Coach and private bus operators in Northern Ireland are set to receive support grants on a per-vehicle basis, the Department for Infrastructure has announced.
The proposed scheme is expected to open in mid-November. It makes Northern Ireland the first of the home nations to award industry-specific support to businesses in the coach and bus sector.
Intent to develop a package was first announced on 24 October by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. The funding was authorised after they recognised the “significant reduction in demand” for coach and private bus services since the onset of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Subject to securing the necessary approvals, grants will be based on the reserves that licenced coach and bus operators in Northern Ireland are required to hold to satisfy financial standing requirements. They will be paid at the maximum rate of:
- £8,000 for the first vehicle
- £4,450 for each additional vehicle, with a cap of £100,000 per eligible operator.
The Northern Ireland Executive says that the grants will “provide a contribution to [operators’] overhead costs, subject to them being able to prove their loss of income and the need for financial support.”
In total, the support fund – which will also capture taxi drivers – will see the Northern Ireland Executive provide £19m to eligible recipients.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon says that coach and private bus operators have seen an “extreme loss of income with the virtual closure of their businesses, while continuing to pay overheads.”
She adds: “I hope that this funding, along with the £300,000 provided earlier in the year to waive fees for the renewal of bus vehicle licences, will compensate for some of those losses incurred in recent months as a result of the pandemic, and will enable these operators to remain in business and be ready for the post-COVID-19 recovery period.”