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Bus Services

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the impact of section 10 of the Transport Act 2000 on the co-operation of bus operators on fare-setting and timetabling. (118643)

[holding answer 5 February 2007]: The competition test in schedule 10 to the Transport Act 2000 currently applies to the exercise of functions by local authorities in relation to quality partnership schemes and ticketing schemes made under that Act, and inviting and accepting tenders for bus services under the Transport Act 1985. This test is the yardstick for judging whether those functions are carried out with due regard to competition. It recognises that a balance may need to be struck between competition and other socially desirable objectives. The schedule 10 test does not currently apply to voluntary agreements and does not directly impact on the co-operation of bus operators with local authorities or with each other.

Bus operators are, like businesses generally, prohibited by chapter 1 of part 1 of the Competition Act 1998 from entering into mutual agreements which prevent, restrict or distort competition. There are various exceptions: in particular a block exemption Order permits the marketing of various types of multi-operator ticket at a mutually agreed price.

The policy document “Putting Passengers First” proposes a new legal test to facilitate voluntary arrangements between local authorities and more than one bus operator, based on the competition criteria in schedule 10. Detailed proposals are currently under discussion with the Office of Fair Trading.