Bus industry warns one in seven services at risk if funding halted

Up to one in seven bus services across England could be lost if Government funding is not extended, an industry body has warned.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) urged ministers to provide long-term support for the sector and claimed passengers are “clearly worried” about services being cut.

The Government’s current funding deal to keep services running despite the fall in demand sparked by the coronavirus pandemic expires at the end of June.

But operators planning to cancel or change routes are required to give six weeks’ notice, meaning they are eager for a new agreement to be secured by Friday.

A survey of 2,050 people commissioned by CPT indicated that 59% of bus users are worried about increased travel costs and being disconnected from work and leisure opportunities if services are reduced.

The results of the poll, shared with the PA news agency, also suggested that 68% of low earners are anxious about how they would get to work if local bus services were cut.

This rises to 71% of people who do not drive regularly.

The CPT warned that 15% of services in England could be axed if the Government’s bus recovery grant is not continued or replaced.

It believes £260 million a year would allow operators and local authorities to maintain services at current levels.

In February, the grant was extended for three months to June 30 at a cost of up to £80 million.

CPT chief executive Graham Vidler said: “With over a million people travelling to work every day by bus, we know how important buses are to levelling up communities by keeping them connected to the jobs market.

“With the risk of service reductions looming, this new research shows that people are clearly worried about getting to work as well as having to spend more by travelling by car or being cut off all together.

“If the Government is really serious about levelling up and getting people back into the workplace, then it needs to back our buses for the long term.”

Latest Government figures show bus use in Britain outside London was at 90% of pre-coronavirus levels on May 5.

This was eight percentage points higher than the equivalent day last year.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “Since March 2020, we’ve invested over £2 billion to maintain bus routes, including a further £80 million to continue protecting vital bus routes until the end of June.

“To help with the cost of living as well as encourage more people back onto buses, we have also capped single tickets at £2 until the end of June, and allocated more than a billion pounds to improve services across England.

“We will set out future steps in due course.”

– The survey for CPT was conducted by research company Opinium last month.