Labour has warned that a wave of bus service cuts will hit the country this summer as COVID support funding ends, and has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps calling for action.
Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh warned that from the end of July bus services will be slashed in what the opposition party described as 'a betrayal of the promises this government made to improve bus services'.
Ms Haigh accused the Government of slashing its bus transformation funding by almost two-thirds and leaving almost 60% of local communities without any funding to improve bus services.
As Transport Network has previously reported, more than a billion of transformation funding has been diverted to cover COVID subsidies.
With Covid Recovery Funding now set to expire at the end of September, communities are facing a wave of bus service cuts, Labour warned, highlighting South Yorkshire, where a third of services are set to be removed from 24 July. Operators in the North East are also expected be reducing services.
The shadow transport secretary urged the government to:
- give local leaders clarity on the status of emergency funding due to expire at the end of September
- learn lessons from the £2 fares being implemented by Labour mayors – fare reductions in Great Manchester, Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire will slash the cost of travel and are designed to increase passengers numbers to provide a sustainable future
- come clean on wider long-term funding cut for the Bus Back Better strategy –Labour said in a statement that 'over half of communities are seeing no funding whatsoever from the strategy, leaving the prime minister’s pledge to 'transform' bus services 'in tatters'.
Ms Haigh MP said: 'Communities and local leaders need certainty in the face of this looming bus crisis, but Ministers are missing in action. Any reduction in services will be devastating for the millions of passengers who depend on buses, and would represent a straightforward betrayal of the promises this government made to communities.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport described Labour's claims as 'wholly inaccurate' and said it had 'committed to investing £3bn into bus services by 2025, to improve fares, services and infrastructure, and given nearly £2bn since March 2020 to bus operators and local authorities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic'.
In fact, ministers have previously made clear that cash for COVID support is part of the £3bn rather than being in addition to it.
The spokesperson added: 'To maximise this investment, local authorities need to ensure that services are commercially sustainable and reflect the needs of passengers post-pandemic.'