Councils have warned that nearly a third of bus services will be axed unless emergency funding is extended beyond the end of March.
The Local Government Association, ADEPT, Urban Transport Group and Campaign for Better Transport have come together to call for the the Bus Recovery Support Grant to be extended when it ends in March. The Bus Recovery Grant was introduced last year to provide local authorities and operators with £255.5m funding support to protect services due to the sharp fall in passenger numbers.
However, the LGA warned passenger numbers are still not at pre-pandemic levels putting many bus routes at risk of being stopped.
According to the latest Department for Transport (DfT) figures, bus passenger numbers outside of London are still 26% lower than they were before the pandemic started.
Cllr David Renard, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: 'Government funding has helped keep buses on the road, allowing operators to close the gap between the costs of providing local public transport and the reduced revenues from much lower numbers of passengers than normal. Passenger numbers have not returned to those seen before the pandemic and without continued support, it is clear that some routes will no longer be viable and will have to be reduced.
'This will have a devastating impact on people who rely on these services to get to work, visit family and access vital services, including doctors and affordable food shopping.'
A DfT spokesperson said: 'The Government has provided an unprecedented £1.7bn in support to over 160 operators to keep services running during the pandemic, and we’re working closely with the sector to understand the potential challenges and mitigations once it ends in April.'
As Transport Network has reported, the Government is counting cash provided to keep services running during the pandemic as part of the £3bn pledged to 'improve' services under its 'Bus Back Better' National Bus Strategy.
This story first appeared on localgov.co.uk.