Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) is to meet on Friday (26 June) to discuss its financial stability.
Since March, the organisation has been calling on Transport Scotland for financial assistance to help it address the financial gap arising as a direct result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In a paper due to go to its Partnership Committee SPT has set out the challenges faced by the organisation and the financial cost as it has responded to the pandemic while continuing to operate all its key services.
During the pandemic, SPT has continued to operate Subway services and maintain strategically necessary bus services while commercial services were withdrawn. This was despite receiving no support, or help, to replace passenger related income lost from the Subway or from its bus stations. Continuing to run these services enabled many key essential workers to continue to travel to and from work at this challenging time.
SPT Chair Councillor Dr Martin Bartos (pictured) said:
“Transport has been vital for frontline staff and members of the public making essential journeys and the staff at SPT can be proud of their fantastic team work during the COVID-19 pandemic. SPT has worked with NHS, Councils and transport operators to help get the public where they needed to be given the resources available. Not a day has gone by when the Subway hasn’t operated and we’ve followed government’s lead on doing so safely for staff and passengers. Responding to COVID-19 has had a profound impact on all parts of SPT, and undoubtedly will continue to do so for some time to come.
“Most of our revenue comes from Subway income which is directly related to passenger numbers. The situation was highlighted to Transport Scotland as early as 30 March by which time we’d already experienced a 97% fall in passenger journeys on the Subway (in line with what commercial bus, rail and other transport operators had experienced). Now, depending on how much longer lockdown and distancing restrictions need to remain in place, SPT has identified a potential deficit of between £12.5million and £20million for the current financial year.
“Meantime we’ve watched two rounds of government financial support announcements for private bus companies; we’ve seen government stepping in to take on heavy rail losses and we’ve even seen UK government supporting London Underground and light rail across England. Unfortunately we’ve seen not a penny in COVID-19 support come to SPT to help either our bus or Subway efforts.
“We’ve been left without the slightest indication from Transport Scotland or the Cabinet Secretary about when SPT might see any actual financial support which recognises the huge losses incurred as our staff have done their bit.”
In a report to the Partnership, it states that within the first 12 weeks of lockdown, SPT highlighted a potential deficit of between £5.6 million and £9 million to Transport Scotland. In addition to falling income generated by the Subway, SPT has also seen a reduction in income from bus station departure charges, advertising income and ancillary fees.
The request to Transport Scotland is to assist SPT financially, and to recognise that all our services have continued at a time when the call from central government has been for passengers to limit their use of public transport. By continuing to run services on the Subway, SPT played its part in the national infrastructure to ensure those who needed to travel were able to do so. SPT has been seeking the financial support, similar to that already given to rail, ferry and bus operators.
To date, only the Subway and Edinburgh Trams, as Scotland’s only light rail operators, are the only modes of public transport not to have received some kind of financial support from Transport Scotland to help them during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Support has already been given to light rail operators in England by the UK Government.
SPT Partnership report on Financial Implications of COVID-19 available here.