The draft Local Transport Bill (HC 692-i)
Transport Committee 13 Jun 2006
Evidence given by PTEG (Passenger Transport Executive Group) Mr Roy Wicks, Chair of PTEG, Director General South Yorkshire PTE Mr Neil Scales, Chief Executive, Merseytravel; Stagecoach Group plc, Mr Les Warneford, Managing Director, Stagecoach UK Bus; National Express Group plc, Mr Martin Hancock, Marketing and Development Director, National Express Buses; First Group plc, Ms Nicola Shaw, Managing Director, UK Bus; Arriva plc, Mr Steve Clayton, Group Managing Director, Corporate Affairs; The Go-Ahead Group plc, Mr Roger French, Managing Director, Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Co; Unite-The Union (The Transport and General Workers' Union); T&G - Mr Jack Dromey, Deputy General Secretary and Mr Martin Mayer, Passenger Transport General Executive Member; Transport and Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes, Assistant General Secretary; TravelWatch North West, Mr John Moorhouse, Company Secretary, Mr Paul Fawcett, Advisory and Research Consultant.
Q32 Mr. David Clelland: When the Tyne and Wear metro system was brought in 26 years ago now, it was part of a fully integrated public transport system with buses and metro co-operating and complementing each other rather than competing. Of course that was all broken up with privatisation. Do you think that the measures in this Bill would allow a transport authority to get back to that level of transport integration?
Mr Wicks: I think they will. It will take some time but the measures are there that would enable that to happen.
Q33 Mr. David Clelland: Mr Scales said that he thought that the maximum period for a contract should be 15 rather than ten years. Do you think the provisions to extend the scheme to a second period come with an adequate scrutiny process?
Mr Scales: Yes, as long as the local authority, the local politicians and the local stakeholder groups have adequate and sufficient scrutiny over that. On long contracts like 15 years, you can get lots of investment. We have seen, in examples like Merseyrail Electrics, which is a 25-year contract managed by Merseytravel, that the private sector is willing to make investments but they are conservative. The longer you can push it out, the better. The longer the contract that our private sector operators have, the better, and then you can manage it.
Q34 Mr. David Clelland: Do you think that the Bill gives sufficient powers to passenger transport authorities that cover more than one local authority area to deal with things like bus lanes and cross-boundary issue?
Mr Scales: I do think there are enough powers, particularly with the power of direction that is indicated in the Bill, which gives an imperative, particularly on cross-district bus lanes and also other traffic measures, to improve the flow of buses. It would also improve the flow of traffic across that metropolitan area. I think that is good. Another thing in the Bill that is good is looking at extending the travel-to-work areas. People will commute further and further out to, say Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield. The Bill has a framework to get to a single integrated public transport network that is accessible to everyone in the UK. You are quite right; that is what we had built at Tyne and Wear before it was dismantled by deregulation.
Q151 Mr. David Clelland: Mr French referred to the fact that in some areas there may be an improvement in bus patronage because of the kinds of quality contracts which are now coming about, but is it not the case that the reason we are now getting this kind of co-operation from the bus companies is because it became clear - and this Bill is an example of that - that the Government intends to take action to ensure that people get the kinds of bus services they need and which they are not getting at the moment?
Mr Clayton: If you are suggesting that everything has come to a complete stop because of this draft Bill you would be entirely incorrect.
Q152 Mr. David Clelland: I am not suggesting it has come to a stop; what I am suggesting is that the improvements that we are now seeing in co-operation are because it is becoming clear that the Government intends to take action.
Mr Clayton: I would not agree with that suggestion either, and I can think of a number of schemes that Arriva have been involved in where, in fact, they are the fruit of five or six years of discussion and debate. A lot of these things do not happen overnight and, as Ms Shaw said earlier, we have to work at them over a period of time. A number of the things that have been mentioned already today - and we could mention more if it would help - are because of things that have been going on over a number of years; they do not happen overnight.
Q153 Mr. David Clelland: I appreciate that, but I think the reluctance to accept the need for quality contracts is an indication as to why, in my view, we are getting so much co-operation on a more voluntary-type of arrangement with the bus companies. However, that is an opinion, which you may or may not agree with it. The fact is the Government have, in the Bill, referred to the intention to bring in quality contracts if this Bill goes through in its current form. Do you have any concerns about allowing different parts in the quality contracts scheme to come into force at different times?
Mr Clayton: My understanding is that the Bill is suggesting that on statutory quality partnerships, which are not quality contracts, there is provision for the phasing-in of facilities which would be provided by the local authority. Presumably, it would afford the opportunity for both operators and, indeed, the local authority to have agreed milestones at which certain parts of the scheme would be implemented. I think we would both welcome that because it would give both sides a greater certainty in being able to plan its investment in their separate commitments to a scheme.
Q154 Mr. David Clelland: Is 10 years the right maximum period for a contract, do you think?
Mr Clayton: I think we are confusing two things, again, here. I was talking about a quality partnership, but a quality contract (the suggestion in the scheme) were it to be necessary (and I think our view is we would hope it never would be; we hope it would be a matter ---
Q155 Mr. David Clelland: We are dealing with the Bill, and quality contracts are part of the Bill.
Mr Clayton: Yes, but quality contracts are a part of statute already under the Transport Act 2000. We are not arguing whether they should or should not be there; they are already a matter of fact. The specific question about "Is 10 years the right length?" - it could be, yes.
Q156 Mr. David Clelland: The provisions to extend for a second 10-year period - do you think they come with an adequate scrutiny process?
Mr Warneford: Can I answer that one by saying that I actually think if you have a network quality contract for 10 years it is inevitable that it will be extended because there will be nobody else to bid for it. There will be no competition left in the market.
Q157 Mr. David Clelland: The question was: do you think there would be adequate scrutiny of the process, in your view?
Mr Warneford: Simply to extend it?
Q158 Mr. David Clelland: Yes.
Mr Warneford: No, it is like a lifetime monopoly. I guess my answer is no.
Q232 Mr. David Clelland: If Passenger Transport Authorities are made up of elected councillors is there a real need for a new statutory users' group? They represent people, they have been elected.
Mr Fawcett: Yes, and they do have their own statutory user groups but they are just responsible for a small area so that the passenger making a National Express trip, for example, from London to Manchester would not have recourse to that. A passenger making a cross-boundary trip would have difficulty with the different arrangements in different PTA areas. A national body, even if it was divided into regions, would be a much better solution.
Q233 Mr. David Clelland: Do you think the governance framework proposed in the Bill strikes the right balance between flexibility and mechanisms that ensure that the work gets done as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Mr Fawcett: Yes, I think that is a really good new duty of Public Transport Authorities, the new efficiency and effectiveness and economic delivery. It is much easier for them to meet the present duties which are to meet the requirements of the area.
Q234 Mr. David Clelland: You welcome the power to create new PTAs?
Mr Fawcett: We do, but we have one reservation and that is that the new PTAs in the Bill would have to cover a local transport authority's whole area, so we were thinking on the train coming down what would happen if East Lancashire decided to have a PTE, you would have Blackburn, Burnley, Preston and Blackpool all in this PTE but because two of those are not unitary authorities, they belong to Lancashire County Council, that PTE would have to include Lancashire, so the PTE would have in it Heysham and Ormskirk which is not really part of the city region. We are a bit doubtful about the idea of having the whole of the local transport authority area within the PTE, we would rather see the PTE boundaries on the journey to work area or the economic footprint, if you like.
Q235 Mr. David Clelland: Based on what you have said, do you think it would be helpful if parts of a county council bordering a metropolitan area could be included in the PTA area?
Mr Moorhouse: Yes, I think so. PTEs have a lot of advantages: cheap fares, subsidised travel for concessionaires and that kind of thing. Those are the kinds of things that would benefit more rural areas obviously but, having said that, there is the whole question of how is that to be funded because if you are going to create more PTAs and bring about more subsidised fares that money has to be found from somewhere and that has got to be borne in mind.
Q236 Mr. David Clelland: Do you welcome the creation of Integrated Transport Strategies and Implementation Plans at PTA level?
Mr Fawcett: We certainly do. It is the first time the word "integration" has been used, I think, since John Prescott's White Paper in 1997 and it is long overdue. The other slight reservation we have got is that the whole thing is very urban-centric. It is hard enough to establish a quality contract in an urban area but it would be very, very difficult to establish it in somewhere like Cumbria, and yet these are the areas where buses are so infrequent that the loss of one bus would be an absolute disaster whereas where I live the loss of a ten minute service is inconvenient but you can catch the next bus.
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
The full session may be read at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtran/uc692-i/uc69202.htm
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