Bus and tram services across England to receive extra £256 million
England’s bus and tram services will receive extra support worth up to £256 million to help them ramp up services ahead of expected increases in public transport use in September, the government has announced.
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 per cent of normal service levels. The 5 light rail systems are also running at similar levels. The government hopes that the funding 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.
All bus operators in England outside London that 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, including the West Midlands Metro, will be supported by the light rail funding, with the money going directly to operators, as with the previous rounds.
FirstGroup is one of the UK’s largest bus operators with around a fifth of bus services outside London. Chief Executive Matthew Gregory said: “The further funding packages enable us to keep people travelling safely on our essential services.”
FirstGroup has recently introduced a number of additional measures to help build confidence. This includes seat signage, enhanced and long-lasting anti-viral cleaning regimes, and upgrades to its mobile app so that customers can check in real time how full each bus is and the availability of wheelchair spaces. In the last few weeks it has also launched a pilot scheme in Bristol which allows key workers to book reservations on specific buses.