A support package worth up to £3m will enable coach operators to provide additional scheduled – socially distanced – services over the Christmas travel window, has been announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The funding will provide up to 80,000 more seats during 23-27 December. This is in addition to recently announced measures to support safe journeys over the festive period
The Government is working with the coach industry, including National Express, megabus and Snap, who together provide a network of coach services covering Great Britain.
megabus says it will be providing 5,600 additional coach seats from 23 to 27 December as a result of this support to provide significant extra capacity.
Megabus adds that 23 and 27 December are the busiest days for travel on its network, with Sheffield, Newcastle and Leeds the most popular destinations. It adds: “Additional destinations now back on the map following the government agreement.”
Coach operators are currently running reduced networks due to the impact of Covid-19 on demand. The funding announced will enable scheduled coach operators to boost services to up to 75% of pre-pandemic services.
People can travel to form a Christmas bubble, composed of no more than three households, between 23 and 27 December. Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December.
To minimise disruption and help people travel safely to their bubble, the Government set out a series of measures last week, including lifting hundreds of miles of roadworks, enhancing rail services, postponing and accelerating rail engineering works and cutting ticket charges
The new support for scheduled coach services builds on this and ensures that, should there be pressure on rail services, people will have alternative travel options. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: “We have already set out important measures so journeys can run as smoothly as possible this Christmas. Today’s funding announcement for the coach sector goes one step further, ensuring there are more options available for people wanting to travel in order to celebrate with loved ones and friends.
Christmas Travel Co-ordinator Sir Peter Hendy, said: “This is very welcome, as it gives additional and flexible COVID safe public transport capacity for the Christmas period. I will continue to assure transport provision so we can get everyone to their Christmas bubbles safely; please book early to help achieve that.”
Alison Edwards, Head of Policy at The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, said: “The pandemic has made it challenging to run scheduled coach services. It is welcome to see this recognised by Government.”
Chris Hardy, Managing Director, National Express Coach: “Maintaining the UK’s largest network of scheduled coach services has been challenging but we have worked hard to provide safe, low carbon, travel over the festive season.
“This funding will allow us to increase the frequency of some routes, introduce new direct services and add more locations on our 23 – 27 December timetable.
“We will initially be doubling the mileage of the network and will further increase the number of vehicles and seats available on routes as necessary. The flexibility of coach travel means we can respond to demand and quickly and safely increase capacity with covid-secure measures in place.”
Mark Venables, Managing Director for megabus, said: “We’re pleased to have worked in partnership with the UK Department for Transport to provide thousands of additional seats on our megabus coaches this Christmas, and we’ll be running right throughout the festive period, including on Christmas Day.
Thomas Ableman, Founder & CEO of Snap, said: “Our network of incredible quality local coach operators are ready to get people to where they need to go with safety, security and a smile.
“We know people have really valued their local small businesses this year, so are sure they’ll continue to do so by booking their travel with a local coach operator through Snap.”
Snap is a coach travel platform who provide intercity coach services using a network of over 30 small, independent coach operators on routes to/from London, Bristol, Nottingham, Cardiff, Birmingham, Exeter and Leicester.