Royal Assent has been given to the Bus Services Bill, making it now the Bus Services Act 2017. The House of Lords agreed to amendments made to the Bill by the House of Commons. No further debate was required, so the Bill has now become an Act. It 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.
CPT welcomed the Royal Assent and has confirmed its ongoing support for the new partnership measures that are expected to see operators able to continue to operate in a commercial market, which it says will provide the best possible service to passengers.
CPT 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 says it is now preparing a member guide to the new legislation. A number of Orders, Regulations and Guidance will be made under the new legislation, many of which will be the subject of consultation. It says it is to continue to work constructively and collaboratively with all stakeholders during the coming months as the Act is brought into force via secondary legislation.
Transport leaders in Greater Manchester have welcomed the Royal Assent. They believe this could enable the region 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.
Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, Cllr Andrew Fender, 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.’
Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, Lianna Etkind, said, ‘The new Bus Services Act is a great opportunity for local authorities and new mayors to plan and improve their bus services, and grow passenger numbers. The Act will bring real benefit to both cities and more rural areas, enabling better integrated transport with simple, smart ticketing; while giving councils new powers to boost bus access and air quality.’
‘The Bus Services Act also offers hope to people across the country left isolated by bus funding cuts. Already local authorities such as Kent and Cornwall are looking at how the Act could help them repair their bus networks, working in partnership with operators to create joined up networks that connect people to jobs, education and healthcare. Buses are used by more people every day than any other form of public transport. It is vital that alongside these new powers, local authorities and mayors have the assurance of long term and sustainable bus funding.’
What is the Bus Services Act?
Unlocking the potential of bus travel was the main stated aim of what is now the Bus Services Act. It also focuses on increasing the provision of bus services and replicating some of the more attractive elements of bus services in London. Referred to as enabling legislation, it gives local authorities control and responsibility for buses in their area and the freedom of choice to design bus services according to local need.