Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (Bus 51)

THE BUS INDUSTRY

  Thank you for inviting the Borough Council to comment to the Sub-Committee inquiry into the bus industry.

  I would like to highlight one particular problem which has arisen locally in recent months. The Borough Council is introducing a high quality shuttle bus and park and ride service linking Basingstoke town centre and the town's major leisure park, to commence late Summer. The Borough Council will be supporting the service under Section 63 of the Transport Act 1985 by subsidising a private sector provider through revenue funding. However, in working up the proposals, the Borough Council identified a substantially more cost effective method of procurement. This was to purchase buses directly through capital expenditure and to let a contract to a specialist for operation with revenue funding. However, the wide provisions of Section 66 of the Act prevents non-metropolitan authorities from creating such innovative arrangements.

  There is a provision in the Transport Act (Section 71) which allows the Secretary of State to allow small municipal bus undertakings (ie those up to ten vehicles) to operate despite the general prohibition in Section 66. However, enquiries of the Department have revealed a reluctance to consider Section 71, even if the flexibility was contained within the framework of a Public Service Agreement with agreed targets of increased bus usage and reduced traffic congestion.

  This means that the Borough Council can only provide the service through revenue funding and is unlikely to secure the same quality of vehicles to run the service.

  In the instance that the Borough Council was not able to support the service through revenue, it would be necessary to pursue Section 71 of the Act and to fund the scheme jointly with capital and on-going revenue. The capital would have to be sourced through a special bid with the aid of the County Council as highway authority in conjunction with a Local Strategic Partnership Agreement and it would then be necessary to fund the revenue through the revenue support grant and/or the Council Tax.

  It is, therefore, requested that the sub-committee examines the current operation of the regulation of the bus industry, with a view to ensuring that local authorities have greater opportunity to contribute pro-actively in the operation of bus services. This authority recognises the benefit of working in partnership with local bus operators and wishes to be able to contribute as fully as possible towards this for the benefit of local bus users and ultimately, the environment.

  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss this matter in more detail, particularly in respect of the complex nature of this issue and the most appropriate way of taking this forward.

Councillor Ron Hussey

Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability

29 April 2002


 
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