Wales buses bill: Franchising among proposals

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Franchising for buses in Wales and the creation of local authority (LA)-owned operators in the country are among powers that are proposed in the Bus Services (Wales) Bill, which was published on Monday 16 March.

Documentation accopanying the Wales buses bill says that the country “does not have the bus service that the Welsh Government wants to see,” and that “communities do not have the public transport connectivity that they need.”

Skates: Deregulation ‘an abject failure’

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates adds that deregulation has been “an abject failure” in Wales. He claims that “the free market model simply does not work,” although the Bill will permit the creation of partnership schemes.

The proposals allow for each of the 22 LAs in Wales to develop franchising proposals. It also permits multiple LAs to work together to create a combined area. All franchising proposals must be made via a “detailed business case” that will be subject to audit and consultation.

Where LAs establish their own operating arm, services that they run may extend both beyond their own county and outside Wales, as long as one or more stopping places are within the country.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Cymru has criticised the Wales buses bill, calling it “a great disappointment and a missed opportunity.”

CPT Cymru Director John Pockett says that while potential for partnership working is welcome, the Welsh Government should make significant investment in bus priority. Mr Pockett adds that the Bill “is silent on whether that investment will be forthcoming.”

He continues: “Simply focusing on the regulatory regime will not deliver the quicker journeys that will benefit passengers in Wales. Nor will it encourage people to switch car journeys to the bus.”

Bill also to give powers over info

The legislation also proposes powers for LAs to require operators to submit information, including passenger number and revenue obtained, when applying to vary or cancel a service. Increased information sharing with passengers may also be mandated by LAs.