26 August 2020
National Express West Midlands has announced that it will reinvest all the money it has received from the Government’s Job Retention Bonus into reducing bus fares, cutting the price of tickets when the current restrictions on public transport are lifted.
Under the scheme, employers are able to claim a one-off payment of £1000 for every employee who was furloughed and stays employed to the end of January 2021.
Managing Director of National Express UK, Tom Stables, explained: “Making bus travel cheaper will help get our local high streets back on their feet, lock in the environmental benefits that came out of lockdown and get the people of the West Midlands back to work.”
He highlighted that 77% of all job seekers, and 87% of young jobseekers, have no access to a car, van or motorbike and are completely reliant on their local bus networks, while 75% of bus users have jobs which mean working from home is not an option.
Fewer buses were running in the early days of the lockdown because so many people were staying at home. This meant that thousands of the company’s drivers, engineers and back-office employees were furloughed, although most of them are now back at work.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, described the decision as incredibly innovative, and one that will help the West Midlands economy bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only will cheaper bus travel allow more people to get to town and city centres to support local shops,” he pointed out, “but it also helps those travelling to work or to a job interview.”
Birmingham City Councillor, Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, praised the potential environmental benefits, as making bus travel cheaper will help to reduce dependency on private cars and achieve a low carbon, clean air recovery from Covid-19.