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Moseley PCV - 2019
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June 12 2019

‘Responsibility for this mess lies with DfT’

The editor’s comment [routeone/5 June] neatly summarises the continuing muddle surrounding the illegal use of Section 19 and Section 22 permits on secured bus services.

One shouldn’t prejudge the outcome of the Judicial Review into the meaning of “exclusively non-commercial,” but I would be amazed if any judge considered it meant “not for profit” as the permit operators argue. 

The responsibility for this mess lies fairly and squarely with the mandarins at the Department for Transport.   

Pressured by Local Authorities, who could no longer afford to fund secured bus services and a community bus sector anxious to expand into conventional bus operation, it was easy to advise Ministers to turn a blind eye to breaches of EU Regulation 1071/2006, as it solved a political problem, which had no easy funding solution. 

The fact that it applied double standards to issues of passenger safety and created unfair competition for many smaller independent coach and bus operators was cynically ignored.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport’s longstanding policy of whispered diplomacy failed to alert the media and public to what was going on, and so its attempts to change policy were simply ignored.  

This led in turn to the formation of the Bus and Coach Association, which took up the cudgels on behalf of the operators who were losing business to the disruptors from the community bus sector. Hopefully the new CPT won’t allow that to happen again.

Perhaps if Brexit comes to pass, we will eventually have some domestic UK laws which will allow marginal bus services to be operated with a less costly regulatory regime.   

But more importantly, a level-playing field dictates that such a regime should apply equally to all operators from whichever sector they originate. In the meantime, we must rely on the Judicial Review Judge to enable fair competition under the existing legislation.

  • Tim Gibson

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