Britain's bus operators warn that jobs could go unless the government agrees £1 billion rescue package
Britain’s bus operators today warn that tens of thousands of jobs could go within weeks unless the government agrees an immediate £1 billion rescue package.
Ministers are being urged to get behind the industry now or risk the decimation of a national bus network that is getting critical sector employees to work during the current crisis and is central to communities and regional economies all year round.
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, passenger numbers have fallen by 50 per cent already. Revenues outside London are set to fall by £50million per week, threatening the ability to pay the wages of nearly 100,000 drivers as well as all the support staff and then indirect employees required to deliver a national network. The decision to close schools – and the widely trailed stay-at-home policy for over 70s – could push this fall to 75 per cent, even before any ‘lock-down’.
The industry is asking the Government to guarantee budgeted sources of income for bus and coach operators and to support up to 80 per cent of staff costs.
This will enable major operators such as Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead and Stagecoach - as well as numerous smaller bus companies - to maintain routes vital for taking NHS staff and other key workers such as refuse workers, cleaners and supermarket staff to their places of work.
The country is being challenged like never before in peace time and the industry accepts the necessity of the Government’s advice to avoid unessential travel to protect all of our health.
Bus companies stand ready to help the national response to the coronavirus crisis in any way possible and are drawing up plans to use buses as mobile grocery stores for people forced to self-isolate and as mobile testing units for the NHS.
But without extra funding, the bus network outside London could disappear. A rescue package now will ensure an industry vital for the country remains in place once the crisis in over.
The industry employs 100,000 bus drivers and supports a further 120,000 jobs in the supply chain, including Britain's world-leading bus manufacturing sector. Overall, buses deliver an aggregate £64billion a year benefit to the UK economy.
Graham Vidler, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents hundreds of large and small bus companies, said:
“We appreciate that we are living in unprecedented times and more than ever we are ready to play our role in maintaining a vital national network and supporting the fabric of daily life across Britain.
“But bus operators are under extreme pressure and facing impossible choices over which routes they have to cut and how many staff may have to go.
“Buses are crucial to keeping workers moving – and must remain a vital backbone of public transport once this crisis is over.
“We urgently need the Government to help bus workers and their employers now to secure the future of the industry.”
Go-Ahead is one of the leading UK public transport operator companies. Our purpose is to be the local partner taking care of journeys that enhance the lives and wellbeing of our communities across the world. Employing around 29,000 people across our businesses, over 1.2 billion passenger journeys are undertaken on our rail and bus services every year. In addition to the travelling public, our customers include governments and local authorities. We are committed to contributing to tackling climate change, improving air quality and reducing social isolation, and aim to run a zero emission bus fleet by 2035.
Go-Ahead is one of the UK's largest bus operators. With a fleet of nearly 6,000 buses, we carry over two million passengers every day. We have a strong presence in London, with around 23 per cent market share, where we provide regulated services for Transport for London. Outside London, we principally serve high-density commuter markets, including the North East, Greater Manchester, East Yorkshire, East Anglia, South East and South West England. Internationally, we operate a bus contract in Singapore and two bus contracts in Ireland.
The rail division operates two franchises in the UK and two contracts in Germany. In the UK, Southeastern and GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) operate through our 65% owned subsidiary, Govia, which is 35% owned by Keolis. It is the largest rail operation in the UK, responsible for around 30 per cent of all UK passenger rail journeys through its rail franchises. In Germany, our contracts are run exclusively by Go-Ahead.
Certain statements included in this press release contain forward-looking information concerning the Group’s strategy, operations, financial performance or condition, outlook, growth opportunities or circumstances in the sectors or markets in which the Group operates. By their nature, forward-looking statements involve uncertainty because they depend of future circumstances, and relate to events, not all of which are within the Group’s control or can be produced by the Group. Although the Group believes that the expectations reflected in such forward–looking statements are reasonable, no assurance can be given that such expectations will prove to have been correct. Nothing in this press release should be construed as a profit forecast and no part of these results constitutes, or shall be taken to constitute, an invitation or inducement to invest in The Go-Ahead Group plc or any other entity, and must not be relied upon in any way in connection with any investment decision. Except as required by law, the Group undertakes no obligation to update any forward looking statement.