Queen's Speech: Councils respond to Bus Services Bill
LGA press release 18 May 2016
Responding to the Bus Services Bill announced in today's Queen's Speech, which includes plans to allow combined authorities with directly-elected mayors to take on responsibility for local bus services and franchising options, Cllr Peter Box, Transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said:
"With government forecasts of an increase in traffic levels of up to 55 per cent by 2040, the ability for local areas to take responsibility for bus services through the option of franchising and greater access to buses data will help councils struggling to avoid gridlock on their roads and local people to access vital services.
"Franchising should be available to all local authorities who wish to improve bus services in towns, villages and rural areas that are poorly served at present. It should not depend on having a directly-elected mayor.
"To protect cherished bus services, which remain under threat as councils continue to receive less money from government to provide all services over the next few years, the option to franchise needs to go hand in hand with the devolution of bus subsidies. Handing councils control over the Bus Service Operators' Grant – a fuel duty rebate paid directly to bus operators by the Government – would help them support vital routes and the roll-out of smart ticketing.
"Years of underfunding of the concessionary fares scheme - a statutory duty on councils to provide free off-peak travel for elderly and disabled residents – has forced councils to spend millions of pounds subsidising it. Government needs to fully fund this to protect the routes which act as a lifeline for vulnerable and non-driving residents to go shopping, pick up medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends.
"Councils also need effective traffic management powers to enforce moving traffic offences - such as banned turns and blocking yellow box junctions - to help unblock congestion hotspots that delay buses and lengthen journey times.
"We will now seek to work with the Government on the detail of the Bill to ensure that the legislation is simple, streamlined and easy for councils to implement."
NOTES TO EDITOR
1. The Government forecasts an increase in traffic levels of up to 55 per cent by 2040 based on 2010 levels - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411471/road-traffic-forecasts-2015.pdf
19 May 2016