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Bus Companies

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

3. What steps he is taking to make bus companies more accountable to the communities they serve; and if he will make a statement. (83849)

We encourage bus companies to work in close partnership with local authorities and the communities that they serve. That can be done through voluntary agreements, quality partnerships or quality contracts.

I could give countless examples of how the bus deregulation policy introduced by the Tories is failing the people of Halifax. As part of any policy review, will the Minister consider re-introducing a system of regulation to ensure that buses are run in the interests of local people and not of the profit margins of cherry-picking bus operators?

Like many hon. Members, my hon. Friend is rightly concerned about bus services in her area. I assure her and the House that we intend to take a long hard look at the various issues over the coming months to identify the right framework to reverse declining bus patronage outside London. I emphasise that no decisions have been made. Our job is to find the right framework, because local circumstances dictate what works best.

Does the Minister agree that one of the reasons for declining bus patronage is that companies such as Yellow Buses in Wiltshire and Dorset are removing their services from the people they are meant to be serving, namely pensioners living in my constituency? Is it not time that we gave the traffic commissioners some teeth to deal with the haughty way in which these bus companies change routes without consultation?

In order to change a route or a timetable, a bus operator must give 56 days’ notice to the traffic commissioner and the local authority. There is a specific reason for that—namely, to give the local authority time to replace the bus service if necessary. Of course, local authorities are able to do that if it is the right decision for the local area.