The Bus Services Bill – a new era for the UK’s bus services?

The Campaign for Better Transport – is calling for four main changes to the Bus Services Bill.

Firstly, they are supporting Lord Berkeley’s amendment on Meeting social need. They would like to see the Bill make clear that local authorities have a duty to assess the social needs of their residents, and to secure the transport services appropriate to meeting that need. This duty, in fact, has been established in case law (the Three Rivers case); and has been used by campaigners in Cambridgeshire to fight bus cuts. However, they think that having this duty placed on the statute books will clarify to local authorities that their first duty in planning buses is to connect people to jobs, to healthcare, and to education; and help convince them to protect socially necessary bus routes.

Secondly, they calling for a Bus and Coach Investment Strategy. Buses carry more people than any other mode of public transport. Last year there were more than a billion bus journeys – that’s more than double the number of train journeys. But bizarrely, buses are the only mode of transport without a government investment strategy. There is now a Roads Investment Strategy, a Rail Investment Strategy, and this year the Government will be publishing its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The Campaign for Better Transport  believes that it is high time that we stopped treating buses as the poor relation, and put in place a long term plan to grow the industry.


Thirdly, they would like more clarity in the Bill on enabling local authorities to set minimum standards for buses in their area – whether on bus frequency or punctuality – and deciding the standards that work best for them.

Lastly, they want to see the Bill provide strong structures of passenger representation. In the rail industry, bodies like London TravelWatch and Transport Focus act as a passenger ombudsman, taking up passengers’ complaints and providing an independent voice. Bus passengers too should have the right to ongoing involvement and oversight of their local transport services, not just when a franchise or partnership scheme is being developed.

The Government is keen that the Bill receives Royal Assent in time for the Mayoral elections taking place in cities around the country in May. It’s therefore likely that it will complete its passage through the Lords by the end of this Parliamentary session, ready to begin progress through the House of Commons in the autumn. We’ll be in touch over the summer to let you know how you can support our calls for a strong bill that works for passengers.

Based on an article on The Campaign for Better Transport website.

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