Responding to the government’s announcement that £167 million will be made available to support England’s bus network during the Covid19 health and economic emergency, Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said:
“Unite has been working hard to get assistance for the bus sector, a vital part of our public transport infrastructure. Tens of thousands of people are employed by bus companies in garages across the country. They are extremely anxious to know that the government understands the scale of the challenges before the sector.
“However, the package announced by the transport secretary Grant Shapps falls well short of what we believe the bus transport needs. It is imperative that bus services for NHS and other essential workers continue to operate.
“The sector must keep providing services that prioritise key workers while operating radically reduced operations.
“That means buses have to be parked in the garages and to make that happen, the sector needs funding to stop normal running until the coronavirus crisis has ended.
“The priority needs to be ensuring that buses – the most widely used form of public transport – will serve our communities once again when we come out of this crisis.
“This relatively small bailout, which is to be divided by the bewildering amount of bus operators currently providing services in England, will do nothing for people living on the more than 3,000 local bus routes that have been lost or reduced over the last decade.
“To ensure that we have a bus network in the future, more investment by ministers is needed, along with the introduction of sustainable publicly owned bus networks under the control of local authorities. This has been driven home by the fact that this crisis has brought many apparently profitable private bus operators to their knees in a matter of weeks.”