Franchising is affordable route to better buses

Press release

In its response to the Government's bus policy review, and in a new FAQ briefing, pteg argues that by redeploying existing public subsidy to the industry, franchising (or 'quality contracts' as they are known in the bus industry) will give passengers better services. Results of a major consultation exercise with operators who are positive about the opportunities that franchising provides, shows that for comparable levels of public subsidy, franchising would give passengers:

  • more reliable services (performance would be monitored and enforced)
  • more stable networks (less frequent changes to fares, times and frequencies)
  • better integration (one brand, one network, one ticket - with services connecting rather than duplicating)
  • cleaner buses (dirty old buses would be outlawed, and cleanliness and maintenance would be monitored and enforced)

If more resources become available then the quality of the network can be ratcheted up with more green and fully accessible buses, new services and simpler fares.

Chair of pteg, Roy Wicks, said:

‘Franchising is about using the existing public and private resource better. It is not dependent on significant increases in subsidy. The serious consultation we have done with major operators has confirmed to us that franchising is a more cost-effective way of providing bus networks. Scrapping wasteful on-street competition and ensuring there is genuine competition for contracts will allow us to provide better bus networks and get better value for the taxpayer. London has recently used franchising to raise investment levels to provide the capital with a world leader bus network. We do not need to go that far to give our areas a better service than they have now. So those operators who think they need London levels of subsidies to provide better services in our areas are unlikely to win too many contracts with us.'

pteg's response to the bus policy review also argues that better public transport is critical to the equitable and sustainable regeneration of the city regions. With 85 per cent of public transport journeys in PTE areas made by bus, 'if we don't get bus services right we won't get public transport right.'

Roy Wicks said:

'Twenty years of bus deregulation has seen passenger numbers halve in our areas and real terms fare rises of 86 per cent. If we are serious about the sustainable development of the city regions and about tackling social exclusion - we need a bus policy that enables us to plan bus networks to meet our city regions’ needs. If the bus policy review gives us the tools to do, that we are confident that we can work with the private sector to give the urban bus a fresh start.'

For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485

Around 30% of bus journeys are made in PTE areas