In my last column, I asked the question whether these are the bleakest days of the bus industry. Whilst there are glimmers of hope, government assistance has never been more needed than now.
Looking back to the distant past, buses were funded very well by the government with the Bus Grant available to assist with the purchase price of new buses. This led to the ‘grant doors’ on coaches (two-piece express doors as opposed to the single piece in swing door). Having started at 25% of initial purchase price when introduced by the then labour government in 1968, the next conservative government increased it to 50%, extending its to run for 12 years. This was mainly to replace older halfcab buses with single manned buses. In 1980, it was quoted as costing over £70m per year (just over £290m in today’s money). In 1984, it was phased out as the Transport act, which de-regulated bus services, was being drawn up.
Under the Transport act 1985, fuel duty rebate then gave bus operators 100% of the duty on fuel back. By 1999 it had reduced to around 67% and by November 2022, it had reduced to 23%. During the period of this reduction, the industry had been forced to re-invest in first generation low floor buses, and then DDA2 compliant vehicles to meet the newer guidelines that the earlier ones didn’t meet. Each time, the newer vehicles were more expensive in real terms than the ones they replaced, and more complicated electrically.