Last reviewed 29 October 2020

The future of local public transport services is at serious risk — including the potential for deep cuts to bus services — without continued Covid-19 financial support from the Government, according to a new report.

Produced by transport consultancy Steer, for the Urban Transport Group, The Covid-19 Funding Gap: The Case for Continuing Support for Urban Public Transport can be found at www.urbantransportgroup.org.

The 100-page report highlights how Government support allowed public transport to continue during the national lockdown (enabling key workers to travel to and from work) and to provide a more comprehensive service at lower socially distanced vehicle capacity following the end of the lockdown.

However, it argues that both bus and light rail systems could face serious problems should this support be withdrawn prematurely.

Such action could see a minimum reduction in bus services of between 30% and 40%, accompanied by pressure to increase public transport fares which would also have a negative impact on passenger numbers.

While there would be increasing pressure on local transport authorities to step in and procure socially necessary bus services, there would be increasingly limited budgets available for them to act.

The report finds that public transport demand is likely to be well below pre-Covid levels for some time. It suggests future funding should be developed to cope with a best case scenario of patronage returning to 85% of pre-Covid levels by mid-2021, and a worst case scenario of patronage returning to 65% of pre-Covid levels by the end of 2021.

It concludes: “Local public transport faces a situation where its core demand has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic-induced recession, while at the same time provision of local public transport is particularly important if people are to be able to return to employment. Maintaining local public transport supply is therefore integral to the post-pandemic recovery.”