The plight of the aviation sector during the current coronavirus crisis has been well publicised and the Government is reported to be preparing a package of financial help as it is with regard to the rail industry.

Now, Ministers are being urged to get behind bus operators or to risk the decimation of a national network that will be needed to get key employees to work during the current crisis.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, passenger numbers have already fallen by 50%, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has highlighted.

Revenues outside London are set to fall by £50 million per week, threatening the ability to pay the wages of nearly 100,000 drivers as well as all the support staff and indirect employees required to deliver a national network.

The decision to close schools — and the widely trailed stay-at-home policy for over 70s — could push this fall to 75%, the CPT has noted, even before any ‘lock-down’.

The industry is therefore asking the Government to guarantee budgeted sources of income for bus and coach operators as well as supporting up to 80% of staff costs.

This will, the CPT said, enable major operators such as Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead and Stagecoach - as well as numerous smaller bus companies — to maintain routes vital for taking NHS staff and other key workers such as refuse workers, cleaners and supermarket staff to their places of work.

Bus companies stand ready to help the national response to the coronavirus crisis in any way possible and are drawing up plans to use buses as mobile grocery stores for people forced to self-isolate and as mobile testing units for the NHS.

But without extra funding, the bus network outside London could disappear. A rescue package now will ensure an industry vital for the country remains in place once the crisis in over.

The industry employs 100,000 bus drivers and supports a further 120,000 jobs in the supply chain, including Britain's world-leading bus manufacturing sector. Overall, buses deliver an aggregate £64 billion a year benefit to the UK economy.

CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler said: “Buses are crucial to keeping workers moving — and must remain a vital backbone of public transport once this crisis is over. We urgently need the Government to help bus workers and their employers now to secure the future of the industry.”

Last reviewed 25 March 2020