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Use new powers to improve bus services, councils told

5 July 2018

Campaign for Better Transport says that new powers in the Bus Services Act can be used to make real improvements in bus services and has published a guide for local authorities on how to use it.

The Bus Services Act 2017 provides local authorities with new powers over bus services in their area, including  the ability to partner with bus operators to improve services or create franchises and invite operators to tender. The powers also allow for multi-operator tickets and open data on real-time services and fares. 

Three stages to better bus services using the Bus Services Act aims to help councils by offering step by step advice on how to use the new powers available to them and provide examples of existing initiatives which have already improved the quality and level of bus services.

Steve Chambers, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Buses are the best used form of public transport and the most efficient users of road space. They must be central to transport plans and be integrated with local plans and other strategies, including health and clean air. The Bus Services Act includes various new powers and opportunities for local authorities to improve bus services, but its take up has been slow.

“The guide shows how to use the Bus Services Act to improve buses, but also to create wider improvements in transport more generally, as well as in the local economy and the environment. We hope that communities around the country will take advantage of these powers and the ideas in this guide, and give buses the attention and support they deserve.”

Campaign for Better Transport released its annual Buses in Crisis report this week, which showed local authorities' bus budgets have been cut by £182 million in the last eight years resulting in 3,347 routes altered, reduced or withdrawn. One of the main recommendations in the report is for the Government to support and encourage local authorities to use the Bus Services Act to maintain and restore local bus services. 


For further information please contact the press office on 07984 773 468 or communications@bettertransport.org.uk

Case study 1: Merseytravel youth fare

In conjunction with bus operators, Merseytravel introduced ‘Myticket’, a £2.20 flat fare for all day bus travel for young people from five to 18. Since its introduction, the number of journeys made by young people has risen by 142 per cent and school attendance rates in the region have also improved. 

One of the perennial frustrations among bus passengers is that the return, day saver or season ticket they buy from one bus company is not valid with other bus companies. This can mean having to wait longer to get on your way, when a bus going on the right route but from a different company will not accept your ticket. To address this, a number of areas have implemented multi-operator ticketing schemes, either through paper tickets or alternatively with smartcards, mobile ticketing through passengers’ phones (m-ticketing), or contactless payment via a bank card. Some of these are multi-modal, incorporating rail services and trams. The Bus Services Act enlarges the opportunities to develop such schemes.

Case study 2: One public transport system for Cornwall

Cornwall Council is bringing together public transport in the county by creating a single network. More frequent train services on the Cornwall main railway line between Penzance and Plymouth, due to start in December 2018, are being used as a catalyst for an integrated bus-rail timetable, as well as an integrated ticketing scheme for residents and visitors. This has partly been enabled by the County’s devolution deal with the Government, but also by funding from a very wide range of sources. The bus operators, including First Kernow, have invested in new vehicles and technology; the Local Enterprise Partnership has funded the installation of contactless ticketing technology on the buses run by smaller operators, ensuring comprehensive coverage, and bus-rail interchanges have been created at some of the main railway stations. Cornwall is showing that even rural areas can create integrated public transport networks, and in particular the idea of using railway stations as hubs for rural transport networks has wider applications.

Notes to Editors

  1. Read Three stages to better bus services using the Bus Services Act.
  2. Read more about the Bus Services Act
  3. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).