The Scottish Government has approved an additional £46.7 million to support bus operators increasing services as Phase 2 of the Covid-19 route map is gradually applied.
As further lockdown restrictions are lifted as part of Phase 2, passengers, major employers, business organisations and the public are being asked to play their part in ensuring that the currently reduced public transport network can meet increased demand.
It is anticipated that up to 55 per cent of employees could be travelling to their normal workplace, a rise from 30 per cent in full lockdown.
Bus travel accounts for just under three quarters of all public transport journeys. This funding is to cover the anticipated loss of fare-paying passenger revenue that operators will experience due to physical distancing and reduced carrying capacity – at a time where more people may be travelling.
Ruth Maguire MSP said: “I welcome the additional funding for bus operators as a key way to support the Scottish economy. Many local residents rely on public transport to travel to work and this funding will enable them to keep moving.
“For the time being, I would like to echo the advice that residents should continue to avoid unnecessary journeys or travelling at peak times. If you are able to walk or cycle to work, please consider doing so to reduce demand on the public transport system as it gradually increases capacity.
“Face coverings are now mandatory on public transport, please continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines. While we are now in Phase 2 of easing lockdown restrictions, we must remain vigilant about the spread of coronavirus.”
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:
“Communities rely on bus services and this additional funding of £46.7 million seeks to serve the anticipated travel needs of those communities, while keeping them safe, by enabling physical distancing in these unprecedented times.
“As a result of physical distancing measures public transport is operating at around 10-20 per cent of normal capacity at this time. While the Scottish Government will continue to do what it can to support our bus industry and our public transport network it is important that everyone plays their part in helping to keep Scotland moving for those that need to travel most.”
£46.7 million of funding support has been announced to enable bus operators to increase bus services to meet anticipated demand as we move into Phase 2 and through the next phases of the route map while maintaining 2 metre physical distancing on board.
It is an 8 week funding package which includes one off mobilisation costs for buses which have been mothballed during lockdown and Phase 1, as well as the difference between operator revenue and the cost of running increased services (i.e. a cost recovery model).
Without additional support bus operators would not be able to increase services as fare paying passenger revenue would not cover the cost of doing so given physical distancing requirements (the carrying capacity of some buses being reduced to as little as 15-20%).
Operators will continue to target capacity on lifeline routes and key routes where there is the most demand.
All bus operators are eligible to opt in. They will receive additional funding to provide an increased level of service. In doing so they will need to enter into a public service contract with Transport Scotland.