STAGECOACH has signalled its expectation that government support for local bus services will be “in place for longer than previously anticipated” because of extended Covid restrictions.

However, the Perth-based transport giant emphasised its confidence in the outlook for the sector.

The business said that with restrictions still in place it is difficult to tell when it will see profitability recover but foresaw "good long-term prospects".

Part of this could come from potential Government support into the future.

The UK Government's recently announced National Bus Strategy for England shows a commitment to increasing bus patronage with significant funding to support that.

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In Scotland, Stagecoach recently tapped into the Scottish Government's scheme to put ultra-low emission buses on the roads.

It won £9 million of funding from the scheme and will invest around £12m itself, to buy around 46 zero-emission buses and install the infrastructure needed to run them. The investment underlines its "confidence in the positive long-term outlook".

The firm is also separately pressing ahead with a legal challenge to the introduction of bus franchising in Greater Manchester.

The company's regional buses are currently carrying 46 per cent of their pre-pandemic passenger numbers, with the company's vehicles covering 86% of the miles they did in 2019.

"Targeted Government support schemes remain in place for the foreseeable future. We would not expect this support to end until social distancing requirements have been dropped," said Gerald Khoo, an analyst at Liberum. Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "We remain confident that there is a strong and positive future for public transport as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic."

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