Bus firms facing tougher financial scrutiny in return for public cash to keep them on the road after pandemic

Transport chiefs could force bus companies to open their books in exchange for the cash needed to keep services running in the North East.

Council bosses in the region have been paying out up to £1.5 million every week to cover lost income from travellers advised to stay home during the coronavirus lockdown.
Council bosses in the region have been paying out up to £1.5 million every week to cover lost income from travellers advised to stay home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Council bosses in the region have been paying out up to £1.5 million every week to cover lost income from travellers advised to stay home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Despite government plans to roll back the measures, providers continue to have a twin problem of reduced capacity and reduced demand due to social distancing and other fallout from COVID-19.

And although regional leaders have agreed in principle to maintain subsidies, they could also demand more transparency in an attempt to drive up value for money in exchange for keeping the firms afloat.

“The bus industry will continue to be challenged and will require public support at greater levels,” said Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East.

“The general consensus [among council leaders] is that that is the correct thing to continue to do, albeit with some conditions to be applied to the bus companies in relation to the payments.

“The biggest of which, I think, is that the local authorities want to have greater transparency of the financial transactions, so we can be content that value for money is being delivered as best we can achieve when it is not a tendered payment.”

Hughes, who is also managing director of Metro operator Nexus, was speaking at this morning’s (Thursday, June 25) meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, ministers have topped up bus companies’ finances through an emergency Covid-19 Bus Service Support Grant.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

At the same time, ministers also requested local authorities continue to pay subsidies for concessionary travel for the elderly and disabled, despite most travellers in that category being advised to stay home.

Hughes claimed without the payments buses may have stopped running.

And although the industry still faces a battle to balance the books, the latest guidelines give cause for optimism.

He added: “We should see some recover to the farebox, passengers have increased from about 10% during lockdown to about 20% – reductions to social distancing allows that to increase further.”

Advertisement

Hide Ad

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you.

How to subscribe to the print edition:

Advertisement

Hide Ad

It’s easy to subscribe to your local newspaper. We have arranged a special 20 per cent off subscription offer for people to take advantage of.

Visit www.localsubsplus.co.uk, choose the newspaper title, the type of subscription and enter your details.