Bus services in County Durham have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but close working between operators and the county council has helped ensure vital services have continued.
Durham County Council’s Cabinet will hear next week how the authority has also provided operators with £4 million in financial support, enabling the continuation of services to help key workers to travel during the crisis.
A report to be discussed by Cabinet members on Wednesday, 8 July, states that since the beginning of April, bus services have been operating at between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of normal levels. This is due to a dramatic fall in passenger numbers of about 90 per cent as well as the lack of availability of drivers. This situation is reflected around the country.
However, the bus network has remained vital to the economic and social wellbeing of the region during the pandemic and, as such, urgent action has been needed to ensure an essential network has been maintained.
In order to do this, the council has been providing financial support to operators through the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme and via tendered services, which have been maintained at pre-coronavirus levels. This is in line with government guidance.
This funding has been dependent on a number of conditions, including agreeing days and hours of operation and the frequency of services and destinations to ensure services for essential workers continue.
The council has also been working closely with a range of partners, including the Confederation of Passenger Transport and the North East Bus Operators Association, whose involvement has been pivotal to the ongoing work.
The council is now hoping to continue these close working relationships in order to ensure operators’ financial viability during the crisis but also protect jobs and services in the longer term.
Cabinet will meet virtually at 9.30am on Wednesday 8 July. Members of the public can view the meeting on the council’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/DurhamCouncil