Issue details

Public transport concessionary fares reimbursement November 2021 – update to payment arrangements

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the council has followed
Department for Transport (DfT) guidance by maintaining concessionary fares reimbursements to bus operators at pre-pandemic levels despite the fall in pass holder patronage. This has, in turn, allowed operators to maintain high service levels throughout the pandemic.

There have recently been a number of bus services withdrawn in the County, some of which will in the future be operated by a different bus operator. There have also been a limited number of new additional services introduced. It is not appropriate to pay bus operators for services they are no longer and, conversely, it is appropriate to ensure operators are properly reimbursed where new additional services are introduced. The revised payment arrangements from 1 November will account for this and will allow payments to be adjusted where appropriate.

Within the Concessionary Travel Supplementary Guidance (20 November 2020), the DfT suggested Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) may consider several principles when developing their methodology to calculating pre-Covid reimbursement payments:

1. Seasonality of services – (some authorities have adopted approaches to cover this, for example, averaging two lower winter and two higher summer payment methods)
2. Decline in concessionary patronage - (total concessionary bus journeys fell by 2.5% in England in 2018/19, however, this may vary across local areas)
3. Decline in patronage as a whole
4. Operators may have ceased trading/some services
5. Operators may have started trading/new services
6. Operators may have varied their services to increase/decrease the frequency/length of journey

In October 2021 the Government published its Covid-19 Recovery Guidance, Concessionary Fares Funding, a copy of which can be seen at appendix 1. This sets out the Governments suggested approach of transitioning from pre-Covid level payments, to reimbursement based on actual usage. The guidance advises a reducing payment profile as set out in the table above

The objective of the concessionary travel recovery strategy is to provide LTAs with a cost-effective way of reducing their pre-Covid concessionary payments whilst avoiding any sudden widespread reduction in these payments. This is because any sudden reduction could lead to a significant impact on operator service levels, and consequently to an effect on demand levels.

The Concessionary Travel Recovery Period will commence on 06 April 2022 and will officially end on 05 April 2023. LTAs will be unable to provide pre-Covid levels of concessionary reimbursement payments after this date.

Decision type: Non-key

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 23/11/2021

Decision due: 19 November 2021 by Director of Economy and Place

Contact: Neil Taylor, Interim director of economy and place Email: Tel: 01432 260921.