Clause 60

Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 6 May 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Operational data

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

In my quest to make the Whips’ lives that much easier, I thought that it would be worthwhile to ask some questions and make some statements on this clause to save us having a debate on new clause 10. The purpose of the previous three or four clauses that we have debate is to increase the enforcement powers of the traffic commissioners and to help them to deal with bus services that do not comply with registration requirements. Clause 60 deals with the prevention of the misuse of records and the need to make them available for inspection. It seems to me that both aims are quite worthy; I agree with them and support the clause.

If, however, we really want to check rogue and cowboy operators, both large and small, it would be worth while ensuring that bus companies have real-time, global positioning system information available, and requiring them to keep that information on a historical basis. We have only to talk to drivers, certainly of the larger bus companies in Greater Manchester, such as Stagecoach and FirstGroup, and they will explain very quickly that if they are running behind schedule, they will either miss out stops or take  shortcuts, and that they will not comply with their registration. However, the records will show that they left on time and arrived on time. They will not show that they did not travel along the right route.

The only way for commissioners or any inspection body ever to get that right is for accurate GPS information to be made available in real time and kept for historical inspection purposes. That is the purpose of new clause 10, but it might save time if, in considering clause 60, my right hon. Friend would recognise that problem and agree that there are more effective forms of record keeping.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As my hon. Friend said, the clause will enable traffic commissioners to impose sanctions on operators who fail to meet statutory requirements to provide bus punctuality. It is important that we ensure that traffic commissioners have access to regular and accurate information on the punctuality of bus services, enabling them to pinpoint areas of consistent underperformance. That will enable them to investigate the underlying causes.

My hon. Friend made a good point about GPS systems and ensuring that, as far as possible, bus operators use them. However, we should seek to achieve that in other ways. When we talk about quality partnership schemes and quality contracts, the thrust of the Bill enables local authorities to have greater discussions with bus operators about the use of such equipment to ensure that proper records are kept. That is not something that we want covered under primary legislation, but it is an extremely important point. There are areas in the country where, for example, local authorities have invested with bus operators in installing GPS to enable them to have joint information about punctuality and important real-time information. When local authorities want to say that the next bus arrives in 10 minutes and so on, they often need the support that comes with GPS to be able to do so.

While I take my hon. Friend’s point about supporting the idea of giving more power to traffic commissioners to request information about bus punctuality, it means that local authorities will be able to work with bus operators and that, in some cases, reaching agreement about the fact that they would like buses operating with the GPS if that were appropriate in their area. However, we can address such issues in other ways rather than through primary legislation. I have especially in mind the fact that, as he is aware, technology can move on. I am sure that we want not want to be restricted to one type of technology under the Bill when other types might become available in future.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 60 ordered to stand part of the Bill.