Bus Services: use them or lose them!

Through the course of the previous lockdown, bus operators received grant funding from the UK Government in order to keep services running while passenger numbers were down.

Fewer passengers were making journeys, as they were either working from home, unable to work, or unable to travel to see friends/family or shop at ‘non-essential’ retail stores which had been closed.

Following the end of ‘lockdown’ on July 19th 2021, with many people returning to work, and able to enjoy leisure activities again, it was hoped that passenger numbers on public transport would begin to return to ‘normal’ levels prior to this Covid pandemic.

While I’m pleased to see that this has indeed been happening, overall patronage does appear to be much reduced still, compared to what I used to see myself less than two years ago.

The COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) finishes at the end of August 2021, and while there will continue to be some financial support available from 1st September in the form of ‘recovery funding’ for the bus sector, certainly commercial operators are going to start reviewing their operations. And it will most certainly be the case that local authorities that subsidise lesser-used services will also be taking stock.

We are already seeing service changes due to take place from 29th August in Birmingham, the Black Country, and Coventry.

Some of these changes are coming about due to a need to ‘optimise’ operations, in order to reduce operating costs, while still providing benefits to passengers in other ways.

Granted, some people are going to lose out, and their journey may have to be taken on two services, rather than one direct route.

But ultimately, the vast majority of bus routes are operated commercially by private companies, and commercial decisions will need to be made, after all no-one wants to run a business at a loss.

Basically, if passenger numbers do not recover to their ‘pre-pandemic’ levels, I understand that further cuts and revisions will need to be made further down the line, maybe as soon as October.

There may of course be a number of reasons why passengers are not returning to buses as was expected, and I do not pretend to know why this hasn’t been the case, though I would certainly like to hear from people about this.

Maybe things will change from September onwards, as many people return to work after the school summer holidays. But if people choose to continue avoiding public transport, and passenger numbers do not continue to recover, then bus services will start being cut back in accordance with reduced demand.


About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

View all posts by WMBU →
3.5 2 votes
Article Rating
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments