Bailout for buses coming in days, Shapps says

 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said that a specific financial deal for the bus sector will be announced in the next few days, while the aviation sector will get bespoke loans.

Speaking to the new Transport Select Committee in its first remote meeting, the secretary of state gave an update on how the transport sector was tackling the coronavirus crisis.

”Local

Mr Shapps revealed that the Department for Transport was developing guidance for local transport authorities on supporting bus services.

The Bus Services Operator Grant was still being paid to operators even if services had reduced, Mr Shapps said.

The Scottish Government has also confirmed that the roughly £260m in grants and concessionary travel support paid to bus companies would still be paid regardless of passenger numbers.

Elsewhere, the promised financial support for airlines and airports would be carried out through bespoke negotiations with individual businesses within the sector with any funding provided in the form of loans to protect the taxpayer.

Latest passenger numbers show that London Underground usage has reduced by 91%, bus travel by 78% and road travel by 38%, with many fewer flights now taking place. Rail ticket sales had reduced by 98% compared to last year.

The secretary of state also addressed the issue of persistent crowding on the London Underground following service cuts. While he remarked he did not want to row with the London mayor Sadiq Khan, he went on to accuse Transport for London (TfL) of mishandling the situation.

TfL had cut services by too much and was now struggling to recover, Mr Shapps suggested.

TfL has responded to criticisms by arguing that a 20% to 30% reduction in staff because of illness and self-isolation meant it had little flexibility on service numbers.

When asked whether travel permits would be introduced for key workers and workers in the transport industry, the secretary of state said he hoped that would not be necessary.

In rail, the Government has announced pro-rata refunds for annual season ticket holders, as well as refunds for advanced tickets.

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