Ipswich Buses and First Eastern Counties get boost from government
PUBLISHED: 16:32 06 April 2020 | UPDATED: 19:40 06 April 2020
The two largest bus companies in Suffolk have welcomed the news that the government is to support the industry after the number of passengers dropped like a stone during the coronavirus crisis.
Across the country bus companies are to receive almost £170 million in new Government funding to ensure services continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the investment will protect crucial local transport links across England for those unable to work from home.
Bus operators will be required to maintain up to 50% of normal service levels and allow adequate social distancing space between passengers on board under the conditions of the new £167 million funding pot.
Passengers must also be kept informed about any revised operating timetables, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
The package, which has been agreed with bus operators, will be paid over a 12-week period under the new Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant.
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The Government said £200 million of existing funding under the Bus Services Operators Grant – which helps firms recover some of their fuel costs – will also continue to be paid.
Stephen Bryce, general manager of Ipswich Buses, welcomed the move – but said more support would be needed into the future: “The funding is very welcome news and, although it will provide vital support to the bus industry in the short term, the biggest challenge to our industry is to be ready for when this pandemic passes and further support will be needed to the industry so it can support the rebuilding of the communities we serve.”
There was also a welcome for the news from Steve Wickers, First Eastern Counties managing director. He said: “Our role as a bus operator has perhaps never been more important than now, as we perform a vital service in enabling key workers to move about as the nation comes together to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
“While many other businesses can make the difficult decision to close their doors, buses are different; the national effort to fight the virus continues to include the provision of our services for key workers. We are proud to serve our customers and proud of our teams during these challenging times.”
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