Select Committee on Transport Fifth Report

List of recommendations

Integrated Ticketing

1.  Ten years after it expressed its commitment to promoting integrated bus ticketing, the Government has achieved too little of practical value. It is a nonsense that the everyday act of changing buses is still made unnecessarily inconvenient and expensive by poor ticketing arrangements. The Government needs to pay more attention to resolving these basic problems which penalise passengers and deter others from using buses at all. (Paragraph 13)

2.  We recommend that the Traffic Commissioners be given powers, in response to a reference by either party, to arbitrate where bus companies and local transport authorities are unable to agree terms for multi-operator tickets. (Paragraph 15)

3.  Coaches are used by millions of passengers every year and they often serve locations and routes that are not easily accessible by rail. The Government seems to have a blind spot regarding integrating coaches with other modes, despite the potential to improve linkages with rail and bus services. The Government should give coaches greater consideration in future statements of public transport policy. (Paragraph 18)

4.  As the rail industry promotes online ticket sales and other methods that reduce ticket retailing costs, it is imperative that the full range of tickets, including multi-modal options, be available at all main outlets. We recommend that the Government explores this issue with the Association of Train Operating Companies and includes requirements for ticket availability in future passenger licence conditions if necessary. If not, the Government's commitment to fare structure simplification in its Rail White Paper will be meaningless. (Paragraph 23)

Smartcard technologies

5.  It is reasonable to charge a modest differential to encourage uptake of smartcards and to reflect any additional costs of issuing paper tickets, but those passengers who cannot or choose not to opt for smartcards should not be heavily or unfairly penalised. The Government must ensure suitable guidelines on differential pricing are included in decisions on rail fares, rail franchises and other fare regulations. (Paragraph 40)

6.  Oyster is a proven large-scale system, used and trusted by millions of passengers. ITSO-compliant smartcards have shown themselves workable in smaller schemes but have yet to be tested on a large scale. The Government must not force ITSO onto the London Oyster system. It is imperative that any introduction of ITSO on the Oyster system be rigorously piloted to prevent any loss of operational efficiency or customer confidence in smartcards. Testing must include arrangements for supporting customers using ITSO products out-of-area. Given the uncertain level of demand for ITSO in London, the costs and benefits of the investment should also be robustly assessed. This must have regard to the need to avoid financially penalising TfL for having been at the vanguard of smartcard ticketing in the UK. (Paragraph 49)

7.  The Government's strategy of using ITSO as a way to promote integrated ticketing is a step in the right direction, but not enough. It is fine in theory but not producing results in practice. ITSO may be a useful technical specification but it is designed to facilitate integrated ticketing, rather than to make it happen. The Government needs also to articulate a clearer strategy for the development of integrated ticketing in general and smartcards in particular. The current laissez-faire approach is inadequate. The Government must listen carefully to the transport operators and the technology industry. The criticisms of ITSO need to be addressed and the Government must ensure it has adequate technical capacity to provide leadership in this area. (Paragraph 50)

Revenue protection and the powers of ticket inspectors

8.  Revenue protection does not get the attention that it warrants: a bigger and more sophisticated effort is needed. The extent of the problem is poorly understood. It ranges from passengers willing but unable to pay their fares through to deliberate fare evasion. Fare-dodging is often associated with other antisocial behaviour and efforts to curb one are likely to impact positively on the other. More regular and coordinated research and monitoring of the problem are required. Leaving it to individual companies who are likely to be averse to sharing or publishing information means that no one has a clear picture and revenue protection measures are likely to be inadequate. (Paragraph 55)

9.  There are moves to install ticket gates at more rail stations. Yet ticket gates are not a panacea. They cannot be used by all passengers and staff are still required to be present. Gates introduce new drawbacks including delays and obstructions for passengers; they are not in keeping with historic stations; and they are not always the best method of protecting rail revenue. The Government, in consultation with the rail industry and passenger groups, needs to review this one-track approach and develop a more holistic policy. (Paragraph 60)

10.  An integrated ticketing system should be backed by an integrated revenue protection system. Whilst the current regulations for rail are generally satisfactory, those for buses are not. The powers of bus revenue protection staff should be strengthened. In the longer term, the Government should move towards a unified system of public transport revenue protection. The implications of new ticket types and technologies will also need to be considered. (Paragraph 66)

11.  The current appeals procedures for bus and rail are not sufficiently independent. The consequences of being accused of fare dodging can be serious and it is important that the procedures are just and rigorous. The current principal rail appeal panel is associated with the rail industry and this undermines its credibility as a truly independent arbiter, sitting equidistant from the passenger and the train operating company. The bus industry appeals body has no regulatory backing. The Government should consult on new arrangements. For rail this might involve giving responsibilities to the Office of Rail Regulation or Passenger Focus; for bus it might be the Traffic Commissioner or the proposed Passenger Transport User Committee. (Paragraph 71)

Concessionary travel

12.  The ability to travel for free across the country by bus is a great boon for those who enjoy it and we welcome it. There is, however, no such thing as a free lunch and such funds—over £1 billion per annum—must give value for money. The Department for Transport should commission an evaluation of the benefits of the national scheme for free local bus travel. (Paragraph 77)

13.  The costs of concessionary travel are set to grow in real terms as bus industry costs and fares are increasing faster than inflation. Outside London, concessionary travel support exceeds the amount spent on supporting non-commercial bus services. (The Mayor of London provides a high level of revenue support for all bus services.) It is important that national concessionary travel is properly funded. (Paragraph 81)

14.  The anomalies within, and disputes over, the distribution of concessionary travel grant to local authorities look set to continue, despite the 'generous' funding provided by the Government and the new funding formula. We find it is unhelpful that the transport authority and the travel concession authority are often not the same body and may inadvertently work against each other. These problems could be considerably reduced if the Government exercised its powers under section 9 of the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 to transfer the travel concession functions from district councils to county councils. This would have the additional benefit of making the transport authority the travel concession authority in these areas. We recommend that the Government proceeds with this as soon as possible. (Paragraph 86)

15.  The current "no better, no worse off" mechanism for reimbursing operators is unsatisfactory. It is arcane, time consuming and a recipe for disputes. It does nothing to promote good partnership working between travel concession authorities and bus operators. It is also questionable whether it provides a viable long-term funding model for the industry. A new, more transparent mechanism is required that compensates operators and avoids the waste and rancour generated by the current system. The Government should investigate this as part of its review of Bus Service Operators Grant. Some people argue for a national reimbursement mechanism as in Scotland. Whilst this appears attractive we do not support it at this stage. England is much larger, with greater variation, and we fear this would simply increase costs as the Government would be unlikely to scrutinise claims as closely as local government. A rapid roll-out of ITSO equipment on buses would help improve the accuracy of ridership data. Fewer travel concession authorities would also help. (Paragraph 93)

16.  We continue to believe that local enhancements to the national concessionary travel scheme can offer important benefits. We agree with the Passenger Transport Executive Group and others that these enhancements are best determined locally. Extending concessionary travel to rail services would be costly and it is doubtful if rail services currently have adequate capacity. There may be scope and a good value-for-money case for extending the national concession to include lightly-used rail services, such as community rail partnerships, as in Wales. The Government should also consider in greater depth than it has so far the costs and implications of providing greater support for community transport, particularly in areas where bus services are sparse. Where local authorities are currently profiting from concessionary travel funding, perhaps as a result of a sparse local bus network, they should be encouraged to enhance local concessionary travel arrangements. (Paragraph 98)

17.  The current situation whereby 11 million concessionary travel smartcards have been issued but most buses are not equipped to read them is daft. The Government needs to agree a programme with bus operators for installation of ITSO smartcard equipment on buses. (Paragraph 99)

18.  If the Government is minded at any stage to extend the English national concessionary travel scheme, young people and others identified by the Commission for Integrated Transport should receive priority consideration for concessionary travel. (Paragraph 100)

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