September 30, 2022

Scotland extends Network Support Grant Plus until October

The Scottish Government has extended its Network Support Grant Plus (NSG+) mechanism to support the resumption of bus services until October 9. While the move was welcomed by the industry, concerns have been raised that “hard decisions” on service provision will continue to be inevitable when NSG+ payments cease.

From August 15, NSG+ will see a rate of 50.4 pence per kilometer, down from the current 79.4 pence per kilometer. Beyond October 9, all eligible operators will revert to the standard NSG package, which is paid at the rate of 14.4p per km.

An extension of NSG+ represents additional funding of £25.7 million, according to Transport Scotland. It is understood that the need for this additional money became necessary after costs for operators increased, which meant that the sum originally allocated to the income support scheme was likely to be exhausted much sooner than originally expected.

The Scottish Passenger Transport Confederation (CPT) has welcomed the extension of NSG+. In a statement, CPT Scotland says it was told in May that the program was likely to end earlier. As a result, the Confederacy and its members in Scotland successfully pleaded with the Scottish Government for it to be retained longer.

The resulting extension will “provide a protective roadmap” for bus services over the summer, the CPT adds. He believes the network in Scotland will be in a stronger position in the fall thanks to a return in demand for education and commuters. A Scottish Government-backed marketing campaign to encourage bus travel will also help, CPT Scotland said.

Director Paul White adds: “Today’s announcement means [that] recovery and planning may occur as the sector continues to operate a comprehensive network of sustainable, reliable and affordable services, rather than in the likely context of deeper cuts that would have followed if continued funding had not been granted.

The CPT further notes that average bus ridership in Scotland is currently 75% of pre-COVID-19 figures. It says that overall costs for operators have increased by 20% over the past 12 months. Utility price hikes are driving ‘drastic increases’ in depot spending – including for recharging battery electric buses – while staff, spare parts and tire costs have also risen by percentages to two. figures.

Some small operators have also seen fuel prices increase by “more than 60%” during the same period, adds the Confederation.