Experts are warning that there may be a 30% reduction in the number of bus routes running by April, when emergency funding due to the pandemic is set to stop.
Public transport services across the country have received emergency funding to help them through the pandemic as the number of passengers has understandably shrunk. That funding is set to stop on the 5th of April.
However, even as the country has started to re-open and return to some semblance of normalcy, passenger numbers on public transportation remains far below pre-pandemic levels. Outside of London, passenger numbers remain, on average, 26% below those of March 2020.
On Monday multiple organisations; The Local Government Association, ADEPT, Urban Transport Group, and Campaign for Better Transport, urged the government to extend the emergency funding.
The Bus Recovery Grant was introduced in 2021 and provided local authorities with and service operators with £255.5 million to continue running.
Councillor David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:
“Councils across the country are working with local operators to continue to deliver lifeline bus services despite the pressures of the pandemic. Greater usage of public transport helps to alleviate congestion and reduce harmful emissions in our communities.”
“Government funding has helped keep buses on the road, allowing operators to close the gap between the costs of providing local public transport and the reduced revenues from much lower numbers of passengers than normal. Passenger numbers have not returned to those seen before the pandemic and without continued support, it is clear that some routes will no longer be viable and will have to be reduced.”
Jonathan Bray, Director at the Urban Transport Group, said:
“The pandemic and its restrictions have dealt a real blow to bus passenger numbers, which are slowly recovering but not yet near the levels seen before Covid. With this gap in revenue, and without any additional financial support from Government beyond March, we are already beginning to see bus operators signal that some services will be stripped back or cut altogether.”
“For the majority of people up and down the country, the bus remains the most used form of public transport. We therefore urge the Government to extend funding support to allow time for patronage to recover further and for local transport authorities to focus their efforts on recovery – otherwise many of our valued bus services risk becoming extinct.”