English bus and light rail operators are to be awarded a further £150 million in funding as part of final phase of pandemic related financial support for the sector from the Department for Transport. This funding is due to last until October 2022 after which the government expect no further emergency funding to be offered to either bus or light rail services in England.
For the first time the funding has been combined into one – previously bus operators received one set of funding and light rail operators a separate set of funding – and the initial announcement of the funding has not given any split as to how this will be worked out with the press release stating “more details on the allocation of funding will be provided in due course”.
The English light rail systems which are likely to benefit will be the Blackpool Tramway, Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit, Stagecoach Supertram, Tyne & Wear Metro and West Midlands Metro. The Docklands Light Railway and London Tramlink are covered by the Transport for London settlement whilst Edinburgh Trams come under the auspices of the Scottish Government.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “The funding I’ve announced today will ensure millions of us can continue to use vital public transport services and brings the total we’ve provided to the sector to keep services running throughout the pandemic to over £2 billion. Not only that – as we look ahead and continue our work to overhaul services and build back better from the pandemic, this funding will also help authorities and operators work together to provide even better services for people right across the country.”
The DfT say that the new funding will support operators and authorities as they adapt to changing travel patterns. It should also enable local authorities to continue working closely with bus companies and to work on bus service improvement plans to delivery improvement to local services.
There had been fears that without any additional funding there would be either major cuts to services or significant fare increases required.
As part of the funding it is expected that local areas and operators will design a financially sustainable and passenger-focused public transport network, that will work for the change in travel patterns which have already been seen post-pandemic.
Whilst this only covers the next six months and will ask questions about what happens once that period ends (as in is it just delaying the cuts and fare rises?) it will at least give some short-term clarity to services.