Scotland brings in 'more flexible' bus funding

The Scottish Government has said a new grant will help maintain bus services while passenger numbers recover from the effects of the pandemic.

From 1 April, the Network Support Grant (NSG) will replace three separate funding streams – the COVID Support Grant, COVID Support Grant - Restart and the Bus Service Operators Grant.

A Stagecoach bus at a Bus Stop in Elgin, Moray, January 2022

Transport Scotland said this would secure services as part of wider improvements to attract passengers back over the longer term - including ‘bus priority, ticketing and better data’.

Officials pointed out that the draft Scottish Budget for 2022-23 provides up to £93.5m for the NSG, including £40m in additional funding to support recovery.

Transport minister for Jenny Gilruth said: ‘As we continue to navigate our way through and out of the pandemic, it’s important that the support we give transport operators adapts and evolves, to make sure it remains fit for purpose and represents value for money.

‘The Network Support Grant will provide more flexibility than the emergency COVID funding schemes, meaning services can adapt to changed travel patterns. It will be available on the same terms to new as well as established operators to improve efficiencies and the offer to passengers across Scotland.’

She added: ‘The level of support can be adjusted as passenger numbers recover, ensuring that it is financially sustainable and helping services to adapt to new travel patterns and demand as we emerge from the pandemic.’

Although NSG is described as a single grant, it will initially be provided through ‘two sub-schemes: NSG, and NSG Plus’, with the latter paid at a significantly higher rate ‘to help offset lost revenue while patronage recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic’.

Transport Scotland said operators can only be signed up to one scheme at a time but can switch between schemes.

Firms that want to receive payments from 1 April are required to apply by Monday (14 February).

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