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Coronavirus threatens the future of public transport, councils warn

Bus services are at risk of collapse without emergency rescue funding, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA, which represents councils, says bus companies may not be able to survive the COVID-19 crisis because of falling passenger numbers.

In some parts of the country the number of people using buses has fallen by more than 75% in a month. The LGA want to work with the government on an emergency funding package which it says is “vital” for getting healthcare, and other vital staff, to work over the coming months.

The graph shows the fall in public transport usage Source: Department for Transport

The graph shows the fall in public transport usage Source: Department for Transport

LGA transport spokesman Councillor David Renard says bus services are facing an unprecedented risk because of coronavirus.

Cllr Renard said: “Bus services and other transport services ceasing to exist will have a very long term damaging impact on the economy and on the climate and so this a really important issue, we’re raising it with government and we hope that there will be a suggested package to help us address it.

“Local public transport is an absolutely vital part of the national effort to protect the country and get through these unprecedented times.

“Many key workers are relying on local buses, trams and light railway to get them to and from work, such as nurses needing to get to hospital or social care staff to look after the most vulnerable.

“It is essential that public transport services continue to run so staff can get to the frontline during this critical period and that they can play a vital role when we recover from this crisis.”

The Union, Unite, which represents many bus drivers, says it is most concerned about its members being at risk on the frontline.

National Officer at Unite Bobby Morton said: “I’ve had tremendous concern in the days gone by about bus drivers who are handling cash and obviously when they are handling cash they are handling the germs that cause coronavirus in the first place and my members are not only incredibly worried for their own health and safety but of course when they go home after a hard day’s work, attending to the public’s needs, they are taking those germs into the household with them. That’s frightening.”

Across the country buses and trains are running a reduced timetable, the government having urged people to only use public transport when it is absolutely necessary.

Airlines have previously warned that they may not survive the pandemic. Flight numbers have fallen globally because of restrictions on movement, prompting requests for government support to protect the industry’s future.

EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft and placed its cabin crew on a two-month leave of absence. Earlier this month carriers including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair all announced cuts in capacity and cost-cutting measures.

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