BUS operators will be able to increase their services during the next eight weeks after the Scottish Government made £46.7 million of further funding available.

It will cover any loss of fare-paying passenger revenue anticipated because of the physical distancing measures and reduced capacity on vehicles due to coronavirus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Thursday that Scotland is moving to phase two in the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown, meaning from this weekend more people may be looking to travel.

The additional money comes after £34.3m was already provided to bus operators, with bus travel typically accounting for just under three-quarters of all public transport journeys in Scotland.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “We have already been maintaining the value of concessionary travel and Bus Service Operators Grant payments at the levels forecast before the crisis.

“So far, £34.3m has been provided across 155 operators – but I know that this is a difficult time for our bus industry and that physical distancing will impact fare-paying passenger revenues significantly.

“Communities rely on bus services and this additional funding of £46.7m seeks to serve the anticipated travel needs of those communities, while keeping them safe by enabling physical distancing in these unprecedented times.

“As more lockdown restrictions are eased our analysis shows that up to 55% of employees could be travelling to their normal workplace, a rise from 30% in full lockdown.

“That could result in an increase in the number of passengers on public transport by around a third from current levels of 225,000 per day.”

All bus operators are eligible to opt in for the funding and will continue to focus on lifeline and key routes where demand is high.

Transport figures released on Thursday suggested there was just under 5% growth across each concessionary bus travel age group on the previous week.

Face masks will become mandatory on public transport from Monday.

Matheson added: “As a result of physical distancing measures, public transport is operating at around 10-20% of normal capacity at this time.

“While the Scottish Government will continue to do what it can to support our bus industry and our public transport network, it is important that everyone plays their part in helping to keep Scotland moving for those that need to travel most. Clearly public transport has a vital role to play as we look to restart the economy and return to some form of normality, but the need for personal and collective responsibility when travelling has never been greater. Let’s leave space on services for those who need it most.

“I want to thank all of our transport operators and staff who have kept Scotland’s key workers moving in recent months, during an incredibly testing time.”

“Equally, I want to thank everyone right across the country who is helping to manage demand across the transport network by following our travel advice and guidance.”