The Welsh Government has announced urgent measures to support public transport through the coronavirus pandemic.
NHS staff will receive free travel on buses throughout Wales in return for hardship funding from the Welsh Government over the next three months, with free travel already available on Transport for Wales trains.
Transport for Wales will receive additional funding support and a hardship fund has been set up to help bus companies as passenger numbers have fallen by up to 90% as passengers follow the stay-at-home rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The combined support is worth up to £69m.
The bus hardship fund will be paid monthly up-front for up to three months and will temporarily replace existing grant funding provided through the bus services support grant, mandatory concessionary fares and MyTravelPass in the normal course of business.
In return for financial support from the Welsh Government, bus companies will need to commit to continue to provide a timetabled service and all NHS staff will receive free travel. Transport for Wales is already offering free travel for NHS staff on its services.
NAT Group Managing Director, Adam Keen, has responded to the announcement of a hardship fund set up to support bus companies through the COVID-19 crisis. Adam said:
“The effects of Covid-19 have hit the bus industry very hard indeed, with drops of around 90% in passenger numbers being experienced by many operators. Many businesses have significant fixed costs and whilst the furloughing scheme assists with wages, there are many other costs associated with running a bus company which cannot simply be ‘parked’ until business restarts. If bus operators are to come out of this the other side in a position of being able to continue, financial support from Welsh Government is absolutely vital.”