Major package of reforms to increase passenger numbers

Published on Monday, 26 March 2012 14:46
Posted by Scott Buckler

Commuters and bus passengers across England will see better buses, more innovative services, and greater value for money. This is thanks to a series of changes announced today by Local Transport Minister Norman Baker

These changes will help encourage more people to travel by bus, helping to cut congestion and carbon emissions. It will also give greater control to transport authorities in dealing with bus issues at a local level.

The latest reforms include:

  •     New regulations to ensure healthy competition between bus companies. This is in response to the Competition Commission report in to the local bus market;
  •     Support to local authorities in delivering effective, innovative public transport services for local communities through the Bus Service Operators Grant; and
  •     An extra £15 million to help increase investment in smart ticketing equipment, particularly among small and medium-sized bus companies.

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said:

“My vision is for a bus service that is reliable, flexible, offers competitive prices, smarter ticketing and provides passengers with a service they want to use time and again. Hard on the heels of the announcement of over £100 million of new funding for better and greener buses, today I have agreed an additional £15 million for smart ticketing. By devolving funding to local authorities it now gives them the power to tackle local issues on the ground and develop practical solutions to community problems.

“This cannot be a one size fits all approach. Each local bus market has its own issues and challenges. The focus over the coming months is on guiding, empowering and encouraging local partners to be efficient, innovative and creative in coming up with solutions to the transport needs of local people.”

The new proposals are a response to the need to reform bus subsidy (Bus Service Operators Grant) and the recently concluded Competition Commission investigation into the bus market. Having worked closely with bus operators, local councils, Local Government Association, the Passenger Transport Executive Group, the Confederation for Passenger Transport and the Community Transport Association, there are several changes being brought in:

· Subsidy payments: a proportion of these will now be devolved to local authorities, rather than paid to bus companies. The government recognises that every area has their own travel issues and transport needs. It will now be up to authorities to decide how this money is spent;

· Competition barriers: will be eliminated and new regulations developed to prevent anti-competitive practices by bus operators. The Department will work closely with local councils to offer guidance on developing reasonably-priced tickets that can be used on any bus; and

· Smart ticketing: we are providing an extra £15 million to operators of local bus services that do not have smart ticketing equipment installed on their buses. This will help meet the aim that by 2014, the majority of journeys by public transport be made using a smartcard.

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