In response to warnings that up to 15% of the bus network could be at risk, the government has extended recovery funding and the £2 bus fare cap
Prime minister Rishi Sunak: Buses play a vital role in growing the economy
The government this week announced £500m of additional funding to support local bus services in England until 2025.
The Bus Recovery Grant and the £2 cap on fares outside London had been due to expire at the end of June, with bus operators warning that up to 15% of the network would be at risk if the government failed to act.
Transport secretary Mark Harper this week confirmed £300m to protect routes and improve services until 2025. This will give bus operators and local authorities more time to rebuild passenger volumes, which remain 10-15% short of pre-Covid levels.
The government will meanwhile provide up to £200m to continue capping single bus fares at £2 outside London until the end of October 2023, and then at £2.50 until end of November 2024. At this point, less than two months ahead of the latest date that the next general election can be held, “the government will review their effectiveness and future bus fares”.
By extending the £2 fare cap, we’re making sure bus travel remains accessible and affordable for everyone while helping to ease cost of living pressures
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “By extending the £2 fare cap, we’re making sure bus travel remains accessible and affordable for everyone while helping to ease cost of living pressures.”
The two-year funding settlement was welcomed by Graham Vidler, CEO of the Confederation of Passenger Transport. “It will enable bus operators and local authorities to plan, promote and grow services with greater confidence,” he said. “However, [this settlement] will not save every service in every part of the country.”
Vidler added: “Operators and local authorities will now work together to study the detail of the government’s proposals and ensure that the funding is used to safeguard the best possible network for local passengers.”
The additional funding builds on over three years’ of government support totalling over £2bn to help the sector recover from the pandemic, and more than £1bn to support local authorities deliver their long-term local plans to improve services.
The funding announced this week will be shared between local transport authorities and bus operators. As part of the £300m to support services until 2025, £160m will be provided to local transport authorities to improve fares, services and infrastructure while £140m will go directly to operators to help protect essential services across England.
The Department for Transport said that “while it is the responsibility of bus operators and local transport authorities to ensure an adequate provision of bus routes, the government continues to work closely with the sector to support local areas in dealing with changing travel patterns while managing pressures on the taxpayer”.
Buses connect our communities and play a vital role in growing the economy
The prime minister said: “Buses connect our communities and play a vital role in growing the economy; they transport people to work, take our kids to school and make sure patients can get to doctors’ appointments.
“That’s why we’re determined to protect local routes and encourage more people onto the bus, ensuring people can get around easily and in an affordable way.”
This story appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.
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