WARRINGTON’S Own Buses Chief Executive Ben Wakerley has welcomed news that the Government is extending its coronavirus support for buses,as total funding tops 700 milion.
The Government has announced it is extending its coronavirus support for bus and tram operators across England as part of wider efforts to safely get people back to education and work spaces
England’s bus services will receive extra support worth up to £218.4 million over the next eight weeks to help them ramp up services ahead of expected increases in public transport use in September.
Mr Wakerley said: ““This funding is vital as we increase bus services again from September to close to 100% of pre-covid levels.
“Support from the local authorities and government is vital because passenger numbers are still significantly reduced due to social distancing rules.
“Buses are cleaner and safer than ever, with more cleaners employed, contactless ticket machines across our whole fleet and many other health and safety measures”
Bus services across the country will receive up to £218.4 million of support over the next eight weeks, with rolling funding at up to £27.3 million per week afterwards until a time when the funding is no longer needed.
Currently, passenger numbers on bus and light rail services are significantly below normal levels, despite the bus network now running at over 80% of normal service levels, and the five light rail systems running at similar levels. The funding announced today will enable operators to mitigate the impact of the loss of revenue, while continuing to build back to normal service levels.
The latest round of funding – key to safely getting young people back in education settings and workers back to their offices – means total support during the pandemic for bus and tram services will reach at least £700 million. This follows the £421 million already provided for buses and the £56 million provided for trams during the pandemic.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “As we continue to open up the economy, more people are using public transport and need sufficient service levels in order to travel safely.
“That’s why we took swift action at the start of this outbreak to ensure that these services were maintained for key workers then – and would still be there for people when the economy opened back up. This extension of funding pushes our overall support past £700 million, meaning people across the country will have access to the transport services they need.”
CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler said:”Continued social distancing measures mean capacity on buses remains reduced and income from passenger fares is still significantly lower than normal. This latest funding will help us keep running a comprehensive bus network that millions of people rely on.
“Bus operators remain committed to working with government, passengers, businesses and local authorities to provide a safe, flexible and sustainable bus network for local communities.”
The Government is also actively working on ways to ensure the bus sector can operate independently and be commercially viable.
The Government is committed to a sustainable future for bus services across the country recognising the services are vital to millions of people’s everyday lives. To ensure future bus services work for everyone, the Government will publish a National Bus Strategy, to set out how Government plans to support this vital sector going forward.
All bus operators in England outside London who previously claimed the Bus Service Operators Grant, as well as operators who run services tendered by Local Authorities, are eligible to claim the new funding and future provisional funding. Five tram services in the North and Midlands – West Midlands Metro, Sheffield Supertram, Manchester Metrolink, Tyne and Wear Metro and Nottingham Trams – will be supported by the light rail funding, with the money going directly to operators, as with the previous rounds.