Stagecoach, FirstGroup welcome £226m bus help

Perth-based Stagecoach and Aberdeen-based FirstGroup both welcomed the UK Government’s announcement on Tuesday of extended funding to support the recovery of bus services in England.

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) announced it is making available an additional £226.5 million for buses to help further increase the frequency and capacity of local services with preparations ongoing to ease lockdown restrictions in England.

The new recovery funding, which replaces the current claimable costs Coronavirus Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) arrangements, will provide a fixed subsidy based on key metrics.

“The funding will allow operators greater flexibility to adapt services to meet the new post-pandemic bus travel demand, and will support bus services from September 2021 to April 2022,” said Stagecoach.

“After this period, it is expected that the funding arrangements identified through the National Bus Strategy will come into place to support the future transformation of bus services.”

Stagecoach CEO Martin Griffiths said: “We welcome the UK Government’s continued commitment in recognising the importance of bus in the recovery from the pandemic.

“As it makes plans to ease restrictions further, there has never been a better time for us to maximise the potential of the bus.

“Buses are central to driving the country’s recovery, helping to rebuild our regional economies, reconnecting people and their families, as well as supporting the country’s long-term objectives around decarbonisation, improved air quality and better health.

“The new National Bus Strategy for England provides a great opportunity to transform travel in our communities, whilst ensuring that customer needs remain at the core of our networks.”

FirstGroup said: “In keeping with the industry, passenger volumes in First Bus have seen an encouraging increase in recent weeks, particularly since certain restrictions on travel began to ease from April.

“In March, FirstGroup welcomed the publication of the National Bus Strategy in England, which provides a clear framework and substantial funding for bus operators and local government to work together to increase bus use, reduce urban congestion and accelerate the transition to zero emissions.

“First Bus has already built close and effective relationships with many local transport authorities across the UK, and continues to work to develop the Bus Service Improvement Plans and future statutory partnerships with stakeholders that will deliver on the full potential of the National Bus Strategy, and the similar strategies in place in the other nations of the UK.”

First Bus Managing Director Janette Bell said: “We welcome today’s announcement by UK Government of a bus recovery funding package for England which will ensure that an effective bus network can be provided for customers as the economy and the communities we serve emerge from the pandemic.

“We will continue to build on the successful partnerships we have created with local authorities to meet our customers’ needs by developing joint plans for further improvements and innovation over the coming months.

“It is vital that Government continues to work together with us to encourage more people onto buses in order to deliver economic revival, improve air quality and meet the UK’s net zero ambitions.”