£400m government bailout
Bus companies in England will receive a £400m bailout from the government to ensure that transport services needed by frontline workers during the COVID-19 crisis can keep running.
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the government would provide £167m over the next three months, as well as guaranteeing to honour a further £200m of planned investments that would otherwise have been at risk. Announcing the emergency funding, he said:
“Our buses are a lifeline for people who need to travel for work or to buy food, including our emergency services and NHS staff, so it’s absolutely vital we do all we can to keep the sector running. This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long term.”
A further sum of up to £30m will be reallocated to ‘key services’, so that routes can remain operational for the benefit of people who rely on buses to travel to work or food shops. Services are expected to run at 50% of normal levels with operators required to balance the lower demand with the need to provide enough buses to ensure that passengers using them can follow social distancing guidelines whilst on board.
The Department for Transport said councils had also been “encouraged” to maintain subsidies for concessionary fares to ensure that older and disabled people can still travel when they absolutely need to.
The bus industry employs about 100,000 drivers and 120,000 support staff and had previously called for a £1bn bailout but it has nonetheless welcomed the financial support. Graham Vidler, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport said:
“Bus operators of all sizes across the country are providing an essential service at a time of national emergency and we thank the thousands of staff who are doing an incredible job to keep routes running.”
John Dwight, Sales Director of Imperial Engineering, which supplies OE bus parts to hundreds of operators across the country, said:
“All of us at Imperial Engineering would like to add our support and gratitude to the operators and their teams, who are providing an essential means of transport for the nation’s frontline health professionals, as well ordinary people who rely on the bus to get food.”
“Whilst ensuring that we protect the health of our own staff, Imperial is ensuring that customers have access to parts stock so that vehicles are kept on the road where needed.”