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Extra concessionary fare support to help boost bus services

Parking, roads and transport

09 February 2023

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Bus operators in the North Northamptonshire Council area will continue to receive extra financial support to bolster services under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme - if recommendations are approved next week and Government enact the relevant legislation.

Under the scheme, the Council has a statutory duty to reimburse bus operators for free travel by eligible older persons’ and disabled persons’ pass holders, however, the number of people using bus services in the area – and elsewhere in England – has not recovered to the levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic, with journey volumes remaining relatively low.

As a result, the Government has asked councils to reimburse operators at above actual current levels of journeys through the 2023/24 financial year, to those made at or near pre-Covid levels. Government is due to be laying secondary legislation before Parliament to allow this.

Proposals before the Council’s Executive outline how the authority will reimburse bus companies - for these free journeys made - at 90% of pre-Covid levels until March 31, 2024.

I’m delighted that we are able to protect our bus networks, which are essential in keeping communities connected, enabling commuting and offering greener alternatives to making car journeys across our area.

With bus companies still suffering from the reduced number of journeys being made post Covid, there is a real risk that without support from local authorities, the sector would suffer further.

We’re pleased to be able to provide the support required to continue to bolster and secure bus services as we return to normality after the pandemic.
Cllr Graham Lawman, the Council’s Executive Member for Highways, Travel and Assets
A thriving bus network plays such a significant role in our area so it’s essential that we provide whatever support we can to ensure it continues to function in leaner times.

Public transport is so important not just for connecting communities but as a means to facilitate a healthy, growing economy.
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council

Previously – as free travel is likely to generate additional journeys, compared to where passengers had to pay their own fare - operators were generally reimbursed a proportion of the fare that would otherwise be paid, so that they were no better nor worse off as a result of concessionary travel.

Bus use has been significantly reduced since the start of the Covid pandemic and concessionary pass use, at 65-70% of pre-Covid levels, remains significantly below the level for fare-paying passengers, which is around 90% of pre-Covid levels, giving overall patronage at about 80% of pre-Covid levels.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has asked travel concessionary authorities to maintain the reimbursement of bus operators for those carried free of charge through concessionary bus pass payments at above actual levels.

The Council’s Executive will meet at 10am on Thursday, February 16.