BUS Operators across Wales will be rescued by a further funding package from the Welsh Government. Wales’ bus industry will be funded through a new Bus Emergency Scheme, providing financial support for revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic in return for greater public control over our buses.
The Welsh Government has announced the scheme as its previous short-term support scheme – the Bus Hardship Fund – comes to an end.
Revenue is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future and this emergency funding provides an operating subsidy in lieu of lost revenue, maintained at historic levels for an initial period of three months. Its aim is to deliver an integrated and flexible network to match supply to demand, flex services, and allocate any additional funding.
Additional expectations will be added to the requirements for funding that were put in place under the Bus Hardship Fund scheme. These include:
Working with local authorities and Transport for Wales to flex routes and capacity to match evolving supply and demand;
Use reasonable endeavours to comply with Welsh Government guidance on the safe use of public transport;
Seeking financial support through all other grants available to them;
Not increasing commercial bus fares; and
Providing information to help improve services for passengers
Operators must work with local authorities and Transport for Wales to determine service levels. To do this it will be necessary to consider how best to serve key workers and support economic growth while considering capacity issues and potential staff shortages. This is the first stage of a wider plan which will see the public sector funders of the bus industry begin to regain control of buses for the first time since deregulation in the 1980s.
In the longer-term, the Welsh Government, supported by Transport for Wales and in collaboration with local authorities and bus operators, will develop the BES to form the basis of a new funding scheme which will allow the £100m+ public contribution to bus operations to better put the needs of passengers ahead of the needs of shareholders. This will include a fairer and more consistent approach to fares, building patronage, and agreement to the principles of an Economic Contract and a Social Charter.
Lee Waters, Deputy Transport Minister, said:
“The coronavirus pandemic has led to passenger numbers falling by around 90%. It has therefore been necessary to take action and provide funding to secure the industry’s future.
“This has meant buses have been able to help key workers get to work during the pandemic, and will mean the industry can continue to be an essential part of our transport network as we are hopefully in a position to ease restrictions and restart the economy.
“As well as providing short-term funding with conditions that secure public value, I want the Bus Emergency Scheme to be the start of a pathway to a greater say for public sector funders and users reshaping our bus network in the interests of passengers across Wales.”