TRANSPORT News Release (049) issued by The Government News Network
on 22 May 2007
A draft Bill to
help improve public transport across the country and cut
congestion in our towns and cities was published by the Government
today. The draft Bill sets out proposals to restructure how local
transport is delivered within communities. It would mean that the
travelling public could benefit from local authorities taking
local action to meet local transport needs.
If approved by Parliament the draft Bill would:
* Give local authorities the right mix of powers to improve the
quality of local bus services, as proposed in Putting Passengers
First last December following an extensive bus policy review.
* Empower local authorities in our major urban areas to review
and propose their own arrangements for local transport governance
to support coherent and effective transport planning and delivery.
* Update existing powers so that where local areas wish to
develop proposals for local road pricing schemes, they have the
freedom and flexibility to do so in a way that best meets local
needs. It is expected that any scheme would be part of a wider
package of measures to address local congestion problems and the
draft Bill would require that the proceeds from any local schemes
are spent on local transport. The draft Bill would give local
authorities the flexibility and powers to deliver a tailored
transport system better suited to the needs of the local area. For
instance local authorities could:
* Introduce 'quality contracts' schemes to specify bus
networks, timetables and fares in their local areas and to let
contracts to bus operators to run those services.
* Propose reforms to the existing responsibilities of Passenger
Transport Authorities and district councils in major conurbations
outside London to enable a more coherent integrated approach.
* Propose new Passenger Transport Authorities in areas where they
do not currently exist, and changes to the boundaries of existing
Authorities where it makes sense to do so.
Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said:
"Improving public transport is vital if we are going to
tackle congestion and climate change.
"Two-thirds of public transport journeys are made by bus, so
it is only right that this Bill focuses on how we improve bus services.
"The measures we have published today will give local
authorities the powers they need to ensure that local bus services
meet local needs as part of a broader package which will give them
the flexibility they need to tackle congestion."
The draft Bill is now made available for Parliamentary
pre-legislative scrutiny by the House of Commons Transport
Committee alongside a full public consultation.
In addition to publishing the draft Bill the Government also
announced the first payments from the Urban Congestion Performance
Fund totalling £2.2 million. The fund is designed to encourage
local authorities in the ten largest urban areas to outperform
their local congestion targets. The fund is worth £60 million in
total over four years.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The draft Local Transport Bill and the related consultation
documents are available on the Department's website. The
consultation closes on Friday 7 September.
2. The Eddington Transport Study, published last December, made a
number of timely recommendations to enhance the delivery of
transport in the UK's cities. These recommendations were
aimed at better equipping us to address the high potential future
cost of congestion and ensure transport can continue to sustain
economic growth. They include reforming decision-making at the
sub-national level to ensure the relevant bodies have the right
powers and responsibilities for transport with the right
geographical scope, and improving provisions for bus franchising.
The Study drew attention to the substantial costs of road
congestion for business and the economy and estimated that,
without further action, congestion could cost an additional £22
billion in wasted time for road users by 2025.
3. 'Putting Passengers First' was published by the
Department for Transport in December 2006. This report was the
culmination of an extensive review of bus policy, and set out the
Government's initial proposals to improve the quality of
local bus services. It emphasised how buses play a crucial role in
the UK's transport system, with over two thirds of all public
transport journeys made by bus. This year, public expenditure on
buses will have increased to around £21/2 billion a year, up from
£1 billion a decade earlier. The Government has put in place free
local bus travel for older and disabled people within their local
areas, and will extend that to cover local bus services across
England from April 2008.
4. The draft Bill would not provide the legal powers that would
be needed for a national system of road pricing. The Government
has made clear that decisions on that can be taken only in the
light of further practical experience of local schemes. Further,
separate, legislation would be needed if in future a decision was
taken to move towards a national scheme - and there would need to
be a full and informed public debate.
5. The first tranche of payments from the congestion performance
fund announced today are distributed as follows:
West Midlands £585,000 West Yorkshire £510,000
South Yorkshire: £401,000 Tyne and Wear: £336,000
Leicester £198,500 Nottingham £208,000
Public Enquiries: 020 7944 8300
Department for Transport