POLITICS AND BUSES

INSIDE TRACK with ROGER FRENCH

I’m writing this column before the outcome of July’s General Election is known, but if the polls are to be believed at the time of writing, 14 years of Conservative led governments will be at an end when you read this, leading to the obvious question: what now for buses?

Buses have never been a high political priority for central Government, especially compared to health, education, defence and other large spending departments, or even within the Department for Transport, where resources devoted to buses are minuscule compared to rail. It’s interesting to reflect on how the last four years have seen unprecedented funding for the industry and much welcome political support.

This in stark contrast to the previous 10 years of local authorities’ austerity and the inevitable cuts to bus routes.

A major part of the recent support arose from the need to maintain a bus network for key workers during Covid lockdowns, as well as the recovery to normal travel patterns, with concessionary passengers particularly slow to return. Then there’s been the move towards Net Zero, with financial support for bus companies to invest in electric and hydrogen propulsion and associated infrastructure, as no operator can justify such expenditure from its own resources.

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