North East bus companies secure extra Government funding
Written by Callum Rowe on 23rd February 2023
North East bus operators have secured a share of extra funding from the Government, saving routes from potential cuts.
Last week, Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Government announced £80million of additional funding as part of a wider package of measures to help struggling bus operators.
But some industry experts have only cautiously welcomed the news and have warned the short-term relief might not be enough for local operators Arriva, Go North East and Stagecoach.
Coun Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “It’s good that the Government have finally responded to widespread pleas to extend bus recovery funding.
“But unfortunately this extension, along with the £2 bus fare cap, only lasts until the end of June. This creates yet another looming cliff-edge and we do not know what the Government’s intention is after that.
“This short-termist approach is no way to run a public transport system.”
Coun John McElroy, Gateshead Council cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “The recent investment is welcome, but we really need a long-term commitment to the bus industry in the North East.
“We need help to consolidate the current routes and then explore the expansion of services.”
Earlier this month, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus companies, estimated up to 15% of bus services nationally could be lost if the industry wasn’t supported with an extra cash injection.
However, North East companies estimated the region could have lost 20% of its bus routes. Those routes that were under threat have now been saved in the short-term as a result of the newly announced £80m boost.
In addition to the extra money, it has been announced that the £2 bus fare cap introduced at the start of the year will be extended for a further three months after the initial three month trial period ends on March 31.
The scheme was introduced to tempt people back to using buses after passenger numbers plummeted to 10% of pre-pandemic levels in 2020 and 2021. Bus usage is still only at 85 to 90% of pre-pandemic levels nationally, and it is hoped the continuation of the £2 fare cap will encourage passengers back to public transport.
During the pandemic, the Government supported bus companies with a £2billion grant.