Bus Services Bill amendments tighten franchising powers

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If amendments are kept, many criteria will need to be met before a franchise model is allowed

Several amendments have been made to the Bus Services Bill (BSB) before the Report Stage in the House of Commons, including a requirement for the publishing of casualty data and tightening of franchising requirements.

One amendment will require the Secretary of State to publish a national bus strategy within a year of the Bill gaining Royal Assent. Another will require local transport authorities to assess the effects of a concession scheme for apprentices and 16-18-year-olds in full-time education.

The majority of the amends on the Bill concerned franchising powers. If the amends are kept within the bill, local authorities will be required to demonstrate that a franchising scheme will provide benefits which could not otherwise be achieved through a quality partnership scheme, advanced quality partnership scheme or an enhanced partnership scheme. The criteria against which an authority must consider a franchising proposal has also been tightened.

Another amendment states that a proposed scheme must demonstrate that it would be more efficient, effective and economic than any other option, taking into account any compensation payable to bus operators whose businesses would be wholly or partially expropriated by the scheme.

Operators employing staff covered by TUPE could also be helped by another amendment, which prevents new contract or franchise awards based on cheaper labour costs because of the TUPE staff being undercut.

Another amendment being considered is that if an authority or authorities decide to cancel a proposed franchising scheme they may not initiate a revised or alternative franchising scheme for five years.

The Report Stage for the Bus Services Bill was due to take place as this issue went to press on Monday (March 27), with a third reading in the commons to follow.