Bus services are heading towards ‘cliff edge’

Bus services are heading towards ‘cliff edge’

By Michael Upton | 03/02/2022

Bus services are heading towards ‘cliff edge’

 

BUS passengers in Rotherham face a “bumpy” road ahead as emergency government funding begins to run out, political leaders warned this week.

City region mayor Dan Jarvis warned the stopgap cash from Westminster was facing a “cliff edge”, putting some routes under threat.

There is a question over the “viability” of some services, a meeting of the South Yorkshire mayoral combined authority heard on Monday.

Mr Jarvis (pictured) told Monday’s meeting: “Patronage levels are not back to where they were pre-pandemic.

“This has major implications for bus services and in many places, their very viability.

“To date, the government have provided emergency funding to keep services running.

“This support has been critical, but it will at some point come to an end, very possibly, even probably, at the end of March.

“So, there is a cliff edge that we are swiftly heading towards and one that I as mayor and all our council leaders recognise and acknowledge.

“Right now, we do not have the tools or the resources available to us to respond as we may need to, so there is no doubt that the road ahead is bumpy.”

Under the current bus network model, the MCA helps fund services which are not otherwise commercially viable for bus companies, including those with low passenger numbers and services at evenings and weekends.

MCA finance director Gareth Sutton also used the “cliff edge” comparison when giving an overview of bus funding.

“Unfortunately, we’re heading to the latest cliff edge with the government funding provision ending at the end of March or early April,” he said.

“The loss of that funding is likely to be compounded by the significant inflationary impacts within our wider operating environment \_ put simply, the cost of supplying services is likely to go up at the same time that funding is likely to go down, and that’s a difficult place for us to be.”

Mr Sutton said the options before the MCA included using reserves and reallocating a projected budget underspend.

He added: “That gives us a platform to address some of these issues, but it is important to know that the total quantum of those issues will be beyond our ability to manage without government support in the longer term.”

Barnsley Council leader and MCA board member Cllr Sir Steve Houghton called on political leaders from across South Yorkshire to lobby the government to extend emergency funding.

“I’dd like to see us as a combined authority under the other local MPs in South Yorkshire writing to ministers to say they need to keep that financial support,” he said.

“They need to keep that financial support in place because I really do worry what the consequences for services are going to be if the government withdraws that at the end of March, or indeed at any point in the future.”

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