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New partnership should be copied around the country

20 April 2009
A groundbreaking public transport partnership in Hertfordshire launched today could set an example for many other areas to follow, according to the Campaign for Better Transport. The “Network St Albans” quality network partnership is the first to take advantage of new powers in the Local Transport Act 2008 which loosen the competition acts and allow transport operators to work together so long as the local council says it is in the public interest.

The St Albans partnership, which includes Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans District Council, the University of Hertfordshire, four bus operators and two rail operators, is working on joint marketing, regular interval services on main routes, inter-available tickets and passes, and measures to cut congestion affecting buses.

The partnership will start by reviewing St Albans' entire transport network to identify areas in most need of improvement. Smaller schemes that are already underway include creating new maps for bus stops to make bus routes, and links to other forms of public transport, clearer. Bus priority at some junctions is also being examined.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, who has been chairing the partnership, said:

"This is a new kind of voluntary partnership in that it covers a whole area rather than just individual routes, includes co-operation between operators on fares and frequencies and brings in rail as well as buses. This will allow services and networks to be developed and co-ordinated in passengers’ interest, and will also give councils confidence to invest in services and infrastructure. We hope that it will set a model that can be applied in many other areas and give councils opportunities to improve public transport as a real alternative to car travel."

Notes to editors
Campaign for Better Transport was involved in getting a new approach to competition law into the Local Transport Act. It commissioned a legal opinion which showed that the Office of Fair Trading’s interpretation of competition law on buses had been too restrictive. The OFT approach had been used to stop agreements between operators on fares and frequencies as anti-competitive. The Act now allows operators to work together, within conditions.

The St Albans Partnership is underpinned by a memorandum of understanding signed by the primary partners of operators and councils, with working groups on specifics reaching agreements where necessary. The primary partners are Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans District Council, the University of Hertfordshire, Uno Buses (the university’s own bus operation), Arriva the Shires and Essex, Metroline, Centrebus, First Capital Connect and London Midland. Stephen Joseph is chair of the partnership and is also a local resident.