Christmas coach services get £3m boost

Christmas coach services will be boosted with £3 million of Government funding, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

The support will enable coach timetables to be expanded across Britain during the five-day travel window which opens on December 23.

Operators are currently running reduced services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Transport said its funding will enable firms such as National Express and Megabus to ramp up their networks to 75% of normal levels, making 80,000 more seats available over the festive period.

This is aimed at providing an alternative travel option with the rail network coming under pressure due to social distancing requirements and engineering work.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas, allowing three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy has been appointed Christmas travel tsar to oversee transport plans.

Action being taken to smooth journeys includes hundreds of miles of roadworks being lifted and longer trains being operated.

Mr Shapps said: “We have already set out important measures so journeys can run as smoothly as possible this Christmas.

“Today’s funding announcement for the coach sector goes one step further, ensuring there are more options available for people wanting to travel in order to celebrate with loved ones and friends.

“We remind everyone that it is essential to plan their journey and book ahead, be considerate of other passengers and staff across our transport network, and follow the guidance, including keeping space, and wearing a face covering – unless exempt – on public transport.”

Sir Peter said the decision to fund extra coach services was “very welcome”.

He went on: “I will continue to assure transport provision so we can get everyone to their Christmas bubbles safely. Please book early to help achieve that.”

Alison Edwards, head of policy at bus and coach industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, said: “The pandemic has made it challenging to run scheduled coach services. It is welcome to see this recognised by Government.

“Coaches provide a vital means of transport during the Christmas period and will be running throughout the festive period, including on Christmas Day.

“This funding will mean more coaches on our roads to help people travel safely and ease overall pressure on public transport.”

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