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The UK Government has announced £397m in funding for the bus industry to continue providing vital service on key routes during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The funding package will keep important routes operational, ensuring key workers can remain on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19.

Under the new Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant, funding of up to £167m will be paid over a period of 12 weeks.

The funds will help bus operators to maintain necessary services to meet reduced demand and to provide adequate seating space between passengers on-board.

The operational bus services are expected to be up to 50% of the regular levels.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have been very clear during the outbreak that the best way to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS is to stay at home if possible.

“Our buses are a lifeline for people who need to travel for work or to buy food, including our emergency services and NHS staff, and it’s absolutely vital we do all we can to keep the sector running.

“This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long-term.”

Operators are required to inform passengers about the revised timetables.

Under the Bus Services Operators Grant, £200m of existing funding will continue to be paid despite services being reduced.

Up to £30m originally earmarked for launching new bus routes will be paid to local authorities so that existing services can be maintained.

UK Confederation of Passenger Transport chief executive Graham Vidler said: “Bus operators of all sizes across the country are providing an essential service at a time of national emergency, and we thank the thousands of staff doing an incredible job to keep routes running.

“This funding is designed to plug the gap between the costs of running essential routes and revenue currently being received, and will help the country through the outbreak by allowing critical journeys to continue.”