Memorandum by Basingstoke and Deane Borough
Council (Bus 51)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
Thank you for inviting the Borough Council to
comment to the Sub-Committee inquiry into the bus industry.
I would like to highlight one particular problem
which has arisen locally in recent months. The Borough Council
is introducing a high quality shuttle bus and park and ride service
linking Basingstoke town centre and the town's major leisure park,
to commence late Summer. The Borough Council will be supporting
the service under Section 63 of the Transport Act 1985 by subsidising
a private sector provider through revenue funding. However, in
working up the proposals, the Borough Council identified a substantially
more cost effective method of procurement. This was to purchase
buses directly through capital expenditure and to let a contract
to a specialist for operation with revenue funding. However, the
wide provisions of Section 66 of the Act prevents non-metropolitan
authorities from creating such innovative arrangements.
There is a provision in the Transport Act (Section
71) which allows the Secretary of State to allow small municipal
bus undertakings (ie those up to ten vehicles) to operate despite
the general prohibition in Section 66. However, enquiries of the
Department have revealed a reluctance to consider Section 71,
even if the flexibility was contained within the framework of
a Public Service Agreement with agreed targets of increased bus
usage and reduced traffic congestion.
This means that the Borough Council can only
provide the service through revenue funding and is unlikely to
secure the same quality of vehicles to run the service.
In the instance that the Borough Council was
not able to support the service through revenue, it would be necessary
to pursue Section 71 of the Act and to fund the scheme jointly
with capital and on-going revenue. The capital would have to be
sourced through a special bid with the aid of the County Council
as highway authority in conjunction with a Local Strategic Partnership
Agreement and it would then be necessary to fund the revenue through
the revenue support grant and/or the Council Tax.
It is, therefore, requested that the sub-committee
examines the current operation of the regulation of the bus industry,
with a view to ensuring that local authorities have greater opportunity
to contribute pro-actively in the operation of bus services. This
authority recognises the benefit of working in partnership with
local bus operators and wishes to be able to contribute as fully
as possible towards this for the benefit of local bus users and
ultimately, the environment.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you
wish to discuss this matter in more detail, particularly in respect
of the complex nature of this issue and the most appropriate way
of taking this forward.
Councillor Ron Hussey
Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability
29 April 2002