Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary Memorandum by Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives (IT 86A)

  When Councillor Dowd and I gave evidence to the Select Committee on 4 December we ran out of time and you asked me to do some "homework".

  I have written to all my fellow Directors General and am pleased to provide the following response.

(A) BUS CARTEL IN MERSEYSIDE

  Further details are encapsulated in the attached OFT press release.

(B) BAD PERFORMANCE BY NORTHERN SPIRIT

  The point I made at the Select Committee regarded a prime weakness in the performance regime in that it is more expensive for an operator to invest in the necessary number of units to deliver the agreed train formations than incurring "performance" penalties for not doing so. Until the performance regime penalties exceed the cost involved in ensuring service delivery the system will continue to be abused. I enclose a statement from West Yorkshire PTE which details the problems they have with Northern Spirit and the current performance regime.

(C) BUS LANES

  Effective bus priorities (including priority at traffic signals) cannot be implemented cheaply; provision needs to be made for essential parking and loading/unloading. Some local authorities are less enthusiastic than others, creating short bus lanes as gestures rather than a real attempt to change the modal split between buses and cars.

  The PTE/As believe that road space should be allocated on the basis of the most efficient movement of people and goods rather than just vehicles, and bus lanes are an essential ingredient in delivering a local integrated transport strategy.

  We believe the Government should ringfence monies allocated to bus priorities to prevent local authority engineers being tempted to use some of the funds for other highway works.

  Enforcement both to prevent cars using bus lanes and vehicles parking in bus lanes needs to be treated more seriously by the Police, than it has hitherto. Authorities that have invested in colouring the lanes distinctively have found less abuse.

(D) ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR

  I enclose details of a recent example in Sunderland.

(E) QUALITY PARTNERSHIPS

  PTEG is fully supportive of bus quality partnerships as a means of working with operators and local authorities to provide better bus services. The commitment in the Transport White Paper to providing statutory support for such partnerships is welcomed.

  We hope the forthcoming "daughter" paper will give a clear indication as to the Government's expectations regarding the minimum level of service quality that should be achieved from quality partnerships and the resolution of the current dichotomy of unfettered access to the market/free competition as against the development of the quality partnership.

  The intention to legislate to provide local authorities to require operators to meet certain standards of service quality in order to use the facilities provided by the local authority (or, presumably, a PTA) as part of the quality partnership is also welcomed. This will ensure that the joint efforts of the public and private sector to provide better quality services will no longer be undermined by a few poorer quality services operating in a quality partnership area.

  All PTAs and PTEs are involved in promoting bus quality partnerships with their local bus companies and local authorities showing what can be attempted without primary legislation. For example, Centro (the West Midlands PTE) has recently agreed a new basis for bus quality partnerships which includes a commitment from the major bus operator, Travel West Midlands, to provide £10 million a year to investment in information and infrastructure.

  However we believe early legislation is vital if real and long term quality partnerships are going to work in the best interests of the travelling public, and the Council Tax payer.

  We welcome the recognition of Government that in some circumstances quality contracts may be necessary to guarantee the necessary improvements in bus services. The continued intention of Government to legislate for quality contracts is considered to be essential.

(F) STANDARDS OF SERVICE QUALITY

  Service quality embraces all the elements of a journey from the availability of information in the home before the journey is commenced to the time and place of arrival.

Michael J Parker

Director General

25 January 1999


 
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