Bus companies in the UK will receive a £400 million bailout to ensure that services needed by frontline workers and essential workers can keep running.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government would provide £167 million over three months, as well as guaranteeing to honour an additional £200 million of planned investments that would otherwise have been at risk.
“This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long term.”
While the rescue package is considerably less than the £1billion bus companies had been hoping for, bus companies welcomed by the move.
A further sum of up to £30 million will be reallocated to key services, so that they can keep running for the benefit of people who rely on buses to travel to work or food shops.
With the relief package, bus services are expected to continue running at 50% of normal levels, with operators required to balance the lower demand with the need to provide enough buses to ensure that passengers using them can follow social distancing guidelines while on board.
The Department for Transport said councils had also been “encouraged” to maintain subsidies for concessionary fares to ensure that older and disabled people can still travel when they need to, to reach shops, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.
The bus industry, which carries more passengers than the rail network and collectively employs about 100,000 drivers and 120,000 support staff, has previously called for a £1 billion bailout.
The bus bailout came as ‘National Express’ announced it would suspend coach services after government measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus hit demand from travellers.
Like many other transport operators, the company has already reduced its services and experienced a fall in passenger numbers since the government’s call to make essential journeys only.
Trips already booked would still go ahead as schedule, with the exception of some scheduled to set off on Sunday evening. The company did not give a date for services to restart.
Customers have been offered a full refund, or the option of rescheduling their trip for another date within 12 months.