Bus services face 'crisis' in Suffolk as government support comes to an end

Suffolk rural bus

Rural bus services in Suffolk could face deep cuts as government support is due to end. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Rural bus services in counties like Suffolk could be facing a crisis in a few weeks as government support introduced during Covid lockdowns is removed.

That's the warning from a leading transport union - and officials at Suffolk County Council have acknowledged that the fate of services is currently unclear because there is still no clarity about what will happen when the support finishes.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has urged the government to convene an urgent summit to tackle the crisis in the bus industry.

It said bus operators are warning that almost one in three services in England could be cut within weeks as a result of emergency funds running out.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said there was a threat to services - but no one knew what it looked like at present.

He said: “We are currently meeting with Suffolk’s bus operators to understand the potential impact of the Department for Transport stopping their support grants for bus travel.

"Currently bus use is at around 60-70% what it was before Covid, and there are some concerns regarding the sustainability of some routes should these reduced numbers continue.

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“As well as engaging with operators, we have been lobbying the Department for Transport with our partners, in an attempt to secure further support to continue providing these vital services across our county.”

The RMT said its analysis suggests that more than six million people in England do not live within 0.6 miles (1km) of an hourly bus service. Further cuts to services risk isolating millions more people.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The Government promised a bus revolution with its National Bus Strategy, but despite this rhetoric it is clear the bus industry in England is more in crisis than ever, with services facing cuts of almost a third.

“Our research shows that already access to bus services in England is a postcode lottery, with more than six million people not being walking distance to an hourly service.

“I have written to the Transport Secretary to demand that the Government convenes an urgent bus summit of employers, unions, local transport authorities and passenger groups to tackle the funding crisis in the bus industry and to ensure drivers receive a professional wage."