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Support to Help Bus Operators Post Pandemic Recovery Agreed

Posted on Tuesday 7th February 2023
Bus NR

Support to help bus operators as they recover from the pandemic, has been agreed until April 2024.

Staffordshire County Council has agreed to pay at least 80 per cent of the pre-Covid concessionary journeys to allow bus companies more time to boost numbers. This does not affect eligible residents’ entitlement to free travel.

David Williams, the council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said:

We recognise that bus passenger numbers have still not recovered to the levels they were before March 2020 and, this decision will help bus companies retain bus routes as they continue to grow usage.

However, the county council does not run buses and we have made it clear there is a limit to how long this can continue at this level. It is important for the bus operators to run services which are commercially viable and local communities too have a role to play if they want to maintain their local services.

We continue to work with the bus companies to make a greener, sustainable network which works for both them and passengers.”

At the height of the pandemic, when many more vulnerable passengers were advised not to travel, operators received concessionary reimbursement from the county council at pre-covid levels. This helped maintain bus routes for essential workers.

A guaranteed level of concessionary travel reimbursement will now be provided until April 2024 which was a key “ask” from the Department for Transport to help avoid extensive service reductions.

Even with this extra support, some bus services may still be affected due to low use. Any remaining funding from the concessionary fare budget in 2023/24 will be used to support (directly and indirectly) existing local Staffordshire bus services where feasible as requested by DfT.

The decision to support any bus services will be subject to due consideration of the subsidy per passenger trip and the connectivity offered by the bus service to daytime, Monday to Saturday, essential journeys.

David added:

Bus operators will be expected to continue with their efforts to grow bus patronage using innovation and suitable marketing strategies and the council will support them in their efforts where possible to do so.

The current flat fare of £2 per journey being offered by many operators to all fare paying passengers is one such example and we would encourage residents across the county to make the most of this offer where they can to support their local bus routes.”

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