Council to consider support for bus services
A North East council will be asked to consider measures to support struggling bus services.
Our Cabinet will hear next week how several bus services across County Durham are no longer commercially viable due to reduced passenger numbers, staff shortages, and increased running costs.
Concessionary travel scheme
In March of this year, Cabinet agreed to allocate funding from the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) for the years 2022 to 2023 to sustain bus contracts that had been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
While it was thought passenger numbers would recover following the pandemic, Cabinet will hear that use remains low and, as a result, commercial bus companies have had to reduce or cut services.
Operators are also facing a shortage of drivers - preventing some journeys from operating - and experiencing significant cost pressures, such as the increase in fuel prices.
To mitigate the ongoing strain, on Wednesday 12 October Cabinet will be asked to agree to allocate further funding from the ENCTS to support transport services until 2024.
It will also be asked to agree to procuring previously commercial services wherever resources allow.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: "Before the coronavirus pandemic, a comprehensive network of buses operated across the county, with a high proportion being commercial without subsidy.
"Sustainable transport is vital to ensure residents have access to necessities such as work, healthcare appointments, and amenities. Therefore, it is important that we work with and support bus operators during this time of difficulty so that we can preserve this network and maintain it for the future."