Bus Services Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Dr John Disney (BSB 04)


I have already given oral evidence to the Commons TSC in September 2016 on the Bus Services Bill so do not intend to repeat previous comments but hope that the points below will be of interest

1. Change is required

The "deregulated model" is no longer working over vast swathes of England outside London especially the rural shire counties where buses are now becoming an endangered or extinct species. This is because once the "safety net" of supported services funded by local authorities is withdrawn due to budget cuts, commercial operators are no longer interested in or capable of supporting marginal rural, interurban and suburban services. This is exacerbated in many cases by the miserly reimbursement rate (often below 40% of the fare foregone) for ENCTS passes. The freeze on fuel duty for private motorists coupled with low oil prices has reduced the scope for bus operators to increase fares as the popular perception is that car travel has never been cheaper (in real terms).

2. Franchising

Franchising is the norm across much of Europe and the rest of the world so it should be made available to every Local Authority that wishes to improve its local bus services (This should actually therefore mean every LA.) On road competition is pointless: it results in confusion and congestion and achieves few benefits for the passenger other than a short term price war.

3. LA bus companies

All LA’s should have the right to set up their own bus operation as a "mode of last resort" if the commercial operators fail to bid for some routes or quote extortionate prices for such work (Some operators regularly bid at 50% over the "normal rates" for work on the basis that if there are no other bids they may get the contact especially if it is for a home-to-school service that the LA has to fund as a mandatory requirement).

Some councils have already moved towards providing rural minibus services "in house" at lower cost eg North Yorkshire County Council now operates a fleet of around 50 minibuses.

4. Concessionary fares

It is impossible to have a meaningful debate on the future of bus services without considering the impact of the ENCTS on existing bus services. Off peak buses frequently have 70% of their passengers travelling with these passes; no other business sector (except pharmacies) is forced to allow 70% of its patrons to use their service free at the point of use with the rate paid determined by local government falling each year as LA budgets are squeezed.

March 2017


Prepared 15th March 2017