GLASGOW’S Subway operator has warned it may be forced to drastically reduce services permanently without urgent Government aid as it battles a deficit of up to £20million in passenger losses.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) said repeated calls for help from Transport Scotland since March had been ignored, while private bus and rail providers had been bailed out and the  London Underground had received assistance.

Although SPT operates bus services in an around Greater Glasgow, most of its revenue is drawn from the Underground, which suffered a 97% drop in passenger numbers in the first four weeks of lockdown, in common with other transport providers.

Councillor Martin Bartos, chairman of SPT, said after crisis talks held yesterday to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the network: “As yet, no response has been received from the Scottish Government.”

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SPT warned that without intervention it could be forced to “significantly reduce” services including the Subway, rural bus routes and dial-a-bus networks in areas including Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire.

SPT has been unable to access the Government’s furlough scheme because it generally does not apply to public sector bodies that are funded from a Government grant and use public funds to pay staff salaries.

The transport authority said the levels of staff affected either by 
self-isolating or shielding had also meant it would not have been to operate a daily service for key workers with a reduction in staff.

Normal maintenance activities are also required to continue at cost - the Subway will be closed for two days next weekend for major upgrade works.

Official documents warn that without urgent intervention, a £7m reserve will be reduced to “nil”, placing a continuing programme of modernisation at risk, as well as threatening bus and Subway services.

“The level of deficit forecast under the Government’s current social distancing measures, limiting the number of passengers able to travel could result in the deficit being between £12.5m and £20m for the current financial year,” the papers said.

“Initial assessment has highlighted the scale of the deficit can only be addressed by introducing significant service reductions to the very services that have played a key role in the response to Covid-19, and are relied upon by many communities.

SPT said a suggestion by Transport Scotland that local authorities could contribute more funds on top of existing budget allocations was "unrealistic" in the current climate.

Mr Bartos said: “ SPT will consider all the options to determine the best way forward. We are very aware of the importance of supported bus services and the impact any reduction on services could have on many of our more isolated communities.  

HeraldScotland:

“This is a key part of what we do and we need to be able to continue this necessary work to try and ensure the most vulnerable members of our society are not left isolated. 

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“We value the contribution of all our staff. As has been seen during the crisis, all our staff have played a critical role in continuing to deliver services. The continuing operation of SPT needs all of them to be part of that. 

“As yet there has still not been any update from Scottish Government.”

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: ‘The Scottish Government is providing financial support for public transport to maintain essential services. We continue to monitor travel patterns across the country as we emerge from lockdown measures and work closely with local and regional partners as we do this.

‘We appreciate the important role the Subway and trams play in our two biggest cities and have undertaken detailed discussions with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and Edinburgh Trams to understand the implications of Covid-19.

“We are exploring what appropriate support may be available in the context of the very challenging financial situation in our published Covid-19: Framework For Decision Making And The Transport Transition Plan.”