Headlines: October 8th, 2001

The Government is to give more power to local councils to drive up the standards of public transport.It is to implement powers under the Transport Act 2000 allowing local authorities to specify standards local bus services must achieve and to take action to sort out bus routes that continue to run late or fail to attract passengers.

The new powers come into effect for authorites outside London on 26 October.

Quality Partnership allows local authorities to specify quality standards to be met by bus operators in return for using facilities such as bus lanes, upgraded stops and shelters which the authority has provided.

Quality Contract schemes give local authorities more radical powers to undertake wholesale contracting of local bus services, subject to ministerial approval. Authorities would, for example, be able to specify bus routes, service frequencies and fares. Operators could bid for exclusive rights to operate within a scheme area. This option is seen as available as a last resort and there will be tough tests before its use.

The aim of the two new schemes is more regular and reliable services that will attract increasing numbers of passengers.

Guidance on good operations between local councils and operators is found at www.local-transport.dtlr.gov.uk/qbus/index.htm.