Northeast leaders have pleaded with the government to act now to prevent bus passengers from being hit by even more devastating budget cuts.
Ministers have been warned to offer to expand emergency assistance to bus companies to avert another wave of service cuts. Government grants have supported the struggling public transport providers who have seen a sharply reduced number of passengers since the start of the Covid pandemic.Read:New council pay offer made to end bin and school strike action
But while the patronage level on Northeast buses is still about 25% lower than in pre-Covid times, the Bus Recovery Grant will expire in early October. In northern England there are fears that private bus companies will soon announce a series of new cuts if funding is cut.
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Routes through the Northeast have already seen major cutbacks this year, with Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus saying it estimates there are now about 100 fewer buses per day in the area compared to March. Go North East imposed shortened timetables last month and confirmed more will follow in September, while transport chiefs fear Arriva and Stagecoach may soon cut their services as well – either by cutting bus frequencies or canceling some routes entirely.Read:Liz Truss vows to take on ‘vested interests’ and boost UK economic growth
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said continued support was “persistent” to secure vital services. He added: “If the government does not reconsider the imminent withdrawal of funding, we will face not only a cost of living crisis, but also a quality of life crisis.”
Northern mayors, including Jamie Driscoll of North of Tyne, have warned that more austerity measures would have a “devastating” impact on working families and “only create more hardship for those already suffering this cost of living”.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Nadhim Zahawi and Grant Shapps, they wrote: “In each of our regions, bus companies have now announced their intention to withdraw hundreds of bus routes, causing many communities to lose access to any form of public transport. In addition, on a large number of routes all services will be lost after 7 p.m., causing many shift workers to stop using bus services to travel to and from work. being influenced.Read:Birmingham Stabbed: Man found stabbed to death in wrecked car
“If action is not taken, the changes to bus offerings will have a devastating effect on affected communities, heighten the cost of living crisis and jeopardize the goals of the national bus strategy introduced last year.”
In addition to Mr Driscoll, the letter was signed by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracey Brabin, Oliver Coppaird of South Yorkshire and Steve Rotheram of Liverpool.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We have pledged to invest £3bn in bus services by 2025, to improve fares, services and infrastructure, and have given nearly £2bn to bus operators and local authorities since March 2020 to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. . We continue to listen to the industry and work closely with operators and local transport authorities to support network planning and ensure that every possible step is taken to protect the services.
“To maximize this investment, local authorities and operators need to work together to ensure routes are commercially sustainable and reflect the needs of passengers after the pandemic.”