Posted on Wednesday 31st August 2022
Around 95 per cent of bus services in Staffordshire are entirely commercial and many are running at a loss.
Staffordshire County Council has stepped in to offer a one-off 12-month subsidy to help commercial bus operators struggling to keep services on the road.
The Department for Transport has recently announced further grants for the industry until March 2023, but many commercial routes in Staffordshire are running at a loss and it is expected further help will be needed to sustain services locally.
Although the county council does not run bus services, it is committing to 12 months’ temporary support for operators while they try and rebuild the popularity of services post-pandemic.
David Williams, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said:
Around 95 per cent of bus services in Staffordshire are entirely commercial and many of these have been running at a loss for some time.
During and after the pandemic the Government has injected millions of pounds into the bus industry to keep services afloat, but despite their latest commitment we still face a difficult situation locally and people may notice changes.
The County Council has been doing all it can to help by paying £7 million a year for the concessionary fare scheme over the last 30 months, even though actual passenger numbers are far below that.
We’re now putting more money into Staffordshire routes to try and tide them over the difficult times while they attract passengers back and to also ensure people can still get to work, school, or college especially when the cost of living is so high.”
Although Staffordshire County Council does not run bus services, it does work closely with operators, other councils and communities to promote a sustainable transport network wherever possible.
In recent years threatened commercial routes have been saved by using money contributed by housing developers to improve community facilities and by moving around 2,000 pupils entitled to Home to School transport from bespoke buses to public services.
This additional sum will be worth £750,000 on top of the £8 million spent in the sector annually by the authority, not including home to school transport.
David Williams said:
Public transport in Staffordshire is largely based on commercial bus services, which not only get people to and from work and the classroom, but support town centre retail and leisure businesses and help reduce carbon emissions by leaving the car at home.
This support is a one-off and lasts for 12 months. I don’t know what the situation will be like in a year’s time, but if people value their local bus services we should encourage that they be used now or they may disappear in future.”