There is concern over the low usage of buses in Nottinghamshire following the pandemic.
Passenger levels are rising but are only at 65-70 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers, reports show.
Concessionary use is recovering “more slowly” at 55 to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Councillors voiced concerns over the numbers during a Transport and Environment Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council on November 17.
It comes as the authority is set to bid for Government funding to improve bus services in the area.
It is estimated that £98m is needed from the Government for the plans, with the authority matching it with £42m in funding.
Councillor John Willmott (Ind) said: “It is concerning that only 65-70 per cent of the passengers are at pre-pandemic levels. Concession levels down to 55 to 60 per cent is pretty low for the pensioners.
“It is very concerning to us all. Many are saying they won’t use the buses because of the mask situation. It is a serious situation that needs to be addressed.
“Every day the amount of people still catching the Covid virus is unbelievable.
“I welcome this bid which includes proposals to improve bus services, simplify fares and tickets, install more real-time displays and improve accessibility at bus stops.”
The council is set to put its Bus Service Improvement Plan to Government for funding towards services in Nottinghamshire.
A total of 3,500 people responded to a survey about the bus service and passenger priorities were to see more frequent services, easier to understand information, better bus stops, lower fares multi-operator tickets and better journey times.
Improvements include more reliable services, ticketing options for young people and those seeking work and making buses more accessible.
There are also proposals for more bus lanes, improved bus shelters, CCTV cameras at bus stops, and marketing campaigns to encourage more bus use.
The changes are subject to approval of Government funding.
Councillor Penny Gowland (Lab) added: “People who need these buses most are either going into transport poverty or being priced out of buses which is not good.
“Hopefully this investment might help to reverse some of that.
“It would be really helpful if the council could consider a windows and masks campaign because it is true, not many people are wearing masks on buses.
“It is great to see investment in this area and I encourage everybody to use the bus.”
Chair of the meeting Councillor Neil Clarke (Con) said: “This is an incredibly comprehensive plan. It is not helped by the last couple of years with Covid, bus services have been thrown into some element of disarray.
“Let’s hope things can get back to some normality so we can use the buses in a more comprehensive way to help save the environment.
“It is important we can promote public transport and reduce the usage of cars as much as we can.”
He added: “Some people are still fearful of getting on the bus because of those health reasons.
“It is still a very difficult situation.”
The committee unanimously approved plans to submit National Bus Strategy documents to the Government.
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