Could a change in bus services help keep passengers moving post-Covid?

Ipswich Bus

Bus services could be totally reorganised after the pandemic. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Major changes are being expected for the bus industry once the pandemic is over - with more public support needed for more routes if current networks are to survive.

Ipswich's Park and Ride service might need more financial help if it is to continue long-term and there may be more subsidies needed for services which are currently run on a commercial basis.

The government could be forced to support the bus industry as well as rail services - it has already announced that the current rail franchise system is to be replaced by a new system with the Department for Transport deciding what services should run.

Most bus services outside London and large cities are run on commercial basis with county councils sponsoring some lightly-run services that are needed to maintain public transport links in mainly rural areas.

Away from Suffolk, most Park and Ride services are also run with county council support. Ipswich's service is run by First Eastern Counties on a commercial basis from car parks owned by Suffolk County Council.

Empty buses in Ipswich

Passengers have been travelling but with very few buses during lockdowns. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Public transport experts think that the number of bus passengers will not return to pre-pandemic levels quickly after the final relaxation of pandemic restrictions because working patterns will have changed and town and city centres may not be so busy.

The government has said it is committed to investing in bus services - and this could see all regions of the country being covered by public transport executives - at present these operate in major urban areas like the West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

One transport source said: "Services like the park and ride and the local buses in Suffolk villages might have to be subsidised to provide an alternative to driving - there might not be enough demand to make them commercially viable for many years, if ever."

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Urban transport networks - including London Transport - has always been subsidised and are generally used by more passengers than those in other parts of the country.