Bus chiefs warn timetable cuts ‘likely’ as transport chiefs urge the government not to scrap Covid travel funding

Cuts to bus timetables are “likely” over the coming months, as the sector continues to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:00 am

While the government pushes ahead with its roll back of measures introduced to stem the spread of Covid-19, passenger numbers on public transport in the North East remain barely two thirds of what they were before the virus hit.

And the move has prompted industry chiefs to add their voices to call for ministers to step in with a solution.

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“A number of bus services will need to be revised, with some cuts likely,” Martijn Gilbert, chairman of the North East Bus Operators' Association (NEbus).

“Bus operators remain committed to working with local authorities to navigate the challenges ahead together and to deliver the most efficient and best possible outcome with the resources available.”

Across Tyne and Wear, bus use remains between 25-30% lower than it was pre-pandemic.

Up to now, lost income has been covered by government grants and continued payments by the region’s councils.

And while cuts to Metro timetables have been ruled out for now, Gilbert, who is also managing director of Go North East, warned bus operators can no longer “sustain the operation of the very worst performing services”.

Instead, passengers have been told to expect timetables which “reflect the changes in people's travel patterns and demand as we emerge from the pandemic”.

A package of measures drawn up by the leaders of the five Tyne and Wear councils was briefly put on hold in an attempt to persuade ministers to cough up more cash, but is now expected to be put into action.

As well as an “unprecedented” £4 million funding increase for Metro operator Nexus, the amount paid to bus companies for carrying passengers with free bus passes is expected to be slashed by £7.5 million.

A joint statement by the region’s chiefs said: “The upcoming decimation of the bus network in Tyne and Wear is wholly within the Government’s power to resolve.

“We call once more on the Government to reverse its decision to end Covid-19 funding for buses and light rail.”

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