8 Nov 2007 09:46 AM
Bus passengers to benefit from local Transport Bill - new Passenger Champion to be created

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (153) issued by The Government News Network on 8 November 2007

An ambitious package of measures to improve public transport and create the first formal champion for bus passengers was announced today as part of the Local Transport Bill by Transport Minister, Rosie Winterton.

The Local Transport Bill will give local authorities greater local freedom and choice, with increased flexibility and powers to deliver better bus services and a more integrated transport system tailored to local needs. In response to public consultation, it also paves the way for the introduction of an influential new passenger champion to give bus users in England a more powerful voice.

Rosie Winterton said:

"The Local Transport Bill will give more powers to local authorities because they best understand their local transport needs. They will be able to improve local bus services and deliver better punctuality.

"Buses are the backbone of our public transport system and account for two thirds of all journeys made by public transport. That is why the Government has invested record sums in buses - £2.5bn this year - and why we are determined that whether you catch a bus in Doncaster, Durham, Devon or anywhere else, you will get the best possible service.

"We have heard loud and clear that people want a more influential voice for bus passengers. Therefore, the new bus passenger champion will have a strong public role promoting the interests of bus users across the country.

"The aim of the Local Transport Bill is to improve services and get more people on the buses. It will help reduce congestion, tackle climate change and promote the economic vitality of our towns and cities."

This Bill would:

* Give local authorities the right mix of powers to improve the quality of local bus services. This would include enabling more effective partnership working between local authorities and bus operators and allowing greater flexibility to implement 'quality contracts' schemes in areas where local authorities need to take greater control over bus services in the interests of the public. It would also introduce a new regime to deliver better punctuality and measures to support further development of the community transport sector.

* Allow for the creation of an influential new bus passenger champion to represent the interests of bus passengers.

* Allow local authorities to carry out a review of existing arrangements for planning and taking decisions on transport services in their area, and to propose changes. Passenger Transport Authorities would be renamed Integrated Transport Authorities (ITAs), to reflect their role in coordinated planning of transport, and new or expanded ITAs could be set up to ensure local arrangements meet local needs.

Under the Transport Act 2000, local authorities in England can already develop proposals combining local road pricing schemes and improvements in public transport. The Bill ensures all proceeds from local schemes are spent on local transport for the lifetime of the scheme. It also contains measures which will make sure that local road pricing schemes are interoperable and removes the need for local authorities to seek the Secretary of State's approval for their schemes.

The Bill does not, and was never intended to, provide the powers needed for a national road pricing scheme.

Notes to Editors

1. The Local Transport Bill was published in draft on May 22 2007, for public consultation and Parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny.

2. A summary of the consultation and the Department for Transport's response are published today alongside the Bill. They are available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/localtransportbill.

3. Responses to the Bill consultation indicated broad support for the principle of greater bus passenger representation. The precise scope, membership and constitution of the body will be a matter for full consultation and debate. The Department will also need to consider whether the bus champion role should be given to a stand-alone bus passengers' body or an existing passenger representative body in the transport field. The Local Transport Bill therefore includes provisions to allow relevant functions to be assigned, in secondary legislation, either to a new body or to the existing Rail Passengers' Council.

Public Enquiries: 020 7944 8300
Department for Transport Website: http://www.dft.gov.uk