Private bus companies plead for extension of pandemic supports

Fears growing in sector that Government planning more Covid curbs

The National Transport Authority confirmed on Friday that the State intended ending supports to private bus companies on December 31st. Photograph: Getty

The National Transport Authority confirmed on Friday that the State intended ending supports to private bus companies on December 31st. Photograph: Getty

 

Bus companies are in talks with the State about extending pandemic supports into next year as fears grow that Government plans further Covid curbs.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) confirmed on Friday that the State intended to end supports, including the employment wage subsidy scheme, to private bus companies on December 31st.

However, it has emerged that many licensed private bus companies are in talks with the authority on extending the payments to March 31st, partly as they fear Government will cut public transport capacity back.

Industry body the Coach Tourism and Transport Council backs the extension of supports, although it is not involved in the talks as they are between the companies themselves and the NTA.

A council spokeswoman argued that Government and State agencies had a strategic interest in ensuring that private bus companies continued trading.

“Otherwise there would be significant problems in meeting climate change targets, upending passengers and rural connectivity,” she said.

An NTA spokesman noted that the Government first introduced Covid support payments for licensed private bus companies in June 2020.

“Since the inception of the payments, NTA has been in a process of ongoing engagement with the operators,” he added.

Bus companies received the pandemic supports along with many other industries forced to close or curtail operations as the State attempted to combat Covid’s spread.

Government allowed public transport capacity to return to normal in September. It had previously ordered that buses and trains cut available seats back by as much as 50 per cent.