Buses Bill will include partnership working measures

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Andrew Jones MP says the measures aim to facilitate more effective partnership development between local authorities and bus operators

The forthcoming Buses Bill will include partnership working measures – the government has confirmed.

The news came after Shadow Transport Minister Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour, Cambridge) asked the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the implications for competition in the bus market of (a) voluntary partnership agreements and (b) statutory quality partnerships; and what account he plans to take of those implications in framing legislation on bus franchising.

Andrew Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport replied: “Competition issues in bus partnerships are primarily a matter for the Competition and Markets Authority and for the local authorities involved in the partnership concerned.

“I anticipate that the Buses Bill will include new measures on partnership working between local transport authorities and bus operators. The aim of these measures would be to facilitate more effective partnership development between local authorities and bus operators, resulting in better quality bus services for passengers, whilst ensuring fair bus market competition.

“Under a bus franchising regime competition would be for, rather than within, the bus market. The competition issues that apply are therefore materially different from those associated with partnerships arrangements between bus operators and local authorities.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Bridget Phillipson Labour (Houghton and Sunderland South) asked what the differences are between bus franchising in relation to the North East Devolution Deal and a Quality Contact Scheme.

Andrew Jones said: “The Buses Bill will provide the powers for local transport authorities to franchise their local bus services subject to agreement from Government. It will allow local transport authorities to replace the current deregulated bus market with a system of contracting, whereby the authority specifies the services or outcomes they are looking to achieve and bus companies bid to provide those services.

“The final content of the Bill is still being developed, but the process through which the franchising powers are exercised is likely to differ from that set out in the Quality Contract Scheme process.

“The intended outcome of franchising is similar to that of a Quality Contract Scheme, although there are likely to be some differences. For example, the 10-year time limit that applies to Quality Contract Schemes is not expected to apply under franchising.”