Transport authorities unite to defend use of bus regulation powers
The Chair of Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, Cllr David Wood, was yesterday elected as Chair of the group of six locally accountable transport authorities which serve eleven million people in the largest city regions outside London.
At the group’s AGM the authorities also expressed their strong support for those Integrated Transport Authorities that are progressing plans for the option of the regulation of bus services via 'Quality Contracts'. Especially given the threats from some operators to devastate the local bus services that some of the poorest people in the country rely on - should anyone attempt to challenge their highly profitable, highly subsidised, and poorly regulated local monopolies.
The meeting also called on the Government to ensure that DfT officials do not use the small print of the devolution of bus subsidies to discriminate against any ITA that pursues the option of planned and regulated local bus networks (Quality Contracts).
Cllr Wood said:
'I am delighted that my colleagues have elected me to Chair the group and that we stand united in support of the full range of powers that we have to improve bus services - including the power to plan and regulate bus services in ways that will best serve passengers. The Government's bus policy is not to discriminate against the use of our regulatory powers. It is therefore important that when the Government devolves bus funding it does not do so in a way that penalises any authorities that opt for bus regulation. We understand that Whitehall hopes to push through proposals to route any additional devolved bus funding only to those authorities that pledge not to seek to plan and regulate their bus services. This would be a tribute to the influence of large corporations over Whitehall bus policy but would not best serve passenger interests.'
Notes for Editors
1. The six transport authorities are the Integrated Transport Authorities for West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, West Midlands and the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee. The six authorities come together as the Integrated Transport Authorities Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association.
2. Councillor Wood has been a local Councillor for nearly 24 years and has been Chair of the Tyne and Wear ITA for 8 years. He has been an active member of the Special Interest Group having previously been Vice-Chair. He has held various positions within Newcastle City Council including Lord Mayor, Cabinet Member and Chair of Licensing.
3. Tyne and Wear ITA has asked the PTE (Nexus) to ask Bus Operators to come up with proposals for a partnership agreement to bring about better bus services for the travelling public. Alongside of this the ITA has asked the PTE to investigate proposals to use the current legislation for a Quality Contract which will be measured against the Bus Operators’ proposals and a way forward then decided upon.
West Yorkshire ITA voted in June to develop its plans to introduce a Quality Contract. Future Authority approval of the Public Interest Statement would then lead to a full public consultation exercise towards the end of the year and submission to the Quality Contracts Scheme Board.
4. A Quality Contract (also known as bus regulation) would replace the current free market for bus services with a franchise system (similar to that used for buses in London, national rail services and public transport provision across Europe) whereby a transport authority would specify the service to be provided and the private sector would compete for the contract to provide that service. Quality Contracts could be used to specify common ticketing (including full Oyster-style smart and simple ticketing); enforceable performance standards for punctuality and cleanliness; common branding; and integration with other modes (including rail and light rail).