Yorkshire bus companies see profits ‘significantly decrease’ after Government funding is cut

Two bus companies operating in Yorkshire have revealed their profits “significantly decreased” last year after their Government funding was cut and warned they may need to cut more services in the coming months.

First South Yorkshire recorded an operating profit of £0.7m in the year ending March 2022, down from £8m the previous year.

The company said the amount of Government support it received, to protect bus services when passenger numbers plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic, fell from £28.8m to £10.7m.

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First West Yorkshire saw profits fall from £8.5m to £4m over the same period, when the amount of pandemic-related support it received dropped from £45.3m to £26.1m.

A First Bus service in LeedsA First Bus service in Leeds
A First Bus service in Leeds

Both companies, which run First Bus services and are owned by First Group, saw their turnovers increase slightly as passenger numbers were up, compared to 2020/21.

In a report, the companies said the coming year “is set to be relatively challenging while we continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic”.

They said there has been “a marked change in customer travel patterns” since the pandemic hit and the cost-of-living crisis is also having an impact on demand.

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They added: “Whilst we have considered that volumes will not return to pre-pandemic numbers, there remains a significant risk of reduced service demand if our local markets do not rebound as anticipated.

“To an extent, the company is able to modify services to react to market changes and to focus on controlling costs to ensure it remains competitive.”

Operators across the country have been struggling with high fuel costs, inflation and a drop in passenger demand, which has returned to just 80 per cent of the level recorded before the pandemic, in 2019.

The Government has provided more than £2bn, to help operators across the country protect bus services during the pandemic, and its current support scheme is due to expire at the end of June.

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It has also provided £135m of subsidies that operators can claim if they cap single fares on services outside London at £2 until the end of June.

In April last year, the Department for Transport announced £1.1bn to support bus service improvement plans in 31 areas of the country, including two in Yorkshire.

However, just over 40 per cent of bids made by local authority leaders were successful and the winners “only received a fraction of what they needed", an investigation by Parliament’s Transport Committee found.

Confederation of Passenger Transport found more than £10bn would have been needed to fully fund all of the bus service improvement plans, which outlined measures to make services cheaper, more frequent and more reliable.

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West Yorkshire Combined Authority submitted a bid for £168m, but was given £70m. While City of York Council wanted £48m and got £17.4m.

Bids submitted by local leaders in North and South Yorkshire were rejected outright.