Development in the relevant markets
The environment for European passenger transport deteriorated significantly from spring 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The official contact and travel restrictions continued in 2021. These were only gradually eased before being reintroduced as the number of infections increased in the last quarter of 2021. In some places, the restrictions were stricter than in Germany. These effects also led to a substantial decline in volume sold in 2021 compared to pre-Covid-19 levels. In many European countries, the transport sector and transport providers received financial support from public authorities to (partially) compensate for the large losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The United Kingdom (UK) government is taking forward its plans for reforming rail following the publication of the Williams-Shapps plan, in May 2021. The reforms will take a few years to implement. A new public institution, the Great British Railways (GBR), will be set up to implement the new model as a management institution in close cooperation with private operators. The previous franchise model for rail transport contracts is being reformed.
- The UK government moved to a further stage of support for bus services in England and the emergency scheme was replaced by GBP 226.5 million of recovery funding payable to local authorities and operators until April 5, 2022. The funding is closely aligned to the policy aims of the national bus strategy (NBS), which focuses on increasing passenger numbers and comprises GBP 3 billion after 2021.
- At the end of October 2021, local transport authorities published a local Bus Service Improvement Plan, developed in collaboration between operators and authorities. It sets targets for punctuality and passenger growth, highlights important bus transport measures and consider issues such as carbon reduction targets, and plans for revised networks, fares and ticketing together with priorities for government funding allocated under the NBS.
- Operations in the Netherlands will continue to be supported by central and local governments in 2021 and into 2022. Discussions with contracting organizations regarding support through to September 2022 and the potential for extension of support beyond that date are continuing.
- A new government coalition has been in office in the Netherlands since January 2022 and has released a coalition program. Discussions around further liberalization of public transport are taking place and, after a two-year period of emergency contract extensions due to the impact of Covid-19, competitive tenders are expected to resume.
- In Mainland Europe, mechanisms of government support in response to Covid-19 impacts have varied by market, and have included direct support (the Netherlands, Croatia, Serbia, Denmark, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic), adjustments to contractual pricing mechanisms (Sweden, Spain, Portugal) and previously agreed support such as cost plus contracts (Slovakia) and a farebox guarantee (Slovenia).