Insfrastructure Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by TravelWatch Northwest (IB 03)

1. Introduction

1.1 TWNW is an independent Community Interest Company which aims to champion and represent the views of public transport passengers in NW England.

1.2 Our concerns are about the appointment of Passenger Focus and the ORR as Watchdog and Monitor of Strategic Highways Companies.

2. Passenger Focus

2.1 We do not believe that Passenger Focus (PF) is well placed to represent road users. It is there to represent public transport users. By no means all road users are in that category and there are fundamental conflicts of interest between the public transport users which PF represents and private motorists, as manifest in disagreements surrounding the removal of bus lanes for example in Liverpool, Doncaster and Bristol.

2.2 PF engages with most Rail User Groups (RUGs). These are mainly local. The nearest equivalents for road users are the national motoring organisations such as the AA and the RAC and trade associations like the Freight Transport Association but these are primarily commercial organisations. TWNW recognises that public transport’s main competitor is motorists, and believes that the creation of the same single champion for both would be counter- productive.

2.3 In some industries (e.g., rail but not buses) the regulator can control prices, but this raises the interesting question of how ORR would react to a proposed local or national road pricing scheme?

2.4 Regulators wear many hats (e.g. oversight of consumer protection, competition, price/fares, complaints, service levels, safety, etc) and not all "regulators" in the transport industry have similar roles. The overall picture is chaotic and confusing with watchdogs ("bloodhounds") and regulators ("bulldogs") co-existing uneasily.

2.5 Perhaps now is the time to revisit the wider field of consumer protection in the public transport industry.

December 2014

Prepared 17th December 2014