Warning hundreds of England bus services face cuts

1 month ago 28

Bus service number 13 in LondonImage source, Getty Images

By Hope Bolger

BBC Business reporter, BBC News

Hundreds of bus services across England could be cut if government funding is not extended, the industry has warned.

Up to 15% of services could be scrapped, according to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus and coach firms.

With government funding and the temporary £2 fare cap set to expire at the end of March, the industry is calling for a long term support plan.

The Department for Transport has refused to comment on the issue

Buses are the most popular form of public transport in England.

The government has provided £2bn to support bus firms during the pandemic when passenger numbers fell, but this help runs out at the end of next month.

Passenger numbers have not returned to those seen before the pandemic. That, alongside rising fuel prices and driver shortages, are putting an increasing strain on commercial bus services. Even with the additional support over a thousand routes across England were lost last year.

"Sustained investment in maintaining bus services will unlock huge economic, health and environmental returns for the taxpayer and leverage further private sector investment in new technologies such as zero emission vehicles." said Graham Vidler, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

Labour has warned the government has "ten days to act" as operators need to give six weeks notice to register any changes or cuts to bus routes. Its analysis of the CPT's figures shows that if not, England could be left with fewer than 10,000 routes for the first time since records began.

The Shadow Transport Secretary Louse Haigh MP said "the future of services millions of passengers depend on" was at risk.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said its funding had already helped to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and maintain services.

The Urban Transport group, a network of city transport authorities, says no long term funding plan makes "a mockery" of the £2 fare cap scheme "if the very services the scheme was designed to promote were then scrapped".

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