The Scottish Government has provided additional expenditure of £46.7 million to support bus operators to increase bus services over the next two months.
Bus travel accounts for just under three quarters of all public transport journeys, according to Transport Scotland and the new 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.
As more 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 the currently reduced public transport network can continue to manage demand effectively, says Transport Scotland.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “We have already been maintaining the value of concessionary travel and Bus Service Operators Grant payments at the levels forecast before the crisis. So far, £34.3 million has been provided across 155 operators, but I know that this is a difficult time for our bus industry and that physical distancing will impact fare-paying passenger revenues significantly. 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 more lockdown restrictions are eased our analysis shows that up to 55% of employees could be travelling to their normal workplace, a rise from 30% in full lockdown. That could result in an increase in the number of passengers on public transport by around by a third from current levels of 225,000 per day.
“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.
“Clearly public transport has a vital role to play as we look to restart the economy and return to some form of normality, but the need for personal and collective responsibility when travelling has never been greater. Let’s leave space on services for those who need it most. I want to thank all of our transport operators and staff who have kept Scotland’s key workers moving in recent months, during an incredibly testing time. Equally, I want to thank everyone right across the country who is helping to manage demand across the transport network by following our travel advice and guidance”
Paul White, Director for CPT in Scotland said: “We’re pleased the Scottish Government recognises the important role the bus network is playing in helping people return to work safely and is working with us to ensure a more comprehensive network is in place. Operators are working around the clock to get more buses on our roads as quickly as possible.
“This funding is designed to cover the costs associated with the running of an increased network, but with significantly reduced capacity, until passenger numbers are able to return to normal levels. We will continue working with passengers, businesses and local authorities to provide a safe, flexible bus network which allows those who need it to make their essential journeys,” he added.