Bus Services Bill [HL]

West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) (BSB 26)

About us: WYCA

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) is the Local Transport Authority for West Yorkshire. With annual passenger journeys in 2016 of 170m [1] , West Yorkshire has the third highest number of annual bus journeys of any Authority outside of London.

The principles of the Bill have cross party member support in West Yorkshire and the points raised in this submission document to the Public Bill Committee were endorsed by WYCA Transport Committee members at its meeting on 24 February 2017.

Current Position

As demonstrated by Nexus in their Quality Contract Scheme Board, the existing powers available through the 2000 and 2008 Transport Acts are not fit for purpose and the delivery of the new Bus Services Act is vital to enabling the growth of the Region’s economy.

WYCA strongly supports the principles of the Bus Services Bill and anticipates applying the new powers to West Yorkshire, as soon as the legislative process is complete.

As with all legislation, the ‘devil is in the detail’. The DfT have now commenced a consultation on many aspects of the guidance and regulations. WYCA has a number of concerns within the guidance, particularly around the Enhanced Partnership elements, and will be responding to the consultation on the guidance by the closing date 21 March 2017.

The DfT have advised that comprehensive guidance to accompany the Bill will only be produced as soon as possible after Royal Assent. Full draft guidance/documentation would clearly be beneficial in advance of Royal Assent, as it will help confirm whether the DfT's expectation of how the provisions will be used reflect those of LTAs.

The key points associated with the Bus Services Bill are listed below:

1. [Clauses 1, 4, 9] Low Emissions Buses Specified for partnership and franchising – WYCA does not support

1.1. The Bill specifies that all new buses used to provide services in areas where Partnership or Franchising schemes have been established must qualify as ‘low emission buses’ according to the criteria Government set out when awarding funding as part of the Low Emission Bus competition. WYCA Transport Committee does not support this requirement.

1.2. Reason: Whilst WYCA Transport Committee supports any step towards low emissions vehicles and improving air quality, it feels that these matters should be determined locally to enable Transport Authorities to prescribe the standards that fit their local conditions and therefore it should not be specified as a requirement in the legislation.

2. [Clause 4] Automatic Access to Franchising Powers – WYCA supports Lords amendment

2.1. WYCA supports the Lords amendment which opened access to franchising powers to all local authorities without regulations, rather than only those which are Mayoral Combined Authorities (or have the Secretary of State’s permission).

2.2. Reason: Local Transport Authorities are best placed able to determine the most appropriate way to manage bus services to suit their local economy. A variety of different local governance models are being developed throughout the country. To restrict bus franchising powers only to mayoral authorities potentially limits the power of other governance models to make a positive difference with their local bus networks.

2.3. We understand that the Government will be seeking that the amendment be overturned, so that the powers are only available to Mayoral Combined Authorities and as outlined above. Whilst supporting the Lord’s amendment, the Combined Authority would not seek to lose the other provisions in the Bill should the Bill be threatened with withdrawal on this point.

3. [Clause 4] Dilution of the ‘Simpler route to franchising’ - WYCA supports

3.1. This clause seeks to simplify the process whereby franchising could be introduced. WYCA would be extremely concerned if the ‘simpler route to franchising’ powers were omitted or diluted. We do not support any amendments which seeks to introduce any further criteria or tests as this risks moving this legislation into the same category as the 2000 and 2008 Acts i.e. unusable in practice.

3.2. Reason: As demonstrated by Nexus in its Quality Contract Scheme Board, the existing powers available through the 2000 and 2008 Transport Acts are not fit for purpose. The simpler route to franchising provided within the Bus Services Bill provides the means to deliver franchising more efficiently and effectively.

4. [Clause 9] Enhanced Partnership Schemes (‘EPS’) - WYCA supports the principles

4.1. We support the proposed new principles EPS approach but the EPS needs to ensure the right balance of proportionality and governance, to focus on delivery of bus services in an increasingly constrained financial environment. EPS provisions need the flexibility to work in all circumstances (rural, urban and suburban) and will also (given operator veto) require a period of negotiation in advance.

4.2. It is important to ensure that the EPS voting mechanism can accommodate local circumstances, so neither a dominant operator nor a small operator can unreasonably frustrate or dominate the scheme. WYCA supports the EPS approach as currently drafted.

4.3. As currently drafted, the lack of revenue and vehicle information being provided to Authorities in respect of an EPS means it will be extremely challenging to work collaboratively with bus operators to specify and monitor the benefits which an EPS can bring. Fundamentally the problem with the regulations as currently drafted are that they assume that the Authority makes a conscious decision to either implement an EPS or franchising, whereas in reality an Authority will need to keep transport policy under review, including determining whether changes to an EPS are preferable to moving to a franchising scheme (or vice versa). The decisions of an Authority should be based upon access to, and review of, appropriate data, rather than having that data limited by reference to what route you have already decided to take.

4.4. Reason: Any amendments which seek to add additional hurdles or requirements which would risk fewer EPS being taken up as those requirements may not be appropriate given very varied local circumstances; or could mean entirely different standards on an EPS applying than to the rest of the bus network.

5. [Clause 16] Confer functions to enforce traffic offences - WYCA supports

5.1. This gives the Secretary of State the ability to confer functions to Authorities promoting an Advanced Quality Partnership Scheme (in partnership with bus operators), to enforce all moving traffic offences within the scope of the scheme. This would include powers to enforce and issue penalty charges for offences such as disregarding one-way systems, failing to give priority to ongoing traffic, or disregarding box junction markings. These powers are in place in London under separate legislation. WYCA Transport Committee supports this amendment as put forwards by the House of Lords

5.2. Reason: These powers would bring other regions in line with London and would strengthen the ability to enforce bus priority measures.

6. [Clause 17] Strengthening Consumer Rights for bus services - WYCA supports

6.1. Consumer rights in relation to bus services are at present extremely limited. For example there is no right of access to fares information (other than when boarding a bus) and available data on how bus routes are performing is often subject to commercial confidentiality restrictions by operators. However, much of the detail of how the open data provisions will work in practice is to be specified in secondary legislation and guidance. WYCA supports the powers included in the Bill but it will be important to ensure that the data is in a form which is usable both for transport planning and for passenger information. MPs may also wish to probe who will have access to this data and for what purpose (including passengers, local transport authorities, traffic commissioners and the statutory passenger watchdog – Transport Focus).

6.2. Reason: Consumer rights in relation to bus services are at present are extremely limited.

7. [Clause 17] Audio Visual on Bus Information – WYCA supports Lords amendment

7.1. The House of Lords secured an amendment which will require bus operators to provide audio and visual information, such as next stop announcements, on buses in Great Britain. WYCA Transport Committee supports this amendment.

7.2. Reason: We believe that by placing a requirement on operators to provide certain information rather than to install specific equipment, we will ensure that the needs of passengers are met within years, not decades.

8. [Clause 17] Bus Journey Planning – WYCA supports

8.1. The Government’s intention is that these powers will be used to require bus operators to provide specified information about the name or other designation of the local service; the direction of travel; stopping places; diversions; and terminating locations on board a bus in an audio-visual format. WYCA Transport Committee supports this amendment.

8.2. Reason: The powers will make it easier to for customers to access bus journey planning information.

9. [Was Clause 21] Creation of new municipal bus companies – WYCA supports Lords amendment

9.1. WYCA supports the Lords amendment which would facilitate the creation of new municipal bus companies.

9.2. Reason: There are a number of good examples where local authority owned bus companies are providing a very effective service. To prevent this option for Authorities would seem to contradict the objective of the Bill to enable local determination of bus services. Whilst WYCA is not currently considering forming a bus company; there could be situations in the future where it may be necessary to start up a bus company. These may include creating an ‘operator of last resort’ where no other company is able to serve an area. A local authority owned bus company may also be necessary to facilitate a community transport service.

March 2017

[1] DfT Bus Statistics, series 109


Prepared 16th March 2017