Cuts to bus services avoided after £150m new funding announced

Fears were raised that bus routes would be axed after existing emergency funding ended next month.

01 March 2022

Severe cuts to bus services have been avoided due to new funding unveiled by the Department for Transport (DfT).

More than £150 million will be made available to bus and tram operators in England to keep services running despite the reduction in passengers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fears were raised that bus routes would be axed after existing emergency funding ends next month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The funding I’ve announced today will ensure millions of us can continue to use vital public transport services, and brings the total we’ve provided to the sector to keep services running throughout the pandemic to over £2 billion.

“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 work together to provide even better services for people right across the country.”

The Bus Recovery Grant expires on April 5, and no guarantees had previously been given that pandemic-related funding for the sector would be extended past this date.

This led to industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) warning that services could be cut by 30% as many routes would no longer be viable without continued support.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (Aaron Chown/PA)

Latest DfT figures show bus use in Britain is at around a quarter below pre-pandemic levels.

Before the virus crisis, commuting accounted for around a third of bus travel.

The shift towards home-working means many of these journeys are not being made despite all movement restrictions being lifted.

The DfT described the new funding, which will be available until October, as “the final tranche of pandemic-related support to operators”.

It is designed to support operators while they “adapt to changing travel patterns”, the department added.

Local authorities and transport firms will be required to develop a “financially sustainable and passenger focused public transport network” to obtain the funding, the DfT said.

Confederation of Passenger Transport chief executive Graham Vidler said: “This welcome funding will help operators 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.”

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