TWPTUG response to Transport Select Committee re Bus Services Bill (opens as a PDF)
Posted 29 August 2016
Bus Services Bill Clause 21 and NECA Councillors Report:
NECA Transport Councillors agree: Clause 21 Has To Go!
The Bus Services Bill Need’s Amending – Out with Clause 21
On Friday 15th July at Sunderland Civic Centre, Vicki Gilbert, Chair Tyne & Wear Public Ttransport Users Group addressed the North East Combined Authority (NECA) Transport Committee, who were discussing the Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament.
Vicki congratulated our councillors, formerly members of the Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) and now, the Transport Sub Committee of NECA, for their bravery in attempting to introduce a Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) that would have regulated bus services throughout the Tyne and Wear area, in the face of central government opposition. Regulation would have given our councils more control over: where buses go, the areas they serve, fares, what they charge and the frequency, how often they run and when. Regulation would have also stopped the massive 22% profits going out of our region into the pockets of the shareholders on companies such as Stagecoach. However, as Vicki told councillors, the Traffic Commissioners, appointed by central government, decided to reject our councillors' bid with the statement:
“..that while a Quality Contract Scheme would improve public transport for the bus users in Tyne & Wear, it would be detrimental to the interests of the private bus companies”.
Vicki referred to the massive loss of revenue in the form of profits to bus companies entailed in that decision and which has led to huge deficits in our council’s budgets, with Nexus having to conduct a review of the ‘secured’ services, the council’s fund for the vulnerable and elderly in our communities i.e. which of these vital services to cut over the next two years. Vicki told councillors:
“What is more exasperating is the fact that these private bus companies cannot run bus services commercially, as they require a huge subsidy of approx £60m each year, from the public, in the form of taxes and rates, and we still have no say on the service they provide.”
Vicki next spoke about the Bus Services Bill. Tyne & Wear Public Transport Users Group, along with many other campaigning organizations in the transport world, welcome some aspects of the Bus Services Bill (BSB); notably, the fact that local authorities eg, NECA will be able to introduce ‘franchising’ contracts with private operators that would see Nexus being able to decide routes, fares and timetables. This would be an improvement on the current service private companies provide. However, we also have very strong reservations about other parts of the Bill. We suggest that the voluntary nature of contracts with private operators work mainly in the interest of those companies and not the needs and requirements of the people who use buses.
Vicki next drew councillors attention to ‘Clause 21’ of the Bill, which, if passed by Parliament in it’s current form, would prevent local authorities from forming their own bus company. Hidden in the legislation, Clause 21 will prevent any transport authority from being able to municipalise i.e. take into public control, the bus services in that area.
Vicki assured councillors her intention was only to make them aware of this ‘loss of rights’ as they might never wish to municipalise services; however, the Bill in its current form would limit their power. Vicki called on the councillors to lobby their MPs to vote in Parliament to delete ‘Clause 21’
Vicki concluded by telling councillors: “I hope you will support our view that the Bus Services Bill needs amending so that in the future, any transport authority, not just here in Tyne and Wear but everywhere in our country, may have the right not just to franchise, but to own and control its own bus services as they do in fourteen other areas: Reading, Nottingham, Norwich, Blackpool, Northern Ireland, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway , Houghton, Ipswich, Newport, Rosendale, Swindon and Warrington.”
We are delighted that the councillors enthusiastically demanded that right and agreed to ask all their MPs to vote in Parliament to delete Clause 21, to increase their future options for us, the bus passengers.
Building a world class bus service. Full TfQL Report, published Jan 2016.
Alternatively, check out their Summary Report.
Posted 9 June 2016
How far should bus re-regulation go? Article in Transport News magazine by Dr. Ian Taylor, TfQL.
Posted 17 May 2016