TRANSPORT BILL ‘A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY’ FOR LOCAL COUNCILS
The Government’s Draft Local Transport Bill has been welcomed as a golden opportunity to tackle long standing problems and deliver better transport. The Local Government Association said the Bill had taken on board calls for councils to be given greater control in improving transport services but it said local authorities were now on the front line of the debate on road pricing.
The Bill would give councils in major urban areas the power to review and propose their own arrangements for the governance of local transport and update existing powers so local areas that wish to develop proposals for local road pricing schemes will have the freedom to do so in accordance with local needs. Proposals also include ‘quality contracts’ schemes to specify bus networks, timetables and fares, new Passenger Transport Authorities and reforms to the responsibilities of existing Authorities.
Councillor David Sparks, who chairs the LGA’s Transport and Regeneration Board, said, “The plans in the Bill to give councils greater control over bus services are a step in the right direction. The LGA has argued that local authorities must be allowed to work better with bus companies and given more say over frequency, timetables and fares. The devil will be in the detail, but the proposals should provide local people with a better bus service.”
The Government, he said, was not ready to bring in a national programme of road pricing because it had not managed to secure public support, and it was now leaving local authorities on the frontline of debate. “It is essential road charging does not become an extra tax,” Councillor Sparks said and added, “People will need convincing that the benefits of any local road pricing schemes will outweigh the costs and offer a genuine alternative to the car. This will only happen if councils are given powers and control over funding to invest in roads, buses and trains and other forms of transport.