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Railways: Bus Services

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of rail replacement bus services in each of the last 12 months. (253983)

[holding answer 3 February 2009]: Only one rail replacement bus service is funded by the Department for Transport. This is the service between Ealing Broadway and Wandsworth Road. Estimate of cost for this service since the start of operation in December 2008 is £1,410 in December 2008 and £1,880 in January 2009.

The rules for the route registration of local bus services have been amended. This has enabled the introduction of flexibly routed, demand-responsive bus services. We also extended to these services eligibility to receive bus service operators grant (BSOG) from the Department for Transport. BSOG eligibility has also been extended to include community transport operators, with over 1,000 operators, many in rural areas, now claiming BSOG.

The Local Transport Act 2008 includes a number of important steps to enable local authorities to secure better local bus services in rural and urban areas alike by means of:

more effective partnerships with bus operators;

making the introduction of quality contracts (i.e. franchising as in London) a more realistic option;

a new regime to deliver improved punctuality; and

measures to support development of the community transport sector and to extend to the private hire vehicle sector the ability to provide taxibuses.

The Department has implemented the community rail policy on many rural routes, particularly branch lines. This policy aims to bring together the efforts of the train operating company, Network Rail (NR), the local authority and also local communities to put local or rural services on a steady footing by working together to promote and support local rail operations, increase patronage and awareness of the service. In each individual case, the route is assessed and designated as a ‘community rail' route, supported by a community rail partnership.