Memorandum from the Association of Greater
Manchester Authorities (AGMA), the Greater Manchester Passenger
Transport Authority (GMPTA) and Executive (GMPTE) DLTB 36
Greater Manchester's economy is growing, with
the best per capita GVA growth record outside London and the South
East, and 45,000 new jobs created in the last five years alone.
In the absence of transport or other constraints, we have every
prospect of continuing to grow at these (or better) rates, with
the City Region Development Plan identifying potential growth
sufficient to deliver a net increase of more than 210,000 jobs
over the next 15 years. Delivering these new jobs over the next
10-15 years will significantly change the demand for transport,
not only to and from the regional centre, but throughout the Greater
Manchester area and beyond. Transport capacity will need to be
massively enhanced to absorb these demands, and hence we must
have an increased level of influence in order to deliver greater
transport connectivity and reliability. This relates primarily
to the operation of bus services, but extends also to local rail
services and major highways.
Therefore AGMA and GMPTA/E welcome the timely
publication of the draft Local Transport Bill. We are currently
developing a bid for Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) resources,
and the draft Bill provides some of the essential reforms and
additional powers that will be vital in ensuring that this broad
package of public transport and road charging measures can meet
the transport challenges that face the Manchester city-region
over the next 20 years. This means developing a high quality,
fully integrated transport system that can promote sustainable
and enhanced economic growth and productivity, improve the quality
of the local environment and enhance access for all to jobs, opportunities
GMPTA/E's comments, as informed by our TIF bid,
cover the six headings referred to in the draft Bill:
1. Quality Partnership Schemes and Quality
2. Quality Contract Schemes
3. Extension of the maximum length of subsidised
4. Governance arrangements relating to Passenger
5. Integrated Transport Strategies and Implementation
6. Power of PTAs to make a Local Charging
1. QUALITY PARTNERSHIP
1.1 We are currently investigating the most
appropriate method of delivering our TIF Bus Strategy outcomes.
Our approach is to investigate which mechanism can best secure
those outcomes that are vital in supporting the step change in
bus service provision, which is an essential component of our
proposed radically improved public transport offer under TIF.
One route currently being discussed with the Greater Manchester
Bus Operators" Association is through some form of partnership
such as legally binding bilateral or unilateral Quality Partnership
Agreements (QPAs) and/or Quality Partnership Schemes (QPS). However,
we are also fully exploring the viability of Quality Contracts
(QC) in the event that the partnership route cannot deliver all
the necessary outcomes. We are then keen to ensure that the Bill
sufficiently amends existing legislation such that both QPS and
QC become realistic and practicable options that can provide the
stable framework essential for the delivery of improved bus services.
We welcome the approach adopted in the draft Bill whereby it is
for local transport authorities to select the most appropriate
measure from a menu of options to meet local transport demands.
1.2 We also welcome the widening of the
scope of QPS to allow for the inclusion of agreements on frequency
or timing of services, fares and the phasing-in of facilities
and service standards.
1.3 However, based on our experience to
date we do have concerns about whether partnerships, even amended
as proposed, will be able to deliver all the outcomes that we
believe will be essential to ensure the success of our TIF bid.
These concerns, plus the appropriate remedies that may be necessary
to incorporate into the draft Bill to further strengthen partnership
arrangements, are outlined below:
Protecting parties in a QPS from predatory competition
Where we have entered into an agreement with
one or more operators on standards along a particular corridor
or route (for example on frequencies, timings, quality standards
and fares), there is nothing to prevent another operator (who
may still meet the minimum quality standards set in a QPS) from
operating along that route and undermining the Agreement. It should
not be assumed that this additional "on-the-road" competition
is always in the interests of the passenger, particularly if it
creates the circumstances recently witnessed in central Manchester
where the city centre was brought to a standstill following a
large increase in unmanaged bus movements. We believe that where
operators have entered into an Agreement on frequencies, timings
or fares, a mechanism should exist which prevents other operators
from registering similar services along that route for the period
of the Agreement, and we are keen to see such a mechanism considered
and incorporated into the draft Bill.
Revenue sharing agreements
The public sector will be making a significant
level of investment in public transport infrastructure and services
if our TIF bid is successful. Introducing a local charging scheme
will also contribute to significant mode shift from car to public
transport. There is a legitimate role for the public sector to
be able to guard against bus operators raising their fares to
take advantage of their monopoly position and further, we will
require a fair share of the increased revenues from passenger
growth that our policies have brought about. We believe this is
best undertaken at the city-region level, not least because as
part of the TIF funding model these revenues will be required
to support the less commercial parts of the public transport network.
Again, we are keen that the DfT consider how the draft Bill could
be amended to permit such a revenue sharing arrangement within
One of the key limitations of partnership arrangements
is their revocable nature. However, the Authority clearly requires
long term guarantees regarding bus service frequencies, fares,
network coverage, quality and so forth; and this will be particularly
important in a TIF environment. However, as the draft Bill stands
we are not convinced that QPS can provide these essential guarantees
of stability and we would be keen for the DfT to consider further
amendments to QPS arrangements to secure this key objective.
The draft Bill proposes to expand the remit
of Traffic Commissioners to oversee a strengthened bus performance
regime and places an obligation on bus companies to provide punctuality
data. Whilst we welcome these proposals, we are keen to ensure
that Traffic Commissioners will be sufficiently resourced to properly
undertake these and any additional responsibilities, for example,
oversight over any putative QPA/QPS. To further enhance this regime,
we would suggest widening the sanctions available to the Commissioners
to punish operators that consistently fail to run punctual, reliable
services by providing them with the flexibility to impose penalties
that do not negatively impact on the passenger. Regulations governing
the use of Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRC) should be clarified
and amended such that local authorities can ask Traffic Commissioners
to impose them pre-emptively in order to prevent predictable problems,
such as congestion. At the moment, the guidance governing TRCs
suggests that they can be imposed only after problems have arisen.
Finally, it may be appropriate for an independent adjudication
process to be established to administer local revenue sharing
arrangements and consider issues of predatory competition et al,
and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner may be best placed
to adopt this role, provided they are adequately resourced.
2. QUALITY CONTRACT
2.1 We welcome the intention to make QC
a more realistic option and the removal of the "only practicable
way" test, but are very concerned that this intention will
not be satisfied by the proposals in the draft Bill. Should the
partnership approach with operators prove unable to deliver our
desired TIF Bus Strategy outcomes, it will be essential to have
in place a mechanism and regime for QCs that can deliver the integrated
network, together with the frequencies, stability, quality and
capacity that we believe will be an essential pre-cursor to any
local charging scheme.
2.2 However, we are concerned at both the
nature of the proposed public interest test and its narrow definition
of "public interest'. Whilst we understand the wish of the
Secretary of State to remove himself from the decision-making
process, the proposals in the draft Bill will mean that both the
approval and appeals processes will now be in the hands of non-elected
bodies (the new Approvals Board and the Transport Tribunal). It
seems anomalous to us that on the one hand, the draft Bill devolves
to local authorities the responsibility to make decisions about
Local Charging Schemes, yet does not provide them with a similar
responsibility to determine the most appropriate framework for
delivering local bus services, despite the fact that the ability
to deliver significant bus improvements and capacity is critical
to the success of our overall TIF bid. Whilst we have no objection
to reasonable scrutiny of our proposals, perhaps in the form of
a public inquiry under the auspices of an independent panel, we
believe that the final decision should rest with the promoting
authority after having regard to the panel's recommendation.
2.3 At the very least, we require the DfT
to provide an estimate of the time required for the proposed approval
process and access to the detailed guidance they presumably intend
to provide to the Approvals Board and Transport Tribunal (in order
for them to determine whether the public interest test has been
met), before we can properly determine the viability of the proposed
public interest test. It is imperative to ensure that the proposed
public interest criteria are an appropriate framework for setting
out how a QC will deliver the authorities" overall objectives
and be affordable without being so onerous as to make them impractical.
Specifically, we would expect the remit of any public interest
test to be drawn much more widely, such that an Approval Board
would be able to consider the wider economic, social and environmental
benefits of QC arrangements.
2.4 There is a need for the timings of decisions
on local charging schemes and the delivery mechanism for the public
transport strategy to be closely linked. The AGMA tests for our
TIF bid require that "enhanced capacity (on public transport)
must be in place where congestion charging is proposed prior to
the introduction of the charging scheme". We believe that
where a QC is integral to the delivery of a local charging scheme,
it will be essential for a simplified and accelerated approval
process to ensure that the quality and capacity public transport
enhancements are in place before charging is introduced. We are
concerned that the draft Bill contains no such provisions.
2.5 We welcome the proposals (clauses 16-17)
to give increased flexibility by allowing the extension of the
maximum period of quality contracts and the confirmation of a
scheme for a further period beyond the initial 10 year period.
This is likely to be invaluable for us to be able to deliver improvements
over the longer term.
2.6 We have noted the DfT's intention to
review the fact that the Bill does not include any transitional
arrangements to cater for the circumstances where the incumbent
operator is unsuccessful in a bid for a QC in the area of their
current operation. We are convinced however, that the potential
risk is so great (transfer of vehicles, running down of services,
disposal of depots, etc) that transitional arrangements will need
to be put in place.
3.1 We welcome the increased flexibility
afforded by extending the maximum contract length from 5 to 8
years. We would question, however, why 8 years has been chosen
as part of the proposed amendments to Clause 36.
3.2 As part of the proposed amendments to
Clause 16 (extending the maximum period of quality contracts to
10 years), the Explanatory Notes state, "Ten years is also
the maximum duration for public service contracts for coach and
bus services proposed by virtue of article 4.3 of a draft Regulation
of the European Parliament and of the Council on public passenger
transport services by road and rail..."
3.3 In these circumstances we see no reason
why the proposals under Clause 36 should not also extend to a
maximum of 10 years. We would find this particularly helpful in
the context of our Yellow School Bus programme, another key component
of our TIF bid proposals. When we have previously sought tenders
from the bus companies to supply and operate new yellow school
buses, the prices have proved too high because of the operators"
need to write off the cost of new vehicles over the maximum period
of the contract (5 years). Whilst an extension of the maximum
to 8 years would assist, a further extension to 10 years would
make such contracts more affordable to the authority and allow
more rapid expansion of the programme.
(CLAUSES 38-52; 60)
4.1 We welcome the proposals in the draft
Bill to address the governance issues relating to the provision
and management of transport services at the city-region level.
In particular, we welcome the approach adopted whereby each city-region
will be charged to determine their own most appropriate transport
governance arrangements, via a review of current arrangements
and subsequently to publish a scheme that sets out the results
of the review and any proposals for change.
4.2 Briefly, we believe that it will be
essential to the delivery of our TIF Strategy for us to be able
to manage or at the very least have much greater leverage over
the wider transport network in the city-region, including significant
influence over the specification of local rail services and the
Highway Agency's strategic road network.
4.3 We note the DfT's invitation, as part
of the consultation on the draft Bill, to comment on funding arrangements
and we will be preparing a full response. Briefly however, we
envisage that a new GM-wide transport body will require significant,
additional funding responsibilities, along the lines of those
enjoyed by Transport for London, and we are keen to ensure the
draft Bill contains the necessary powers to institutionalise any
new funding arrangements. We will also be responding to the invitation
to comment on the future of the Bus Service Operators" Grant.
4.4 We also welcome the proposals to extend
the power to promote well-being to PTAs as we believe that this
will allow greater flexibility in meeting, in particular, our
social, economic and environmental objectives as part of the TIF
4.5 We would however, wish to press government
to consider the re-introduction of powers for PTA/Es to own buses
and lease them to operators that were taken away as part of the
1985 Act. The GMPTA/E has no wish whatsoever to operate buses
as part of the general network, but such powers would help us
meet many of our social, economic and environmental objectives
(for example the ability to purchase and lease to operators yellow
school buses, low-carbon buses, and "people-carriers").
In the context of the tendered services network, the ability to
own and lease buses could potentially widen the pool of operators
willing to tender for contracts, thus enhancing our ability to
guarantee Best Value.
5.1 We welcome the proposals to replace
Local Transport Plans (LTP) and Bus Strategies with Integrated
Transport Strategies (ITS) and an Integrated Transport Implementation
Plan (ITIP), primarily because they would enable us to formally
define transport within the wider public policy context and adopt
a long term view.
5.2 Indeed, the context for our TIF bid
was laid out in our own Greater Manchester Integrated Transport
Strategy (April 2005); an innovative, integrated package of measures
to tackle congestion and encourage modal shift in response to
the government's Transport White Paper, the Future of Transport
(2004). We had expected to prepare a revised LTP2 (Bus Strategy)
subsequent to our TIF bid but may now need to explore with DfT
the practicality of preparing a new-style ITS and ITIP prior to
the expiration of LTP2.
6. POWER OF
6.1 We welcome the proposals in the draft
Bill to devolve greater control of road charging scheme to a local
level. GMPTA/E has worked closely with AGMA districts on the preparation
of the TIF bid. The ability to prepare a joint Charging Scheme
to include GMPTA, including provision for revenues from a scheme
to be apportioned to the PTA, would be a sensible extension of
6.2 We do feel, however, that greater clarity
is needed over the period during which all the net proceeds of
a local charging scheme can be used for local transport purposes.
The draft Bill states (Clause 82 and Schedule 5) that a detailed
programme for the application of the net proceeds of a charging
scheme must be produced every 5 years from the date on which the
scheme comes into force. However, it does not indicate over what
period this would apply.
6.3 Our public transport investment package
of £2.9 billion (from TIF and from borrowings) is predicated
upon the revenues being available (and re-invested) over a 30
year period and we are seeking reassurance from government that
charging revenues will be available at least over the same period.
Further clarity on this key point would be welcomed.
6.4 As part of the removal of the current
role of the Secretary of State to approve a local charging scheme,
the government propose to introduce "an appropriate framework
of accountability", which would comprise a combination of
statutory guidance and regulation. Whilst we understand the need
for such accountability, we would wish to ensure that any such
guidance and regulation still allows for a scheme to strike a
balance between the need for nationally applied standards (for
example to allow for inter-operability) but retaining enough flexibility
to allow for a scheme to take account of local needs. We would
not wish to see over-prescriptive regulation that might, for example,
reduce the ability at a local level to determine exceptions and
exemptions from a charging scheme.
In conclusion, the devolutionary approach of
the draft Bill is encouraging, but should be further extended
to the process for securing a QC, and we approve of the draft
Bill's guiding principle that authorities are provided with a
range of practicable transport options that they are free to select
in accordance with local circumstances and requirements.