England bus recovery fund: Fixed subsidy based on key metrics

England bus recovery fund mechanism to vary from CBSSG Restart

The £226.5m bus recovery fund in England that was announced on 6 July will have “key differences” to the COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) Restart mechanism that it will replace on 1 September, the Department for Transport has told operators.

Terms and conditions of the recovery funding have not yet been published. But in a letter, Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere says that the new round – which will run to the end of the current financial year – “will not be based on claimable costs,” as is the case with CBSSG Restart. Instead, it will pay a fixed subsidy based on undisclosed “key metrics.”

The bus recovery fund will allow greater flexibility to adapt services to meet the demands of the post-pandemic market, she adds. That is in contrast to CBSSG Restart. The latter is intended to maintain pre-pandemic timetables despite reduced patronage, although in return for receipt of recovery funding, the Department for Transport expects that provision level to be largely maintained.

Lady Vere’s letter – which represents notification of an eight-week notice period of the termination of CBSSG Restart – also notes that operators have made it clear to her “that winding down CBSSG at the earliest opportunity will be key to ensuring [that] the sector can recover.”