Government urged to extend emergency bus funding amid warnings of service cuts

The Department for Transport’s pandemic-related support for the sector is due to expire when the financial year ends on April 5.

14 February 2022

The Government has been urged to extend emergency funding for buses amid warnings that services could be cut by nearly a third within weeks.

Councils, bus operators and public transport groups said many routes will no longer be viable without continued support.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) Bus Recovery Grant is due to expire when the financial year ends on April 5.

No guarantees have been made that pandemic-related funding for the sector will be extended past this date.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said closing bus routes would have a “devastating impact” on people who rely on them to get to work, visit family and access vital services.

He went on: “Greater usage of public transport helps to alleviate congestion and reduce harmful emissions in our communities.

“Saving bus services is good value for money for the Government.”

More than £1.7 billion of Government funding has been made available to bus operators to keep services running during the virus crisis.

Industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport recently warned that services could be cut by 30% unless support continues.

Jonathan Bray, director at the Urban Transport Group, which represents transport authorities, said he is “already beginning to see bus operators signal that some services will be stripped back or cut altogether”.

He urged the Government to “allow time for patronage to recover further and for local transport authorities to focus their efforts on recovery”.

Latest DfT figures show bus use in Britain is at around 23% 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 those journeys are not being made despite all movement restrictions being lifted.

Silviya Barrett, head of policy and research at lobby group Campaign for Better Transport, said services risk being lost “unnecessarily” if passenger numbers are not given “a fair shot at recovery”.

She added: “Extending this vital funding in the short term can give us a greener, fairer transport system in the long term.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The government has provided an unprecedented £1.7bn in support to over 160 operators to keep services running during the pandemic, and we’re working closely with the sector to understand the potential challenges and mitigations once it ends in April.”

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