Bus Services Bill [Lords]

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 1st March 2017.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 6:01 pm, 1st March 2017

We will work through the phasing of the introduction of the requirement, but we do not want to hold back from it. There is a slight cost implication for operators, but we think that that will be more than offset by the extra patronage they will secure if people are more able to use the buses. This is a business-generating approach, but we will treat the issues for the smaller operators with great sensitivity. We have taken a very deliberate approach, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun will appreciate that it focuses on the information to be provided, not on any particular technology. We hope to consult on how to take this forward later in the year.

Many colleagues have welcomed the provisions on open data, and the Bill will ensure that passengers know how much their fares will cost and at what time to catch their bus. That important aspect of the Bill will benefit passengers right across England, as my hon. Friend Mary Robinson and Mary Creagh, among others, rightly recognised. Personally, I think that it is one of the most exciting parts of the Bill.

By introducing new advanced ticketing schemes, the Bill ensures that new and existing developments in technology can be accommodated. That will enable multi-operator ticketing schemes to be introduced so that passengers can purchase tickets that will be accepted by different operators across scheme areas, and across different transport modes, such as rail or tram. Many colleagues have highlighted how complex catching buses can be—if multiple tickets need to be bought, for example—and we hope that the ticketing provisions will get rid of that problem.

One of the key proposals in the Bill is the new enhanced partnership. As Mrs Ellman recognised, some partnerships are already working very effectively right across our country. That is true—we all know that—but more can be done. Providing the opportunity for improved co-operation between local authorities and bus operators will mean a more integrated transport network for urban and rural communities. Passengers, local communities, local businesses and the environment will benefit from improvements in bus services—from improvements in emission standards through to clearer ticketing options—while operators will be left with their commercial freedoms.

There has been a lot of discussion about bus franchising today. It is clear that there is a variety of views in the House, but I think that there is clear agreement that the existing powers under the quality contract scheme have not worked effectively. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out, our intention is that the Bill will give mayoral combined authorities the automatic choice to use new powers to franchise bus services in their areas. I assure the hon. Members for Liverpool, Riverside, for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) and for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) that areas with directly elected Mayors can decide for themselves whether to take up the franchising powers in the Bill. There is no need for further reference to the Secretary of State.