Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bus Services Act 2017 is now Royal Assent

The Bus Services Bill is now in force which will enable powers for local authorities in Britain to franchise bus services in their own area.

CPT has today welcomed Royal Assent of the Bus Services Act 2017 and has confirmed its on-going support for the new partnership measures that will see operators able to continue to operate in a commercial market thereby providing the best possible service to passengers. 

Chief Executive Simon Posner said:

“Passengers and taxpayers outside London are well served by the commercial market. It has stemmed the decline in patronage and given bus operators the flexibility to respond to passenger needs and aspirations. The Act offers exciting opportunities for operators and local authorities to take decisive steps that make buses the obvious way to get around.

"The industry remains concerned about the powers for local authorities, in certain circumstances, to introduce local bus franchising but we welcome the very robust and transparent assessment process specified by the Act.

"Measures concerning open data and accessible passenger information are also welcome. Operators were already providing much of this information but enshrining it in legislation ensures that all passengers are able to obtain details of services easily and in a format tailored to their particular needs.”

CPT and the industry will continue to work constructively and collaboratively with all stakeholders during the coming months as the Act is brought into force via secondary legislation.

Transport for Greater Manchester has responded to the news about the Bus Services Bill receiving Royal Assent:

New law could ring changes for buses in Greater Manchester

​Transport leaders in Greater Manchester have welcomed Royal Assent of the Bus Services Bill, new legislation which will allow the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester to make significant changes to the way bus services are managed.

The Bus Services Act, which has received Royal Assent today, grants Combined Authorities, with an elected Mayor, the powers to franchise bus services, should they choose to do so and following consultation with the public.

This could enable Greater Manchester to create an integrated transport network with a simple fares and ticketing system. It also means that service quality, branding and customer information could be standardised across Greater Manchester.

Currently Greater Manchester has a deregulated bus market. This means that private bus operators set their own routes, frequencies, timetables, fares and quality standards for most services. Under a franchised system, such as that used in London, Greater Manchester authorities would take control of bus service planning, with services run under contract by private operators.

Bus accounts for 79 per cent of all public transport journeys in Greater Manchester – around 210 million a year. However, despite a growing population and increased demand on the transport network, bus patronage in Greater Manchester has fallen by over 140 million passenger journeys in the last 30 years.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, said: “The Bus Services Act 2017 is a key milestone in the devolution of transport powers to Greater Manchester. This legislation will provide an elected Mayor of Greater Manchester with options to improve bus services, ensuring that the needs of the passengers are placed at the heart of our transport network.

Bus travel accounts for four in every five public transport journeys in our region and with a growing population; we need a transport system which keeps our city moving, helping people to access jobs, education and services and connecting communities.

“The powers in this Act could help to deliver a consistent and joined-up transport network with coordinated routes, simpler fares, integrated ticketing and consistent quality standards. We want bus to play a full role as part of an integrated, reliable, safe, clean and affordable transport network.”

Tony Lloyd, Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “This law means that decisions over transport in Greater Manchester will be made in Greater Manchester.

“Alongside devolved powers over health, housing and skills, the Bus Services Act gives Greater Manchester new tools to help ensure that transport links people in every part of our city-region with jobs, skills and education.

“Ultimately, this law will help us to realise our long-term vision of creating a world class transport network.  Greater Manchester can now move a step closer to becoming one of the best places in the world to live, work and learn.”

The Bus Services Act 2017 is a result of the Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement signed with Government in November 2014. Changes to the way the bus market in Greater Manchester is managed would be subject to a public consultation before any decision was made.

You can read the full legislation of the Bus Services Act 2017 here. It is easy enough to read for those who can understand law.

The one drawback I can see is that local authorities will not be able to make their bus companies provide their own service because they have to franchise out the service to a private firm.

Currently there are 11 council owned bus companies, these are known as municipal bus companies. Back in February, Swindon Borough Council sold Thamesdown Transport to Go South Coast which is part of the Go Ahead Group.

It will be very interesting to see which local authority will be the first to franchise a bus service in their area.

As always, I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Google Plus by searching for @CLondoner92

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