Cash support for buses to boost popularity

Bus operators will receive cash help to keep local services running now if they show they’re trying to attract passengers for the future.

Staffordshire County Council has agreed to carry on topping up large Government subsidies for another six months, provided companies are also promoting routes for when the financial support ends in autumn.

Today’s decision follows a move by the Department for Transport that ‘Covid’ subsidies for bus operators will be extended from April until the end of September.

For the last two years Staffordshire County Council has paid operators the pre-pandemic rate of £7 million per annum for concessionary travel, even though actual user numbers have been far lower.

David Williams, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “The extension of central Government grants until the autumn is absolutely essential to maintaining many services in Staffordshire at the moment.

“The county council does not run bus services but has been doing all it can to help locally, which is why we are continuing to make concessionary fare payments at 100 per cent of the pre-pandemic level, rather than for current use.

“Passenger numbers have not yet recovered and our extended cash support is conditional on operators showing how they’re trying to build up passenger numbers for when the subsidies end in the autumn.”

The announcement by the Department for Transport says the ‘final Covid-19 support package’ will provide support for the development of ‘new, effective, financially sustainable networks that cater for the needs of the local public’.

Staffordshire County Council does not run bus services, but does work closely with operators, councils and communities to promote a sustainable transport network wherever possible.

David Williams added: “Around 95 per cent of bus services in Staffordshire are entirely commercial and usually there is only a little that the council can do to influence their operation.

“Many people rely on these services for work, study and socialising and their loss would badly affect the county, so we are keen to work with the bus operators to help the network.

“There’s a six month breathing space now for operators to really promote their services in the communities they serve and I would say to former passengers that if they value what’s on their doorstep they need to support their local routes.”

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