ENCTS at pre-COVID-19 levels may end without support: WYCA

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) says it is unable to guarantee that English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) reimbursements will be made at pre-coronavirus COVID-19 levels in August unless government support is forthcoming

Director, Transport and Property Services Dave Pearson wrote to operators that would be affected earlier this month. He says that WYCA will make a payment in July for ENCTS reimbursement based upon the observed passenger numbers, and the rates per passenger, of July 2019. It cannot guarantee doing likewise in August “until there is clarity on continuation of emergency funding,” adds Mr Pearson.

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the WYCA Transport Committee, has written to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps seeking that clarity. Separately, Ms Groves says the payments that WYCA is making to support the bus network through the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic “are unsustainable in the long term.”

She adds: “We are currently paying £3m per month for concessionary journeys that are not happening. Like most organisations, coronavirus COVID-19 is creating financial pressures on WYCA and this is a very unaccountable method of deploying public funds.”

Ms Groves says that WYCA is working with operators and other parties to ensure bus service resilience. “We are seeking a long-term funding solution with the Department for Transport to ensure that we can maximise capacity on the network while maintaining social distancing.”

Mr Pearson’s letter to operators notes that WYCA hopes to identify a “sustainable approach” to addressing uncertainty for both itself and operators during July.

Government funding is required to allow ENCTS payments to be made by WYCA at pre-pandemic rates in August because of the financial losses that it is facing due to the crisis and through its obligation to safeguard public funds, he adds.

Meanwhile, it has come to light that until 6 July, WYCA had been charging bus station departure fees based on the service levels that were provided before the pandemic. Invoices from 6 July onwards are based on actual departures.