Transport User Voice – May 2020 – Government help across Great Britain
27 April 2020
Looking to the future while dealing with the present
Buses are the workhorse of our public transport system. Transport Focus knows that passengers absolutely depend on their local bus service. Around half of the near 20,000 passengers who took part in the Bus Passenger Survey in Scotland, over the recent past, told us they had no other easy access to transport.
With the fall in passenger numbers and revenue the Scottish Government has provided bus operators with additional financial assistance to maintain essential services. This is intended to offset the impact that reduced demand is having on the viability of local services for key workers and to protect the industry for the future.
The aim is to keep up concessionary travel reimbursement and Bus Service Operator Grant payments at the levels that were predicted before the coronavirus pandemic. That is where typically over £260 million every year is spent in supporting bus services.
The Government announced a funding package to support the bus industry in England. In addition to the existing funding (Bus Services Operators Grant), the industry is receiving an extra £167 million over 12 weeks. As part of this, bus operators will have to maintain necessary services to meet the reduced demand, provide information for passengers about what services are running, and ensure social distancing on board. £30 million that was due to go towards developing new bus services is being diverted to maintaining them.
It is welcome that the Government has recognised the importance of bus. In the short term, services need to keep running so key workers can get to work and for other essential purposes. In the longer term, it is clearly important for many that bus services get back up and running when the crisis is over.
In rail, the Government has suspended franchise arrangements and entered into agreements for six months where train companies run services for a small fee. This is a welcome move, creating stability for essential workers needing to travel now and ensuring services can keep running when the crisis is over.
Transport Focus welcomed the announcement by Welsh Government of a £69 million package to support essential rail and bus services in Wales. Also, to extend free travel for NHS workers on bus and rail services. Efforts to keep essential services going are very much appreciated.
Train service punctuality has seen some of the best figures, with a number of days that have had 100 per cent performance. Transport for Wales Rail has responded well as the situation developed with a reduced timetable to support key workers – updated regularly and with details on its website. Also ticket refunds are being provided with no admin fee.
Bus operators are also working hard to deliver services with reduced timetables whilst still supporting essential travel. Traveline Cymru is continually updating advice on its website. A ‘no change’ policy has also been introduced by Welsh Government to reduce contact, with passengers being encouraged to use contactless or exact change.
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