Urban Transport Group, the consortium of the UK’s largest transport authorities, has urged for Government support to help maintain services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Bray, Urban Transport Group director, has written to the Department for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for financial and legal backing in order to continue paying for services that aren’t being provided at a time when transport authorities are losing revenue from the services they directly provide.
UTG represents transport authorities in London, Greater Manchester, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire and serves over 20 million people.
Bray said: “Together we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution to defeat Covid-19 and save lives. We are delivering a vital public service and our front-line colleagues are risking their lives to deliver it.
“We are taking unprecedented hits to our revenue while continuing to make payments for services that are not being provided. We are radically and rapidly changing how we operate while we continue to maintain operations, and working closely with partners, operators and trade unions to ensure we can continue to reconfigure our networks on a daily basis to beat this virus.”
Bray said the pandemic has meant taking unprecedented hits to revenue of both the private sector providers of urban public transport (in particular, bus operators) but also on the public sector transport authorities.
UTG is particularly concerned about the short-term viability of bus services outside of London.
This could result in the real possibility of rapidly scaling back bus services necessary for the provision of critical public transport networks.
Bray said that additional funding for local governments to support their response to COVID-19 doesn’t come to transport authorities, nor do they benefit from any additional financial support for the bus or rail sectors.
He said: “The Government has stood behind the NHS and food retailers in both a strategic way and in supporting their work publicly (and at the highest level), as well as reflecting their messages to the general public.
“We are providing the public transport which moves the workforce of the NHS and gets other key workers where they need to be, and we therefore urgently need the Government to take the same approach to supporting transport authorities that it has given to the NHS and food retailers.”