Consultation concerns potential changes to legislation to follow Competition Commission recommendations on bus competition remedies.
The DfT has launched a consultation seeking views on the government’s preferred approach to implementing the Competition Commission’s (CC) recommendations relating to the registration of local bus services in England and Wales.
In its report, the CC stated that there is a lack of sustained headto- head competition between bus operators in many local markets and also a lack of potential competition. In its view this can result in a combination of higher fares, fewer services and lower quality services.
One of the main reasons highlighted was that there are particular barriers to both new entrants into the market and incumbents that wish to expand into new areas of the market – particularly large-scale expansion – including the threat of retaliatory and predatory behaviour.
The CC recommended a range of remedies, including a set relating to operator behaviour. Four of these necessitate changes to the exiting legislation setting out the rules for the registration of local bus services. In response, the Government made a commitment to develop secondary regulations to act on these recommendations.
The changes are:
- an extra 14-day prenotification period during which local transport authorities may review and discuss a registration application with the operator;
- a minimum standard notice period of 90 (as opposed to the current 56) days following acceptance of a change to an existing service registration;
- a restriction on making changes to any registration application during any notice period except by making a shortnotice application and alignment of the reasons for any short-notice application to those used in Scotland; and
- a requirement that operators specify the frequency of services currently registered as ‘frequent’ (those with six or more services per hour) with a default band, so only frequencies in excess of this need to be detailed.
The CC gave the Government some flexibility in how the remedies are implemented. The DfT’s consultation seeks views on the Government’s preferred approach to implementing the four operator behaviour remedies which can be achieved through secondary legislation. The consultation does not cover the operator behaviour remedies requiring changes to primary legislation.
The consultation also seeks views on making bus registration digital by default and how to make the Electronic Bus Service Registration (EBSR) system more easily accessible to small and medium operators.
The full consultation document can be found at www.gov.uk/government/ consultations/bus-registrationcompetition- commissionrecommendations