Lifting the lid on London Service Permits


TfL is consulting on changes to London Service Permits. But what are they and how relevant are they to your operation?

Transport for London (TfL) is consulting on changes to the Mayor’s guidance that is used when it considers changes to London Service Permits (LSPs) or granting a fresh one.

I would encourage all operators who run any type of scheduled service in London or who may be interested in doing so in the future to look at the consultation and respond.

The London Tourist Coach Operators Association (LTCOA) will be commenting on behalf of its members.

However, for many, I suspect that LSPs are a mystery.

London exempt

When bus services were deregulated in Great Britain in October 1986, London was exempt from the changes and London Regional Transport (LRT), as it was then, continued to have responsibility for the main bus network.

At that time, bus services in London were either run by London Buses, a subsidiary of LRT, or increasingly were put out for competitive tender, with LRT specifying the route, level of service, fares and type of bus to be run.

If you wanted to run a service that was not specified by LRT you could either apply to them to obtain an agreement to run it or you could go to the Traffic Commissioner (TC) to get a licence.

Register a service

In 2000, when TfL was formed, the process for obtaining a licence from the TC was transferred to TfL under sections 185 to 195 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, and this remains the case today.

One way of looking at it, is that you need to register a bus service with the TC outside the London area, but in London you have to do this through TfL. However, there are a number of subtle differences, including:

The need to consider the Mayor’s guidance note on running a service under an LSP

The need for TfL to consult on granting an individual LSP or for any changes that are proposed

The ability for TfL to attach a condition to the permit, which could, for example, include stopping and standing arrangements, but not anything to with fares, which is specifically excluded

A time limit of five years; this means you automatically have to renew if you want to keep the service running.

I am talking about those services that operate within London that are not specified by TfL and are normally run commercially by a coach or bus company or on behalf of a third party.

I have tried to keep this complex subject as simple as I can, but this is not a definitive guide and you should seek further guidance if you want to run a bus service in London – the TfL website provides more details.