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The Bus Services Bill - will franchising plans solve the problem of customer retention?

The Trapeze Team | July 07, 2016

Tags: Commercial operator |

The Bus Services Bill, which promises to deliver better journeys for passengers and reduce rush hour congestion, is currently being considered by parliament. So what does it mean for transport providers and industry suppliers?

First announced in the Queen’s Speech in February 2016, the “Bus Services Bill” has been presented as “an enabling bill” that will help local authorities to form partnerships with bus operators in a similar approach to that employed in London, with an ultimate aim to increase bus passenger numbers.

Speaking at the UK Bus Summit in February, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, Andrew Jones said: “Good bus services can help communities thrive and grow and we want to make journeys better so everyone has the choice to leave their car at home. Passengers want to see Oyster-style ticketing, better information on fares before they travel and live updates about when their bus is going to arrive at their stop.” This is certainly in line with our frequently stated belief that a modern, inclusive approach to passenger information is critical to the success of any modal shift agenda.

But what will the new legislation mean to transport providers? At the Transport Times UK Bus Summit, Andrew Jones said: “The bill will not impose any particular arrangement on local authorities or on bus operators. Neither will the bill give local authorities new powers to take bus operators’ assets, such as vehicles or land.”

However, the proposals do seem likely to hand local authorities greater control over the way bus services are run, in a move that could change the way in which buses outside London are run for the first time since deregulation.

While franchising of bus services could see the introduction of cross-operator smart ticketing, we believe there are other approaches that can also have a positive impact on ridership levels.

The bill isn’t only focused on franchising - it also aims to set new standards on reliability and punctuality of buses, and increase visibility of information such as fares, timetables and routes, all of which are key to increasing bus use.

Clearly, passenger satisfaction is vital for successful bus services. This was highlighted at last year’s Great Transport Debate, where although there was little consensus regarding franchising across the country, few could argue with Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive David Brown’s comment that “any system not focused on the passenger will fail.” After all, passengers who receive better services are more likely to continue to use the bus, which is the ultimate objective of this bill.

The Bus Services Bill is currently passing through the House of Lords, prior to its reading in the House of Commons.

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The Trapeze Team are here to bring you news and information from Trapeze Group (UK) and the public transportation industry.

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