Alison Edwards on the Spending Review 2020 03/12/2020

Alison Edwards, CPT’s Head of Policy, recaps the Spending Review 2020 and analyses what the announcement means for the bus and coach industries.

Last week’s Spending Review got a mixed reaction from CPT and operators alike. On the one hand, the funding is a great start for the bus industry, but on the other, there was no funding that will help the coach sector and it ultimately falls short of what the bus industry needs.

The failure to include any funding that would benefit coach operators and safeguard their future was disappointing. Operators and CPT have been working together to make the case for coach and lobby Government for financial support, but unfortunately this industry that provides a vital form of transport to keep millions of people connected will again not be provided with any targeted funding. With 95% of operators trading at reduced capacity, the industry urgently needs investment in order to survive the winter.

For bus, the funding announced by the Chancellor has the potential to improve services if invested wisely. For example, CPT has been calling for investment in Recovery Partnerships to create bus services that suit the travel needs of passengers in a post-Covid world. The £300 million to drive transformation of bus services will be key to achieving this, and it will help bus operators and Local Authorities work together for a passenger-led recovery.

To encourage people back onto the bus or to get them out of single-occupant cars, we need quick bus journeys that passengers can rely on. To do this we must crack congestion, with transport planning that puts bus priority measures first and keeps them out of traffic. It was promising to hear that the £4 billion levelling up fund will include local road schemes, and CPT will work to make sure this includes funding for bus priority measures. Combined with the £1.7 billion announced for local roads maintenance and upgrades to relieve congestion and boost connectivity, there is real potential to achieve better bus services.

With a green recovery high on the Prime Minister’s list of priorities, it was no surprise that the Spending Review included £120 million allocated for zero-emission buses. Bus operators have already invest £2 billion over the past five years in low emission vehicles so the UK has its cleanest, greenest ever bus fleet, and this funding will support the delivery of 800 of the 4,000 zero-emission buses pledged by the Prime Minister.

I and the wider CPT team will continue collaborating with our members and government to make sure the funding announced in the Spending Review goes towards making bus travel the easy option, and continues the green bus revolution.