By Scott Wright

ABERDEEN-based FirstGroup has welcomed the injection of fresh UK Government cash to allow operators to maintain services as coronavirus restrictions ease.

The transport giant said the provision of £226.5 million over the next six months will reinforce the delivery of local bus services across England as passenger numbers grow.

The funding builds on the Covid-19 bus service support grant programme, which has been in place since May last year. That scheme will have provided funding of around £1 billion to keep services running throughout the pandemic by the time it formally comes to an end on September 1.

Janette Bell, managing director of First Bus, said: “We welcome today’s announcement by UK Government of a bus recovery funding package for England which will ensure that an effective bus network can be provided for customers as the economy and the communities we serve emerge from the pandemic.

“We will continue to build on the successful partnerships we have created with local authorities to meet our customers’ needs by developing joint plans for further improvements and innovation over the coming months. It is vital that Government continues to work together with us to encourage more people onto buses in order to deliver economic revival, improve air quality and meet the UK’s net-zero ambitions.”

First Group said last night that bus passenger volumes have seen an encouraging increase in recent weeks, particularly since travel restrictions began to ease from April.

Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “The recovery funding will ensure vital services continue to run by supporting operators in those initial months.”