Urban Transport Group responds to CMA on Bus Services Bill

Thursday, July 7, 2016
Buses in Liverpool

Responding to the CMA’s call for additional hurdles in the Bus Services Bill to be introduced for franchising proposals  Dr Jon Lamonte, Chair of the Urban Transport Group, said:

'Better bus services are crucial for our major regional cities to deliver inclusive growth. Properly organised, buses can cut congestion for all road users, open up growth areas, link the jobless to the jobs, and give young people access to education, training and opportunity.  However, current powers to co-ordinate and improve bus services falls far short of what cities outside London need,  including a method of franchising networks of bus services similar to that used to such success in London.  We are pleased therefore that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recognises the need for the Bus Services Bill to provide Local Transport Authorities with a wider and fuller range of powers to improve local bus services, including the franchising of networks of bus services.

'However, we do not share the CMA's view that a new set of hurdles and criteria needs to be introduced before cities can be allowed to co-ordinate bus services through franchising. The CMA view appears to rest on the assumption that on-street competition is inherently preferable to competition for a contract to provide a network of services. We believe that there can be wider benefits to bus passengers, and for our cities' wider aspirations on transport, of having a straight-forward method of replacing on-street competition with for-the-market franchising competition. Not least insofar as franchising allows the development of an integrated bus service with simple and smart ticketing. The same formula that has proved so successful in London.'

'In this respect it should also be remembered that the two previous Acts that sought to reform bus services in 2000 and 2008 have proved to be unusable in practice in relation to the introduction of bus franchising because the hurdles and tests they contained were disproportionate. In this third attempt to reform the legislative framework for bus services outside London, we need to ensure that the process for introducing franchising is proportionate, fair and straight forward and that decisions on how local bus services are provided should remain a local decision.’

For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0781 804 1485