Bus operators plan to axe hundreds of routes unless Government funding introduced to keep services running during the pandemic is continued, according to metro mayors.
Four Labour mayors representing areas across northern England warned that “many communities” will have no public transport if the Bus Service Recovery Grant is not renewed when the package ends in early October.
Half of routes will be affected “in some form” with many losing “all services” after 7pm, they claimed in a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
I’ve written to @BorisJohnson & @grantshapps urging they take immediate action to protect bus services. They cannot push hardworking families onto more expensive means of travel during a cost of living crisis. Support must be extended THIS WEEK before operators axe routes. pic.twitter.com/5uBKAKcxXk
— Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire (@MayorOfWY) August 15, 2022
The letter was signed by Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, Mayor of North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard and Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.
They wrote: “In each of our regions, bus operators have now notified that they intend to withdraw hundreds of bus routes.”
They went on: “Without action, the changes to bus provision will have a devastating effect on the communities affected, add to the cost of living crisis and will compromise the aims of the National Bus Strategy introduced just last year.”
The mayors added that there is “still time to prevent this”, calling for funding to be maintained “in a form which will allow a more managed transition into a new ‘post-pandemic’ bus network”.
A DfT spokesman said: “We have committed to investing £3 billion into bus services by 2025, to improve fares, services and infrastructure, and given nearly £2 billion since March 2020 to bus operators and local authorities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
“We continue to listen to the sector and work closely with operators and local transport authorities to support network planning, ensuring all possible steps are taken to protect services.
“To maximise this investment, local authorities and operators need to work together to ensure routes are commercially sustainable and reflect the needs of passengers post-pandemic.”
The DfT has previously described the current £150 million financial package as “the final tranche of pandemic-related support to operators”.
Latest Government figures show weekday bus usage in Britain excluding London is at around two-thirds of pre-coronavirus levels.
Before the virus crisis, commuting accounted for around a third of bus travel.
Many of these journeys are not being made after the shift towards home-working, despite all movement restrictions being lifted.