Council to compensate Southern Vectis as part of Covid recovery strategy

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A £4.6m ticket to go – the amount Isle of Wight Council is paying Southern Vectis to help maintain service as it continues to recover from the Covid pandemic.

Reimbursement to the main bus operator was agreed at the cabinet meeting last night (Monday) as the number of public transport users remains low.

While Southern Vectis says it is back to operating 100% of its bus mileage levels, and even above, reported passenger numbers are only 80% of the levels they were in 2019.

Isle of Wight Council, in line with the Department for Transport’s alternative Covid recovery strategy, will now reimburse bus operators until the end of March next year, depending on the levels of service they provides and the number of reduced fares.

For example, if Southern Vectis operated 80% of its services, it would receive 80% of the discount fares.

In the coming financial year, Isle of Wight Council has established, based on previous years’ figures for over 3 million passengers paying a reduced fare, that it will pay £4,691,602.09 at Southern Vectis.

Cllr Phil Jordan, Member of the Transport Cabinet, said with fewer passengers commercial operators are tempted to reduce services but this payment would help provide the same level of service.

The Cabinet also agreed to develop a business case, with the possibility of earmarking funding, to see if additional funds would be required to maintain the level of service.

The County Hall chamber was concerned that the reduction in passenger numbers would lead to a reduction in services, especially in rural areas.

Cllr Jordan said this was an ongoing concern but the authority was committed to the enhanced partnership recently introduced between Isle of Wight Council and Southern Vectis and the service improvement plan resulting bus.

The partnership lacked government funding to implement the improvement plan, but Cllr Jordan said some of its aspirations would be realized.

Community bus operators – West Wight’s FYT bus and Ventnor’s 31 service – will also receive financial support.

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