Commons Gate

The draft Local Transport Bill (HC 692-iii)

Transport Committee 27 Jun 2007

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Evidence given by; 2.45-3.45 p.m. West Midlands Metropolitan Authorities; Martin Yardley, Chairman, West Midlands Chief Engineers and Planning Officers Group (CEPOG); Trevor Errington, Leader, CEPOG; Local Government Association (LGA); Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council; Cllr Shona Johnstone, Cambridgeshire County Council; Cllr Sylvia Dunkley, Sheffield City Council; Cllr Malcolm Blanksby, Wycombe District Council; 3.45-4.45 p.m. Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers (ATCO); Bob Saxby, Chairman; Alan Hill, Chairman, ATCO National Bus Sub-Committee; Local Government Technical Advisors Group (TAG); Jon Freer, Chairman of the TAG Transportation Committee; Peter Morley; County Surveyors Society (CSS); Colin McKenna, Head of Highways & Transport, West Sussex County Council; Andrew Stokes, Passenger Transport Manager, Warwickshire County Council; l4.45-5.15 p.m. Community Transport Association UK (CTA UK); Keith Halstead, Chief Executive; Brian Shawdale, Advice & Training Director; GoSkills; Peter Huntington, Chief Executive.

Stagecoach Bus in Carlisle
Stagecoach Bus in Carlisle
(Photo: Caroline Mathews)

Q445 Mr. Eric Martlew: Looking at this from a constituency level, I cannot get excited about this Bill.

Councillor Page: You cannot?

Q446 Mr. Eric Martlew: I cannot get excited and you know me well enough to realise that. The situation is that I have a county town in my area which has a monopoly operator which is Stagecoach, and there is no competition whatsoever, so what difference will this Bill make, other than make my local authority pay Stagecoach even more money than now?

Councillor Page: I would suggest that the Bill with some of the amendments we are pressing for will enable ---

Q447 Mr. Eric Martlew: Without the amendments it will not make any difference; is that what you are telling me?

Councillor Page: In your situation in Carlisle with a monopoly operator I think there is the potential for some change and improvement. As we said earlier, it is going in the right direction, but in terms of the ability to be able to deliver a step wise improvement, I think there are still some changes needed to the Bill.

Councillor Dunkley: In Sheffield we held a public consultation exercise on the issue of bus services and 12,000 people responded, and their main concerns were reliability of service, the standard of the public transport that they were using, and the cost of the fares. Within north Sheffield we have recently introduced the very first statutory quality partnership in the country, and although we can work with operators in terms of infrastructure and in terms of the quality of the buses they provide; in terms of the fares, the timetabling and the frequencies, we have no say, and those are the things that are really important to people. As members we are actually going to put ourselves on the firing line because at the moment if anything goes wrong we can sit there and say, "It is the buses' fault, it is nothing to do with us," (although people still think we run the buses) but we feel in order to provide the quality service that those people in Sheffield and everywhere else want that we need the ability to be able to do that.

Q448 Mr. Eric Martlew: Basically what you are saying is that this Bill will give that power?

Councillor Page: Yes.

Q449 Mr. Eric Martlew: I have used my constituency as an example but probably the majority of England is in a similar position in the size of area if not the population, and I do not believe this Bill will have a major effect, will it?

Councillor Johnstone: In terms of being able to deliver better-quality public transport I think there are things to offer, particularly around the quality partnerships. If it is a partnership then both sides bring something to the table and in return for the operators guaranteeing times, flexibility, reliability, punctuality, et cetera, then it is the duty of the local authority to be able to put those mechanisms in place which will enable the operators ---

Q450 Mr. Eric Martlew: The local authority will bring money to the table; is that what you are saying?

Councillor Johnstone: In terms of perhaps more bus priority measures which will allow the operators to meet their requirements, so both sides bring something to the table and that is where having a statutory partnership is helpful, and that is what Councillor Page was referring to in terms of those who are not part of that partnership should not be seen to benefit when both sides are bringing something to the table and a third party comes in which will potentially undercut ---

Mr Hollobone: Are good local authorities not doing that anyway without this legislation? In Northamptonshire bus growth has grown by something like 23% in the last four years and they do not need what is in this Bill.

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 transcript may be read at

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB