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Bus Funding

Volume 728: debated on Monday 20 February 2023

The Government recognise the importance of local bus networks to ensuring communities can stay connected, and in enabling people to access work, education and vital local services such as healthcare. We also know that the bus sector faces challenges following the covid-19 pandemic, including lower levels of bus patronage compared with pre-pandemic levels.

The Government to date have taken action to help address some of the challenges faced by the sector and passengers following on from the pandemic, to protect vital local bus services by providing £2 billion in additional funding, including investing £60 million to help operators cap single tickets at £2 in England outside London from 1 January to 31 March. We have also announced our intention to invest up to £75 million to extend the £2 bus fare cap for a further 3 months until 30 June 2023.

Over 140 operators covering more than 4,600 routes are currently signed up to participate in the scheme, which is designed to help passengers to save on their regular travel costs and boost patronage on buses. The scheme is showing early signs of increased bus use, with an independent survey of 1,000 people from passenger watchdog Transport Focus showing 7% of people saying they are using the bus more. Participation in the scheme from operators is voluntary, and as such the Department for Transport will now work with the operators to reconfirm their participation for this extended period.

It has also become clear that without further support for the bus sector once the bus recovery grant ends—a temporary grant provided to help adjust services to new travel patterns following on from the covid-19 pandemic —there would be a risk of reductions to bus services throughout England, outside of London. The Government have therefore announced on 17 February that we will be extending the bus recovery grant for a further three months at a cost of up to £80 million to continue supporting bus services until 30 June 2023.

The £155 million additional funding to extend the bus recovery grant and the £2 bus fare cap we have announced demonstrates this Government continued commitment to supporting local bus services, and working closely with bus operators and local transport authorities to deliver on the ambition set out in the national bus strategy for everyone, everywhere to have access to affordable and reliable bus services.