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Bus Services Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:18 pm on 24th October 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat 7:18 pm, 24th October 2016

I return to the subject which we have spoken about throughout the Bill: how deep rural bus services might be saved from the way they are being reduced in present circumstances—and, with the various threats to local government funding, are likely to be further reduced in future. I do not intend to press my amendment to a Division, but I would like to have the Minister’s views on it.

The concessionary fare money that the Government dispense, which is a large sum of money—we are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds—is divided up among transport authorities in such a way that it generally comes down to a sum of money spent on concessionary fares in each area. This means that many busy rural routes, profitable routes, attract concessionary fare revenue; whereas deep rural routes, which are mostly used by concessionary fare holders, pass holders, receive the same sum as the authority gives to its urban routes. Of course, a lot more people use urban routes, and I suggest a small top-slicing of the concessionary fare revenue granted to urban routes, so that a little bit is instead devoted to the rural routes. Because far more people travel on urban than rural buses, a small top-slicing of the money for urban buses would amount to a huge increase in concessionary fare revenue earned by operators of rural services.

I am mindful that there are a number of EU rules about state aid. We have to be careful that we do not leave anybody with a profit as a result, but many of the rural routes are not the sorts of routes from which anybody makes very much money. My object in moving the amendment is to ask the Minister—he and I will meet fairly soon—whether this might not be a way of supporting the rural routes in this country. The Government would not have to find more money; they would simply have to redistribute the money that they are already spending. I beg to move.