MINISTERS have handed councils and schools in England £256million for buses and trams to ensure kids return to classrooms in September.
Bus services across the country will receive up to £218.4 million of support over the next eight weeks, with rolling funding at up to £27.3 million per week until a time when the funding is no longer needed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Buses are a vital lifeline – from getting to work, seeing the doctor or doing the shopping. Today’s extra funding will keep services running as we continue to recover from the impact of Covid 19.”
The government says the cash is “key to safely getting young people back in education settings and workers back to their offices”.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere added: “As we continue to open up the economy, more people are using public transport and need sufficient service levels in order to travel safely.
“That’s why we took swift action at the start of this outbreak to ensure that these services were maintained for key workers then – and would still be there for people when the economy opened back up.
“This extension of funding pushes our overall support past £700 million, meaning people across the country will have access to the transport services they need.”
The government is also urging students and staff to walk, cycle or use a scooter where they can.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Ahead of delivering on the national priority of all children and young people returning to full-time education in September, I am asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college. If it is possible to walk or cycle, please do.
Government medical advisers have warned that the biggest risk of schools reopening next month is possible local coronavirus spikes caused by pupils and parents travelling to and from the premises.
Extra buses mean local authorities can make social distancing easier — and kids can avoid using public transport where there is greater chance of transmission.
They will also cut the number of parents doing the school run with their kids — further reducing the health risk.
Downing Street reaffirmed Boris Johnson’s vow to ensure all schools will reopen fully at the start of the autumn term next month.
Government advice on the reopening of schools has also said schools should consider “walking buses” — where a supervised group of kids are walked to and from school.
David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “We know from our research that many bus and tram passengers have limited travel options and they are often the only real means of transport available to them, so they will welcome this funding.
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