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Bid for powers over bus services

30 April 08 05:49 GMT

A bid will be launched to get more powers over bus and coach services for the Welsh assembly.

Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil Huw Lewis said the current de-regulated system leaves rural and deprived areas suffering from a lack of services.

He said the London-style model would give more powers over the level of services required from bus companies.

The Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats say they broadly support the proposals.

Mr Lewis wants the Welsh assembly to have the power to regulate buses and base it on a model which currently exists in London.

There local authorities can force companies to bid for a package of services.

Routes

This means they would have to run unprofitable, but socially valuable routes in order to get the profitable routes.

"What we could work towards with these powers are, first of all, integrated timetables, integrated ticket systems between buses and trains," Mr Lewis said.

"We could aim eventually towards a Wales oyster card, that sees you through public transport ticketing problems from Bangor to Cowbridge, right across the county."

According to Mr Lewis, companies in Wales can currently cherry-pick the most profitable routes, leaving some areas with a poor or non-existent service.

Therefore he has proposed a Legislative Competence Order (LCO) to give the assembly the power to do that.

Under a new regulation, the service provider would have to operate within a franchise area and would involve taking on both the profitable and less profitable routes.

Stuart Cole, professor of the transport research centre at the University of Glamorgan said Mr Lewis' proposals went further in terms of achieving integrated transport than a bill currently going through Parliament which will allow local authorities and bus companies to set up quality contracts between one another.

"(Huw Lewis' ideas) bring together complete sets of bus operations and train operations so that you do have this integrated system," he said.

"That brings all sorts of benefits."

Passenger needs

The Confederation of Passenger Transport which represents the bus industry said it would wait to see the details of the plans before making any comment.

A spokesperson for Plaid Cymru said they supported Mr Lewis' LCO.

"Given that the local transport bill gives us greater control over bus services we think that the priority now should be safety on school transport and we hope that Huw Lewis will work with Ieuan Wyn Jones to achieve this.

"The Transport Minister announced when he published his Learner Travel Measure that he wanted to seek extra powers to ensure safer school transport services and this seems a good opportunity to fulfil that aim."

The Liberal Democrats also said they would be supporting Mr Lewis bid and said they wanted to make it easier for local authorities to work together and make transport work for people and communities.

They said they wanted to develop a mechanism whereby the assembly government could directly support and franchise a bus route or routes in parts of Wales where alternative regulation had failed or did not meet passenger needs.

Tory transport spokesman, Andrew Davies AM said his party was broadly supportive of proposals to widen access to public transport and improve safety for students using school transport.

The South Wales Central AM said they welcomed the process and would be studying Mr Lewis' proposals.

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