The 30th anniversary of bus deregulation has seen further calls for the Bus Services Bill to be amended so that it does not prevent transport authorities setting up new bus companies.
Cllr Keith Wakefield, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s (WYCA) Transport Committee, said: ‘If it’s the Government’s intention that decisions about bus services should be made at a local level, some of the restrictions in the Bill, currently passing through Parliament, need to be lifted.
’We broadly welcome the provisions for combined authorities with elected mayors to adopt powers for franchised bus services provisions set out in the Bill but we are supporting an amendment that would remove the restriction on us establishing bus companies should we choose to do so.’
He added: ‘There are good examples across the UK of local authority-owned bus companies providing very effective services so it doesn’t make sense to restrict the options available.’
Cllr Wakefield said WYCA had no plans to form a bus company although there could be situations in the future when it might be necessary or desirable to start one, for example as an ‘operator of last resort’ where no other company is able to serve an area, or to facilitate a community transport service.
He also pointed to research published this week, which suggested improving local bus services boosts employment and income and helps to reduce social deprivation.
Cllr Wakefield said he had written to local MPs urging them to support amendments to the Bill, and has backed a campaign from anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It, which is trying to drum up public support for public ownership.
By Wednesday afternoon (26 October), We Own It had obtained approximately 14,400 signatures against its own target of 21,000 for its online petition calling for ministers to drop clause 21 of the Bill, which would prevent local authorities setting up bus companies.