Commons Gate

The draft Local Transport Bill (HC 692-iv)

Transport Committee 11 Jul 2007

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Evidence given by: 2.45 p.m. Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director for Policy, Research and Studies, Andrew Walford, Service Head for Environment, The Audit Commission; 3.15 p.m. Philip Brown, Senior Traffic Commissioner and South Eastern and Metropolitan traffic area, Tom Macartney, North Eastern traffic area and Beverley Bell, North Western traffic area, Traffic Commissioners.

Q653 Mr. Eric Martlew: I have been a Member for 20 years. I rarely have contact with traffic commissioners. The last one I had was very bizarre, with a traffic commissioner - not in the north west - who was threatening a large number of haulage jobs in my constituency. When I checked with everybody else they all said, "This traffic commissioner is a bit bizarre" so sometimes independence may not be all it is cracked up to be.

Mrs Bell: Independence with accountability.

Mr. Eric Martlew: It seems that nobody could do very much about this particular traffic commissioner.

Chairman: I am sure this was an exception.

Q654 Mr. Eric Martlew: I am sure it was. You can probably guess who it is but that is something else. The situation with regard to shire counties and the Bill is not so much your role. A lot of the shire counties like mine in Carlisle for example will have a monopoly. What effect will this Bill have on the services in those areas and how can you get involved?

Mrs Bell: It is a difficult question. As regulators we try to engage with those shire counties just as much as we try to engage with the PTEs and the PTAs. There is always a "but". It seems to me that when we are trying to regulate - I am not speaking for my colleagues here - we are reliant on a local authority such as a shire county coming to us and saying, "There is a problem here. Please will you act?" As regulators I would like to be able to act before you have to come to us and say there is a problem. I would like to be more pre-emptive.

Q655 Mr. Eric Martlew: Does Cumbria often come to you and say this?

Mrs Bell: I think we have regular meetings.

Q656 Mr. Eric Martlew: Do they come to you and say, "We have a problem"?

Mrs Bell: They will come to us and say, "We have a problem" or, if we are told about a problem, we will go to them. In Preston at the moment there is a problem. It is in the press and all over the newspapers. My office is regularly liaising with the local authority, Lancashire County Council, and that is done both formally and informally.

Q657 Chairman: I have come to you with individual problems so it is not that unusual for people to raise problems of bus companies.

Mrs Bell: It certainly happens, and the public do as well.

Q658 Mr. Eric Martlew: Will the Bill make any difference to how the bus services will run in the shire counties, in your opinion?

Mrs Bell: Not a huge difference, I do not think.

Mr Brown: That is down to politics, to be honest. You will remember I spoke last year about how we upset a load of local politicians by suggesting we take the politics out of it and it would be absolutely fine. If we all had the same transport policy it would be fantastic because none of them would get voted out on that issue.

Q659 Mr. Eric Martlew: Does the Bill give any powers that will make any difference?

Mr Brown: No, probably, because there are other issues. Not by itself.

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