Bus Recovery Grant grows as DfT calls for no deregistrations

Bus Recovery Grant in England expanded

Money has been added to the Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) mechanism in England as the Department for Transport (DfT) asks operators to avoid “pre-emptively deregistering” services ahead of its planned end on 5 April. The Department has also again hinted that further support may be provided beyond that cut-off date.

In an email to operators on 31 January, DfT official Matthew Crane acknowledged that BRG will be terminated as planned in April, adding that “no further funding has yet been agreed with [the] Treasury.”

However, he adds that DfT understands the “ongoing challenges” faced by bus operators in England, and that recovery of passenger numbers may be delayed by concern among some members of the public caused by the Omicron variant, “reducing the ability of operators to return to running commercially viable services.”

In the short term, DfT will thus provide an additional Bus Recovery Grant payment above what was planned with the initially allocated £226.5m. That will see a further £29m go to BRG during the current financial year.

£26m of that will go to operators, allocated via the same sharing mechanism as used at the start of BRG. It is equivalent to a normal period payment and will be transferred via a doubling of the sum to be paid to each operator at the end of the current financial year. Mr Crane says that DfT hopes the additional money “will help operators to continue to run a high level of service.” The outstanding £3m is expected to go to local authorities.

The short-term sticking plaster comes against growing fears that a ‘cliff edge’ end to BRG in April will lead to widespread service reductions, contrary to policy aims previously outlined in the National Bus Strategy (NBS) for England.

Beyond BRG, Mr Crane explains that DfT’s engagement with the bus industry in England has “emphasised the need for support beyond April.” He adds that Department officials are working to understand the implications of funding being discontinued then, an undertaking that has already been revealed in a letter sent to local transport authorities earlier in January alongside news that NBS funding was to be more than halved.