Campaigners have hailed the new Bus Services Act as a great opportunity to improve services that provides real benefit to both cities and rural areas.
What was previously the Bus Services Bill has received Royal Assent, becoming an Act on the day Parliament broke up for the election.
Before the Bill cleared the Commons last month the Government reversed a number of Labour amendments. The Bill now provides automatic franchising powers only to combined authorities with elected mayors, plus Cornwall, and makes it illegal for transport authorities to set up new municipal bus companies.
Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘The new Bus Services Act is a great opportunity for local authorities and new mayors to plan and improve their bus services, and grow passenger numbers.
‘The Act will bring real benefit to both cities and more rural areas, enabling better integrated transport with simple, smart ticketing; while giving councils new powers to boost bus access and air quality.
‘The Bus Services Act also offers hope to people across the country left isolated by bus funding cuts. Already local authorities such as Kent and Cornwall are looking at how the Act could help them repair their bus networks, working in partnership with operators to create joined-up networks that connect people to jobs, education and healthcare.'
She added: ‘It is vital that alongside these new powers, local authorities and mayors have the assurance of long-term and sustainable bus funding.’
Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, called the Act ‘a key milestone in the devolution of transport powers to Greater Manchester’.
He said: ‘The powers in this Act could help to deliver a consistent and joined-up transport network with coordinated routes, simpler fares, integrated ticketing and consistent quality standards. We want bus to play a full role as part of an integrated, reliable, safe, clean and affordable transport network.’