City transport authorities across England are facing financial uncertainty without compensation for the lockdown losses, preventing a restoration of full timetables on key routes.
While Transport for London has been given a £1.6bn rescue package to help it resume full services, other members of the Urban Transport Group - the representative body for the largest transport authorities in England - have no comparable funding.
This has made the task of returning to normal services difficult despite the prime minister's hopes of a cautious, phased lifting of the lockdown.
The Government is shouldering all revenue and cost risk for six months for franchised national rail services in England, however local services are not being given the full support they need.
Merseytravel’s Merseyrailservices are yet to receive any extra funding since the COVID-19 restrictions began.
‘There should be equality of treatment between national rail and city region transport on Government closing the COVID-19 funding gap,’ a UTG spokesman told Transport Network.
‘Where there is a light rail or tram system, this is covered by the partial deal the Government put in place for the lockdown phase for light rail – none of our other wider costs have been covered. We are also still expected by Government to continue to pay BSOG [Bus Service Operators’ Grant], tendered services and concessionary fares at pre-coronavirus levels.’
UTG had been assured the Treasury would cover the costs of returning services on buses and trams - many of which were mothballed in March to reduce maintenance - but had received ‘no further details’.
Greater Manchester Transport Committee chair Mark Aldred said: 'Metrolink [light rail] is currently being 75% funded by the Government, but we cannot increase service levels without additional support, and this is the case with bus too.
‘In Greater Manchester, one third of households don’t have access to a car and the average commute is 10km, so while districts are implementing temporary cycling and walking measures to support active travel, telling people to avoid public transport completely is just not possible for many who rely on it. So far, there has been no national guidance for transport operators on these issues.’
Welsh transport minister Ken Skates said last week there was a ‘huge social justice issue’ to consider because many people had no access to cars.
‘How do we prioritise capacity in the coming months to ensure that those who are most dependent on bus and rail services who are critical to the health and well-being of the nation are able to actually access those services?’