The government is to provide a £397m package for bus operators to keep key routes running for frontline workers during the current pandemic
The new funding of up to £167m will be paid over 12 weeks under the Covid-19 bus services support grant.
As a condition of the funding, bus operators will be required to maintain necessary services at a level which is sufficient to meet much reduced demand, but also to allow adequate space between passengers on board. This is expected to be up to 50% of normal service levels.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps 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 – and it’s absolutely vital we do all we can to keep the sector running.
‘This multimillion-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long term.’
Operators will also be required to keep passengers properly informed about revised timetables to ensure that people know which services are running and when.
The government has also promised that £200m of existing funding under the bus service operators grant will continue to be paid as normal even though not all services may run during this time.
This funding is usually paid according to fuel consumption, and the government has committed to pay this based on pre-Covid-19 levels of travel despite fewer fare-paying passengers travelling.
In addition to up to £30m of extra government bus funding, originally earmarked for starting new services, will instead be paid to local authorities to maintain existing services.
By Pat Sweet