In September 2022, the Government announced that it would provide up to £60 million, from the beginning of January until the end of March 2023, to enable bus operators to cap single adult fares at £2 per journey. I am pleased that a further £75 million has been invested to extend this until 30 June. While I am not aware of any plans to extend this further, I will ensure ministerial colleagues are made aware of your support for this scheme.
Over 140 bus operators outside of London now charge no more than £2 for their single tickets across over 5,000 routes. It is my understanding that more than 3 million passengers have already taken advantage of cheaper bus fares since January so I appreciate the strength of enthusiasm for a further extension of this travel scheme.
The scheme, which forms part of the Government's wider Help for Households initiative, is designed to help passengers with travel costs for work, education, shopping and medical treatments while they are facing pressures from the rising cost of living. This significant investment will result in millions of people across England saving on travel costs.
Bus fares vary across different parts of the country and between bus operators, and can even reach almost £6 for a single journey in rural areas. The new cap means passengers in those areas could save more than £60 a month if they took 4 single trips a week, a significant saving for families struggling with cost-of-living pressures.
For instance, the average single fare for a 3-mile journey in Mid Sussex is over £2.80, meaning that the new fare will save passengers almost 30 per cent of the price on every occasion they travel.
As the Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, my focus remains on ensuring families can afford to get to and from their workplaces using affordable public transport. As such, I am pleased to see further support, such as the latest round of cost-of-living payments, being welcomed by millions of families across the country – as will further payments due over the next year.
The Government has continually supported the most vulnerable with rising costs, including through record benefits and national living wage increases as well as these exceptional Cost of Living Payments. For instance, a £301 Cost of Living Payment has begun arriving in the bank accounts of over 7,200 households in Mid-Sussex. This payment will be the first of three payments – totalling £900 – that the UK government is providing to those on means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit, in 2023-24.
More broadly, the Government has made at least £2 billion available through emergency and recovery grants since March 2020 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the bus sector. The Government announced on 20 February that it is extending the Bus Recovery Grant until 30 June 2023, at a cost of up to £80 million, to ensure continued support as services adjust to new travel patterns following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, a further £155 million additional funding to extend the Bus Recovery Grant and the £2 bus fare cap, in close collaboration with with bus operators and Local Transport Authorities, is helping to deliver on the aim set out in the National Bus Strategy for everyone, everywhere, to have access to affordable and reliable bus services.