Buses Bill to help councils sidestep legal challenges


The Buses Bill will include guidance on how to protect franchising schemes against objections from bus operators, a leading transport campaigner has claimed.

Stephen Joseph OBE, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), said his group had spoken to ministers and officials since the QCS Board’s judgement that bus operators should be compensated for adverse effects on their businesses in the case of the North East Combined Authority’s Quality Contract Scheme.

Stephen Joseph

CBT’s understanding was that the Bill would empower local authorities to decide on franchising based on their bus strategies and would anticipate potential obstacles such as judicial reviews.

Speaking to a Welsh Assembly Committee, Mr Joseph said: ‘The background papers suggest ways the local authorities could guard against that, for example using the Treasury’s Green Book. We’ve heard from ministers that there’s no intention to have anybody in central Government marking local authorities’ homework.’

Giving evidence to the Assembly’s inquiry on bus and community transport in Wales, Mr Joseph also said the Bill’s preparation, with consultation and workshops, was ‘a piece of good practice’.

Tobyn Hughes, NECA’s transport operations managing director, told the committee that elected members in his region 'feel quite aggrieved' that the QCS Board, which he claimed was accountable to no-one, had prevented them from implementing their QCS.

At the same hearing, Local Government Association transport adviser Charles Loft questioned the board’s calculations of operator losses.

‘We can only speculate what those future profits would have been. Those earnings are dependent to a large extent on a taxpayer subsidy in various forms,’ he said.


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