Months of campaigning, influencing and persuading by West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris has – he says – helped bring about a government U-turn that will provide £150 million of funding nationwide to keep local buses running through to October.
The Government has finally agreed to extend emergency covid funding which was due to end in April for a further six months until October to allow extra time for passenger numbers to recover.
The Bus Recovery Grant allows buses to continue to operate when fare revenue does not cover running costs.
The Metro Mayor, who has responsibility for transport, has been in regular contact with the transport minister, bus companies and local MPs who signed a joint letter organised by the Metro Mayor back in September of last year.
The Metro Mayor has questioned why this government decision has been taken so late causing bus companies to already draw up route cut plans. He says this unnecessary uncertainty and worry for passengers could have been avoided.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris says:
“This is undoubtedly a success for our local campaigning. I’m very pleased that we will be able to save more vital bus routes in the West of England.
“Finally there is some 11th-hour common sense from the Government. But why did it take so long? I was calling for this back in September last year. So much heartache could have been avoided.
“As always, the devil will be in the detail. I await further information on exactly how much of this cash is specifically for our region.
“Now we urgently need more local people to start using the buses again – it’s that old adage – use it or lose it.
“The greater number of passengers travelling on the buses the more fare income there is, so buses become commercially viable to run.
“Passengers switching to buses will mean fewer traffic jams and pollution and help us tackle the climate emergency and reach our ambitious net-zero targets”.
Meanwhile, Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse issued the following statement on the Government’s decision.
‘After months of campaigning and endless conversations, I’m very pleased to see the Government finally listen and support our local bus services.
I’ve raised this issue in Parliament and met with the Transport Minister to voice the concerns of Bath residents. Buses are very important to people in Bath so this is a vital issue that must be tackled. Ultimately, the Government could have saved months of worries from local residents about further cuts to essential services.
Now we need people to be able to feel that they can rely on our local services going forward. I want to see a detailed long-term plan presented ahead of October.‘