocated. It captures both the bus and light rail sectors in England. DfT says that the money “represents the final tranche of pandemic-related support to operators,” and adds that is intended to help them and local transport authorities to adapt to changing travel patterns and help the continued delivery of Enhanced Partnerships and Bus Service Improvement Plans as part of National Bus Strategy for England work.
No details of how the new funding will be apportioned have yet been confirmed but the government says that they will follow in due course. However, it is understood that BRG terms and conditions will initially be rolled over, with caveats around designing financially-sustainable and passenger-friendly networks.
Adds Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps: “The funding I have announced today will ensure millions of us can continue to use vital public transport services, and brings the total that we have provided to the sector to keep services running throughout the pandemic to over £2bn.
“Not only that – as we look ahead and continue our work to overhaul services and build back better from the pandemic, this funding will also help authorities and operators to work together to provide even better services for people right across the country.”
Further funding beyond BRG had been cautiously expected by the bus industry in England after operators had articulated that heavy service reductions would be inevitable once BRG expires otherwise. Oxford Bus Company had even said that the city’s park-and-ride network would be withdrawn without further measures from the government to provide revenue support.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport has applauded Mr Shapps’ announcement. Says CEO Graham Vidler: “This welcome funding will help operators to have the certainty they need to run an extensive network of services over the coming months as we all adjust to life after the pandemic.
“In the longer term, the bus network will need to adapt to meet passengers’ new travel patterns. Over the coming months, operators will be working closely with local authorities to plan future bus networks and introduce plans to grow passenger numbers. To aid these local efforts, we look forward to working with the government to loudly promote bus travel.”