Buses play a crucial part in the transport system
with over four billion passenger journeys a year, two-thirds of
all public transport journeys.
Since 2000 the numbers of bus passenger journeys
has been increasing but this has largely been driven by large
increases in London. A more recent development is the impact of
free concessionary fares for older and disabled people which since
April 2006 has given a boost to patronage in areas in England
outside London, especially the non-Metropolitan areas. Despite
these increases in patronage, outside of London the underlying
trend is of patronage decline interspersed with areas that buck
It was because of this continued general decline
in bus use that the Government decided to undertake a review of
bus services. "Putting Passengers First: The Government's
proposals for a modernised national framework for bus services"
was published on 12 December 2006. A draft Road Transport Bill
is due to be published in Spring 2007 to take forward the majority
of these proposals.
In developing its proposals the Government was grateful
for - and took due account of - the Committee's report into bus
1. Bus patronage figures have been in decline
since the 1950s. Nationally, that decline has not been reversed
since the introduction of deregulation in 1985, although journeys
in London have increased. We welcome the Government's commitment
to look at this problem from first principles and to put into
place any new arrangements that may be required. Modal shift from
car to bus is vital if the United Kingdom is to properly tackle
congestion and reduce carbon emissions. (Paragraph 17)
The Government agrees with the Committee that the
decline in bus patronage outside London is a problem, and that
buses can play an important role in mitigating the problems of
congestion, including its impact on the environment. The recent
boost in patronage following the introduction of free concessionary
travel in April 2006 has meant that for metropolitan areas total
patronage has remained static, largely because all of them already
offered free or cheap fares to their elderly and disabled residents.
In non-metropolitan areas outside London strong growth has been
experienced, though this is not expected to reverse the underlying
decline in bus use.
It was for these reasons that the Government decided
to undertake a review of bus services, announced by the Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State for Transport, Gillian Merron MP, at
the Committee's hearing on 28 June 2006. The conclusions from
this review, "Putting Passengers First: the Government's
proposals for a modernised national framework for bus services",
were published on 12 December 2006. The document sets out the
Government's thinking on the future direction of bus policy.
The Government has announced that it will publish
a draft Road Transport Bill in Spring 2007 that will include the
powers necessary to facilitate improvements in the regulation
2. Quality Contracts would provide Passenger Transport
Authorities with the security and control that they require to
implement efficient, desirable bus networks within their areas.
The Committee is concerned that no Authority has felt able to
apply for such a Contract given their evident dissatisfaction
with the present arrangements. (Paragraph 30)
3. As part of any move to simplify the Quality
Contract procedure and enable Passenger Transport Authorities
to implement them in their areas it is important that an objective
analysis is made of the difficulties Authorities and operators
have in working with one another in Partnership. Even with enforceable
contracts, it is vital that a détente is reached between
these two groups to ensure that bad relationships do not persist
into any new arrangements. (Paragraph 31)
4. It is not clear whether the London system could
be transplanted wholesale into other metropolitan areas. While
some of the measures that have been implemented so successfully
in London are available to PTA areas, they have not been used.
Our evidence indicates that this is because the PTAs are not confident
that the efforts that have been put in so far are met by a reciprocal
commitment by operators to improve services. (Paragraph 35)
5. If PTA areas are to get the bus improvements
that they need, there must be a system available for the Authorities
to use to guarantee that investment on their behalf will be met
with improvements on the part of operators. Quality Contracts
are the way to do this. (Paragraph 36)
6. The Department told us that it was willing
to look at 'new approaches' to providing bus services. It should
therefore back some trial areas in PTAs within the next year or
two which could try different variations of the 'London system'
and Quality Contracts - with no strings attached. (Paragraph 44)
7. In the longer term, Quality Contracts would
enable PTAs to develop the integrated network they - and passengers
- want. The Department must recognise the futility of continuing
to insist that the PTAs work within a system that they do not
like and apparently do not feel that they can trust to deliver
a better bus service. To this end, the Department should revise
the Quality Contract process with a view to making them easier
to obtain. The wording should be changed to facilitate a Contract
- if it is demonstrated to be the 'best' way of implementing a
clear transport strategy aimed at increasing use of public transport,
rather than the 'only practicable way' approach currently applied.
8. This Committee is clear that any threat of
legal action by bus operators against PTAs who wish to introduce
a Quality Contract is tantamount to intimidation and is unconscionable.
If Quality Contracts are to work, the Department must find a way
of indemnifying PTAs from any such legal action or propose changes
to the law which would make such a challenge impossible. We are
concerned that the Department does not know itself what the legal
position is in terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 and its implications
for Quality Contracts, if indeed there are any. We would like
the Department to issue firm guidance on this matter and also
to make available any relevant legal advice it received at the
time of the Transport Act 2000. (Paragraph 46)
The Government agrees that local authorities should
have the option of utilising Quality Contracts scheme powers where
they would best address the problems facing their areas. To date,
no authority has submitted such a scheme to the Secretary of State
for approval. This is due in part to the difficulties of taking
a scheme through the statutory process.
Following its bus review, the Government has concluded
that the current powers around Quality Contracts schemes need
to be reformed in order to make this form of competition a realistic
option where circumstances demand it. In doing this it will be
important to ensure that local authorities are aware of their
obligations, for example in relation to financial support and
the provision of bus priority measures, and that the contracts
procured make best use of the expertise of the private sector
operators and promote continued competition.
The Government has proposed the following changes
to the Quality Contracts scheme regime:
- to revise the legal test which
must be met for a Quality Contracts scheme to be approved. In
particular it is proposed that the "only practicable way"
test should be replaced by more appropriate "public interest"
- to remove the Secretary of
State's approval role. The Government's view is that this places
decision making at the wrong level and inhibits the Department
from working with stakeholders in working up such schemes. The
proposal is therefore that a panel of expert assessors, headed
by the Senior Traffic Commissioner, will approve Quality Contracts
schemes, with a right of appeal to the Transport Tribunal;
- the Government is considering
whether the current time limits on contract duration could be
extended, taking into account the emerging European Union Regulation
on Public Passenger Transport Services. Longer contract periods
could improve the conditions for operators to invest and innovate.
A key component of delivering good bus services is
constructive partnership between local authorities and bus operators.
At the national level the Government has encouraged this through
the work of the Bus Partnership Forum, a group comprising both
local authority and operator representatives. The Forum will be
central to the work to develop the proposals flowing from the
bus review. A sub-group of the Forum has been looking for some
time at how best to enhance partnership arrangements and their
views have informed the bus review. Further groups have been formed
to advise on the detailed implementation of policies on Quality
Contracts schemes and punctuality arrangements.
The Government is sympathetic to the view that early
experience in some areas will help inform the roll out of the
policy tool kit in Putting Passengers First. It is envisaged that
the new criteria and guidance should encourage a phased approach
to the introduction of any such schemes. We would not want to
see local authorities introducing a Quality Contracts scheme for
the whole of an urban area at the same time under one contract,
but rather let contracts for smaller parts of the network. This
would have the benefit of facilitating bids from small as well
as large operators, encouraging a competitive market for future
contracts, as well as providing an opportunity to test the regime
on part of a bus network and use that experience to improve future
contract arrangements. It is worth noting that the tendering arrangements
in London were introduced gradually and that good practice there
has evolved in the light of many years' experience.
The Government agrees that it is not clear that the
London experience can be replicated wholesale in other metropolitan
areas. London is unique on many counts and it is not easy to isolate
the reasons for their success on increasing bus patronage. The
route franchising system has been successful but it is resource
intensive, both in terms of management and funding. However, the
Government believes that the potential benefits of a franchising-style
system should be made realistically available through a revised
Quality Contracts scheme regime.
9. Whilst PTAs insist that they have the 'public
interest' at heart, it is important that the Contracts themselves
are democratically accountable. This means that all affected local
authorities in a PTA area must be party to any Contract. Local
authorities should retain their highway powers and become partners
with the PTAs, with a duty to provide priority measures and traffic
constraint. Contracts will also have to be enforced. (Paragraph
The Government agrees that effective joint working
between public authorities is essential. The current local government
structure in metropolitan areas may not be best suited for the
successful delivery of Quality Contracts schemes. In particular,
there are concerns about the decision making structure in PTAs
given that district authorities rather than the PTEs hold all
the roads, traffic and parking powers. The PTA/PTE has no direct
control over the delivery and enforcement of bus priority measures.
All of these are key elements in delivering successful bus services.
The Government considers that governance reform would
be an important part of any proposal to introduce a Quality Contracts
scheme in a metropolitan area. It is proposed to facilitate more
effective local transport leadership through the draft Road Transport
Bill. The legislation will recognise that no one governance model
will suit all six PTA areas and we would want to work closely
with local authorities on any reforms.
It is envisaged that the enforcement of Quality Contracts
schemes, as at present, would be a matter of contract management
for the local authority in accordance with the terms of the contract.
In metropolitan areas that would be the PTA/E.
10. The Committee commends the important work
done by the Traffic Commissioners, despite their limited numbers
and resources. (Paragraph 53)
11. It is critical that the Commissioners are
retained as an independent entity. In our view, the Commissioners
need a much higher profile and more resources - both in terms
of money and people. This is an important investment for the future
of the bus industry, and one the Department must make. The advantage
of the independence of the Commissioners cannot be understated
if they are to take a stronger enforcement role, and we believe
that they should. (Paragraph 54)
12. The powers of the Commissioners should be
strengthened to allow them to enforce Quality Contracts in PTA
areas and partnerships elsewhere in the country and to penalise
both operators and local authorities/PTAs when they do not meet
their obligations. The Commissioners must have the powers to allow
them to guarantee a certain quality of service. (Paragraph 55)
13. While we welcome the apparent willingness
of some bus operators to share journey information with the Commissioners,
the present arrangements are inadequate. It is vital that the
Commissioners have the information they need to do their job properly.
To this end, we recommend that the Commissioners should have an
automatic right to any journey information held by the bus operators.
If there are commercial sensitivities in any such information,
the Commissioners will have a duty to keep it confidential. (Paragraph
The Government joins with the Committee in commending
the work done by the Traffic Commissioners.
The Government's bus review examined the role of
the Commissioners, in particular in relation to their powers to
penalise poor performance on punctuality. The Government agrees
with the Committee that Commissioners could deploy their powers
more effectively if they had better punctuality information at
Following the bus review, the Government has proposed
to initiate work with stakeholders to develop a new performance
- places bus operators under
a duty to provide regular, reliable data to the Traffic Commissioner;
- enables Traffic Commissioners
to investigate problems of reliability and punctuality, and call
for evidence from local authorities and operators and require
them to plan remedial measures; and
- allows more proactive implementation
by means of the current and/or new powers in relation to both
operators and local authorities if performance fails to improve.
Consideration will be given to the resources and
the type of support which the Traffic Commissioners will need
to carry out this work, and other new functions proposed for them
in "Putting Passengers First".
It is not intended that the Traffic Commissioners
would enforce any Quality Contracts schemes. That would be for
the contracting local authority.
14. It is clearly important, particularly for
PTAs who often lack trust in their relationships with operators,
to establish the minimum profit bus operators (of all stripes)
need to stay afloat and fund investment and to what extent this
is being achieved or exceeded. We recommend that the Government
commission a study on this aspect of the bus industry. (Paragraph
Defining the terms of such a study would have many
problems. For any given company the appropriate level of profit
and return will be highly dependent upon a large range of
factors including: different costs, revenues and patronage and
expectations over how these change over time, the level of risk
on activities, the asset base including the age and quality of
vehicles and current and future investment plans. The different
ownership structures would also complicate the analysis. For example,
the larger bus operators have diversified into light and heavy
rail and some have extensive overseas operations. Different accounting
policies and allocation of common costs would constrain any comparisons
of returns to individual operations.
All these factors suggest that a general statement
about the appropriate profit level would not be tenable. The level
is likely to be different for each operator in each PTA area.
A high proportion of profit is reinvested in new
vehicles, so higher profits can have a crucial role in allowing
bus operators to grow the market, and providing a reward for having
done so. However it is also important that bus operators act in
the interest of bus passengers. The greater use of new regulatory
and partnership models should allow more benchmarking and comparison
of bus operators' performance between different areas and under
different regulatory regimes.
15. 'Competition' is clearly failing many non-core
routes and the communities that depend on them. The current situation
cannot go on. Local authorities' budgets are stretched. We see
no reason why a different kind of Quality Contract could not be
employed by local authorities, outside of the PTAs, to secure
socially necessary services. In some areas, where partnership
is working well, there will be neither the desire nor the need
for change. Change should not be forced upon them. However, for
those areas where there is a problem, there should be a better
solution available. The Department should look seriously at this
and any other suggestions for tackling the problems outside PTAs
and report back to the Committee on its conclusions before July
2007. (Paragraph 65)
Local authority support for socially necessary services
is an important aspect of overall bus subsidy provision. It therefore
forms a part of our current review of whether changes to bus subsidy
arrangements would contribute to improved delivery of our objectives.
A number of initiatives by the Department in recent
years have sought to assist local authorities in getting best
value from expenditure on subsidy of socially necessary services;
- the introduction of accessibility
planning which will help authorities to target effectively their
support for meeting the public needs for access to education,
health, leisure and other services in the area;
- the publication of revised
and updated Best Practice Guidance on tendering; further work
on encouraging improvements in tendering practice is being taken
forward under the Gershon Efficiencies programme;
- an increase in local authority
freedom to award subsidy contracts without using competitive tenders
in cases where they consider direct award is justified and good
value for money.
We recognise that local authorities often face difficult
decisions on priorities, and that cost pressures have added to
the demands on local bus budgets. However, it is worth noting
that Revenue Support Grant settlements, the main source of local
authority support for bus services, have risen in real terms every
year since 1997. In addition, the Government provides over £50
million a year to local authorities in the form of Rural Bus Subsidy
Quality Contracts schemes will remain as available
to rural areas with a higher proportion of supported non-commercial
bus services as to a PTA. We agree that Quality Contracts schemes
are only one option and may often not be the appropriate one.
Where partnership is working well, it should be encouraged and
there are proposals in "Putting Passengers First" to
16. Community transport helps the most disadvantaged
in our society and relieves local authority resources. The Government
must hold a consultation on reform of the community transport
system, offering options of modifying the current permit scheme
or a complete overhaul and a unified permit scheme, as it promised
two years ago. (Paragraph 68)
The Government agrees that the voluntary sector could
potentially play a much larger role in providing transport, particularly
in rural areas.
The White Paper "Our Countryside: the future
- A fair deal for rural England" (Cm 4909, November 2000)
announced that the Government would consult on possible changes
to the eligibility rules governing community transport so as to
reduce the barriers to further expansion of the sector. The draft
Road Transport Bill provides the legislative opportunity to follow
up on this recommendation. The Government will discuss some or
all of the following with interested parties in advance of the
- amendments to section 22 of
the Transport Act 1985, regarding permits for the provision of
local services for the general public, to allow drivers to be
paid and allow vehicles capable of carrying more than 16 passengers
to be used;
- amendments to section 19 of
the Transport Act 1985, regarding permits issued to bodies concerned
with education, religion, social welfare etc that are not allowed
to carry members of the general public, to allow the use of vehicles
capable of carrying fewer than 9 passengers, and to simplify the
permit system so that all permits are issued by the Traffic Commissioner.
In taking this work forward, it will be necessary
to take into account not only the views of community transport
providers but also the concerns of smaller commercial operators
that serve similar markets.
The Department also launched a report on Social Enterprise
Day (16 November 2006), "Enterprising Approaches to Rural
Community Transport", which looks at the role of social enterprise
in community transport and how these approaches can benefit their
organisations, and their respective customer groups. We are working
with the Plunkett Foundation and the Community Transport Association
on taking the recommendations forward.
17. It is ridiculous that bus operators are forbidden
from providing through-ticketing and co-ordinating scheduled services.
There must be a thorough review of how the Competition Act applies
to bus services. The Office of Fair Trading states clearly that
it does not view the bus as being in competition with the car.
This is wrong. It must look again at the reality of competition
'on the road'. If necessary, the legislation should be amended
to reflect this. (Paragraph 71)
Co-ordinating services that run "end to end",
rather than along the same route, is not an anti-competitive practice.
The OFT has already considered aspects of this issue and, with
regard to ticketing, a number of jointly marketed multi-operator
tickets and travelcards are permissible under the Block Exemption
Order, which has recently been extended and revised to make it
more flexible, in particular in the revenue-sharing arrangements
Following consultation with transport operators and
local authorities, the OFT published updated competition law guidelines
on the public transport ticketing schemes block exemption on 30
November 2006. The guidance takes into account the amendments
to the Block Exemption Order that came into force in January 2006,
and provides further clarification as to how OFT will apply the
block exemption to public transport ticketing schemes, including
The Block Exemption Order allows, among other things:
- multi-operator travelcards;
- through tickets;
- multi-operator individual tickets
(allowing choice of operator over a single journey);
- add-on tickets.
In Putting Passengers First, the Government
has proposed to introduce a new legal test to facilitate voluntary
arrangements between local authorities and more than one operator,
covering frequencies, timings and, where appropriate, maximum
fares. The Department is working with the OFT on the competition
aspects of this.
18. Congestion is acknowledged by all those involved
in the provision of bus services to be a major contributor to
the unreliability of bus services. This is particularly worrying
because passengers who are driven away from buses because of unreliability
are likely to switch to the car, thereby exacerbating the problem.
We are concerned that the Government has not acknowledged the
role that congestion plays in undermining the provision of bus
services and we urge the Government to give a high priority to
tackling congestion, in partnership with local authorities, as
a central part of the provision of integrated transport services.
The Government agrees that congestion plays a role
in undermining the reliability of bus services and that improving
bus services can contribute towards tackling congestion.
The Department has set a new congestion PSA target,
made up of local targets for the ten largest urban areas. These
targets are based on journey times experienced by people rather
than vehicles, because of the importance of buses in urban areas.
In its guidance for Local Authorities on developing
Local Transport Plans, the Department specifically emphasised
the Government and Local Government Association's shared priority
for transport, which includes improving accessibility and public
transport and reducing problems of congestion. Most local authorities
were asked to include strategies for tackling congestion in their
Local Transport Plans. In addition, all local traffic authorities
are required to set out their approach for how they intend to
manage their road networks to secure the expeditious movement
of traffic (including buses) under the Traffic Management Act
The draft Road Transport Bill is scheduled to be
published this Spring, supporting the Government's efforts to
cut congestion and improve public transport. Local authorities
will be given greater flexibility to implement innovative proposals
for tackling congestion, with the aim of putting in place packages
of measures including local road pricing schemes and
complementary transport investment (including buses).
Ten areas are already benefiting from funding to
develop such proposals under the Department's Transport Innovation
Fund (TIF). Detailed proposals are expected to be submitted to
the Department later this year, and the first scheme could be
operational in around four years' time. Up to £200 million
per year will be made available from TIF between 2008/09 and 2014/15,
if suitable schemes are developed by local authorities. If high
quality schemes to a higher value emerge then further funding
may be made available.
In Putting Passengers First, the Government
has outlined proposals to develop a new punctuality performance
regime for buses. A key element of this is a proposal to bring
local authorities within the scope of the regime for the first
time by making a clear link with the Traffic Management Act 2004.
This is to ensure that local authorities are held to account if
bus punctuality is adversely affected by congestion.
19. Highway authorities must recognise that priority
measures are in the interests of the entire community. Where possible,
and particularly in metropolitan areas, bus lanes should be co-ordinated
across local authority boundaries. Bus lanes must also be rigorously
enforced by the police or safety cameras in order to actively
discourage car drivers from flouting the law. Priority measures,
such as bus lanes, should also be open to community transport
as a matter of course. It is an anomaly that these vital services
do not receive priority on the roads. (Paragraph 76)
The Government agrees that bus lanes should be co-ordinated
across local authority boundaries. Guidance published on behalf
of the Bus Partnership Forum (The Way Ahead - Bus Priority Resource
Pack) describes improvements to bus operations by bus priority
measures implemented along a whole route or corridor rather than
piecemeal improvements. Typically this could include crossing
local authority boundaries.
Camera-based enforcement of bus lanes began in London
nearly 10 years ago. It is now for the most part enforced by the
London traffic authorities. Transport for London has recorded
significant compliance improvements. As part of the integrated
approach to bus provision in London, including demand management
through the congestion charge, these compliance improvements have
contributed to a reduction in average bus waiting times from 6.75
minutes in 2000 to 5.75 minutes in 2004.
Building on that experience, Statutory Instruments
enabling traffic authorities in England outside London to enforce
bus lanes using cameras came into force in November 2005. Following
the subsequent establishment of an independent adjudication service,
civil enforcement has, as of 1 December 2006, begun in three authorities:
Essex County Council, Reading Borough Council, and Manchester
City Council. We understand that a further six authorities currently
intend to follow suit within the next 12 months.
During this year, the Department will consult on
a rationalised England-wide civil enforcement regime under the
Traffic Management Act 2004, which will cover bus lanes and certain
other moving traffic offences.
The Government agrees that there are very important
benefits in allowing community services to benefit from priority
measures. Local authorities can choose which vehicles to include
or exclude in a traffic lane and need not be bound by any standard
definitions (subject to appropriate traffic signs being designed
20. The concessionary fares system in England
is a mess. The Government requires local authorities to provide
a minimum concession without providing, in the view of many authorities,
sufficient funds to do so. The Government plans to put concessions
for the over 60s and disabled people on a national footing in
2008. This does not however mean that concessionary national travel
will be permitted, just that there will be a uniform minimum standard
for all local schemes. It is not clear how this will be administered
or even if the amount of funding the Government has announced
for the scheme will be adequate. We seek reassurance from the
Department that they have begun work on determining how this important
policy will be introduced and administered. (Paragraph 84)
There are acknowledged problems in the way concessionary
fares are administered in some areas. These largely stem from
the need to ensure robust arrangements for reimbursing operators.
We are aware of complaints from some that the current arrangements
are too complex and open to interpretation. The Department is
working therefore with operators and local authorities to put
in place more efficient arrangements for the new national concession.
It is important that we secure the best deal for the taxpayer,
at both local and national level, and reduce the burden placed
on the bus industry.
The Government has provided significant funding for
the statutory minimum concession. An extra £350 million was
provided to local authorities for 2006-07 to fund the introduction
in April last year of free off-peak local bus travel within council
boundaries. A further £367.5 million will be provided for
next year for this. In addition, up to an extra £250 million
per year has been earmarked for the new national bus concession
available from April 2008. We are confident that this further
funding is sufficient to meet the extra costs of the improvements
to the statutory minimum concession.
Any local enhancements to the statutory minimum,
such as peak bus travel, are funded direct from authorities' own
resources, at their discretion, based on their assessment of local
need and their overall financial priorities.
To clarify, the new national bus concession which
will come into effect from April 2008, will entitle persons 60
and over, and disabled people, to free off-peak local bus travel
anywhere in England. So for the first time eligible people will
be guaranteed off-peak bus travel across local authority boundaries.
The Concessionary Travel Bill (introduced 27 November 2006) will
preserve the flexibility for local authorities to offer enhancements
or alternatives to the statutory minimum entitlement.
21. There is clearly a problem with the way concessionary
fare monies are distributed to local authorities. Neighbouring
authorities can be at the opposite end of the spectrum - one having
plentiful resources to provide a full concessionary service; the
other having to cut back other services to pay for concessions.
This needs to be fixed, perhaps by the Department or the Treasury
administering the proposed national scheme from 2008. (Paragraph
The Government is aware that some authorities are
not satisfied with the existing formula grant system. Equally,
local authorities have long argued in favour of unhypothecated
'single pot' funding. The Department, in discussions with Communities
and Local Government and HM Treasury, is looking at a number of
options for distributing the existing and the extra funding as
well as exploring options for how the concession is administered.
It is in all our interests that local authorities are adequately
funded for providing the statutory concession.
22. Concessions for pensioners clearly promote
bus use. Indeed, ridership in many areas may have increased by
the end of 2006 thanks to the extension of this scheme. (Paragraph
Bus patronage has increased significantly since
the introduction of the free off-peak local bus travel within
council boundaries last April. The Department agrees that the
improved concession has contributed to this increase.
23. It is right that minimum statutory concessions
are currently targeted at disabled persons and the over 60s. There
is however a case, made by many witnesses, for an extension of
the mandatory concession scheme to the under-16s and others in
fulltime education. Concessions for children to use buses to and
from school would cut down on the school run and for those in
full-time education might cut the numbers of 17-25 year olds who
learn to drive and buy a car as soon as possible. A good experience
using buses when young could also influence travel choices later
in life. Local Authorities must always have discretion to provide
higher than minimum standards. (Paragraph 87)
The Government acknowledges that there would be benefits
of concessionary travel to other groups of people, such as the
young and those in full-time education. It is already open to
individual local authorities to offer concessionary travel schemes
to children and young people aged 17 or 18 who are in full time
education (that power applies to all journeys by young people,
not just to and from school or college). And many local authorities
choose to do so. In addition, many bus operators do offer reduced
fares and season tickets for young people at school or college.
There are no plans at present to make concessionary
travel a statutory entitlement for young people. It should
be noted that there is no upper or lower age limit on the qualification
for statutory bus concessions on the grounds of disability.
Following the introduction of the new national bus
concession for older and disabled people, the Government will
be spending £1 billion per year on concessionary travel.
Any extensions to the statutory scheme need to be fully funded
and extending free bus travel to young people would be very expensive,
in the order of a further £1 billion a year.
24. There persists a perception that bus services
are generally unreliable and of a poor quality; that vehicles
are old and inaccessible; that drivers are rude; and that passengers
are unsafe and uncomfortable. This image must be countered, not
ignored. Although local authorities and operators can clearly
be effective, particularly when they work in partnership to 'brand'
and promote local services, the Department must realise that it,
too, has a role to play. The Department should be prominent in
promoting bus use not only to the public but through public policy
and guidance. It could do more to monitor the industry or at least
give the Traffic Commissioners the tools they need to do it. (Paragraph
The Government agrees that there is a problem regarding
the perception of the quality of bus services. Department for
Transport surveys of those alighting from buses have shown that
bus passengers are generally satisfied with the overall service
and this satisfaction has been increasing since figures were first
collected in 2000/01. However, household surveys show that those
who make little or no use of bus services are less satisfied than
those who do. The Government's bus review highlighted this difference
in perception as both a challenge and an opportunity. Both sets
of surveys also show that while matters such as comfort, cleanliness
and driver attitudes are important, none of these rate as high
as punctuality and reliability. For that reason, there is an emphasis
on punctuality and reliability in the Government's proposals for
changes to the bus regime.
As outlined earlier (conclusion 13), the Government's
bus review examined the role of the Traffic Commissioners, and
changes are being considered that could improve their ability
to investigate problems of reliability and punctuality.
25. The public must play its part too. By anti-social
behaviour, vandalism, and littering, buses can be made unpleasant
and hostile places in which to travel. Sadly, it appears that
this type of behaviour is often shown by young people. Schools,
particularly those that use a regular bus service, must play a
part in tackling this behaviour and educating pupils to respect
both the vehicle and fellow passengers. It would be unfortunate
if this kind of careless behaviour forced operators to take steps
- such as banning food and drink from vehicles - which they should
feel entitled to do if things do not improve. We recommend that
the Department for Transport work with the Department for Education
and Skills to develop policies for encouraging responsible behaviour
by students travelling to and from school by bus. None of this,
however, should relieve operators of the responsibility for providing
a safe, clean environment for passengers by investing in CCTV
and other security technology, or by providing security personnel
on particularly difficult routes. (Paragraph 94)
Children and young people are perceived to be the
source of much anti-social behaviour on public transport. Other
passengers report feeling harassed and intimidated, staff experience
abuse and violence, and waiting areas and vehicles are damaged
by vandalism and graffiti.
But young people are also victims of crime - from
adults and other young people. Young people are important users
of public transport and surveys show that they have similar fears
to adults when travelling.
The Department for Transport developed and disseminated
'The School Run' training programme for bus companies to try to
improve the sometimes difficult relationship between young people
and bus drivers. In addition to the training, the programme includes
a number of 'good practice' checklists to give guidance to schools,
bus companies and Passenger Transport Executives on measures they
can take to support the drivers e.g. through helping pupils develop
more positive perceptions of bus travel.
A number of local authorities, Passenger Transport
Executives and transport companies have close relationships with
schools to help raise awareness of transport issues and to help
young people feel confident and safe in travelling independently
on public transport.
The Department has worked to improve safety and perceptions
of safety on buses for passengers and staff. For instance, the
Safer Travel on Buses and Coaches Panel (STOP) was established
in 2002 to look at ways of combating crime and anti-social behaviour
on the bus network. Following consultation with the STOP panel,
the Department issued guidance in 2002 to local authorities and
bus operators on improving personal security for passengers and
staff called Get on Board: An Agenda for Improving Personal
Security. It covers all parts of the journey, including stations,
stops and shelters as well as on vehicles. The Department is considering
updating this guidance to take into account recent measures taken
by authorities and operators.
26. We commend those cities and counties that
have made the deregulated bus system work for them, we rather
suspect that they have done so in spite of the arrangements they
work within, not because of them. It is clear, however, that for
many areas, including all of our major metropolitan areas outside
London, the current regime is not working. It has been over twenty
years since deregulation, six years since the Transport Act 2000.
This leads us to conclude that the current arrangements cannot
be made to work. We therefore support the introduction of some
flexibility into the system, allowing those transport authorities
who feel they need a more structured network, to apply for a reformed
Quality Contract. These Contracts should be enforced by the strengthened
Traffic Commissioners and will, we hope, deliver the much needed
improvements that our cities have long required. Traffic Commissioners
should be given the resources to monitor the speed of travel of
buses on routes in their areas and have the power to require local
authorities to draw up traffic management plans to deal with delays
where they require bus priority, or traffic management measures.
In more rural areas, authorities should also have the flexibility
to apply for Contracts to supply those socially necessary services
which currently have to be supported by the public purse. (Paragraph
The Government joins the Committee in commending
those local authorities, and bus operator partners, who have made
buses a success in their areas. The Government believes that this
is due in large part to effective partnership working, with a
shared willingness to work together to invest in the long-term
future of the bus sector.
However, although some authorities have been able
to make the current framework work for them, this has not been
the case in many areas. The Government wants to see success in
more local authority areas and the aim of the bus review was to
identify how the bus policy framework could be made fit for purpose
in a variety of situations. The Government believes that the proposals
outlined above covering such issues as Quality Contracts schemes,
Quality Partnerships and the role of the Traffic Commissioners
will achieve that objective.
1 The Competition Act 1998 (Public Transport Ticketing
Schemes Block Exemption) Order 2001 (SI 2001 No 319) amended by
SI 2005 No 3347. Back