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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 16:07 GMT
Councils get more say over buses
Bus in London
Local authorities may be able to dictate timetables
Councils may gain a greater say in the running of bus services in a shake-up of the public transport system.

The plans are designed to give councils more power over how private bus firms operate services and greater influence over timetables and fares.

The government has called the proposals "the most fundamental change to the way buses are run in 20 years".

But some campaigners argue all councils should have the same powers as London's mayor over buses.

The mayor's powers include being able to decide where and when buses stop, and how much passengers pay.

The proposals also include new powers for city transport commissioners to act if buses do not run to time.

'Passengers neglected'

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said since bus services were deregulated, "some areas have seen a free-for-all, with the needs of passengers being neglected.

"To many people, buses are a lifeline, giving them access to jobs and shops and allowing them to stay in touch with family and friends," he said.

The plans include:

    "Partnership working" between local authorities and bus operators, allowing local authorities to have more say in the frequency and cost of bus services

  • Traffic commissioners will have greater powers to hold operators, and for the first time, local authorities to account for local bus service performance

  • Making it easier for local authorities to introduce schemes tailored to local needs

  • Allowing local charities and community groups to provide services in areas poorly served by other transport.

Labour MP Louise Ellman welcomed the proposals.

"They have grasped the nettle. It is untenable for the cost of running buses to go up while passenger numbers have been going down because buses have become unreliable and unattractive. That is why people are deserting them," she said.

We are glad that the government is recognising the value of good partnership between local authorities and the bus operators
Bus Users UK

Independent group Bus Users UK also approved of the government's ideas.

Stephen Morris, external affairs officer, said: "We broadly welcome the proposals.

"We are glad that the government is recognising the value of good partnership between local authorities and the bus operators, and that they are recognising there is not a one-size-fits-all situation, as bus services are essentially local in their nature."

Children on a bus
London's mayor has much more power over bus services

But he said that not all local authorities had a good track record in providing bus services.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: "Bus deregulation was a bad Tory idea which Labour has yet to do anything about. Fares have increased and bus use outside of London has been in decline.

"The move to allow councils to regulate local services is long overdue."

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "These proposals will be a big disappointment to people who expected more substantial changes and I'm not convinced that the right way forward is to give politicians more power to tinker with our bus system."




SEE ALSO
Local buses to be 're-regulated'
27 Sep 06 |  UK Politics

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