The Petition of Carol Tebbutt, members of Age Concern Canvey Island, the residents of Castle Point and others,
Declares that they object to the reduction in frequency of low-floor buses operating on the number 21 bus route between Southend and Canvey Island, operated by FirstGroup; that this reduction in the number of low-floor buses discriminates against passengers with greater accessibility needs, including the elderly, infirm, adults accompanying small children and those with limited mobility; further, that this route is used by residents travelling to and from Southend Hospital and requiring frequent, accessible, reliable and comfortable bus services; that for these and many other valid reasons only low-floor buses be operated by FirstGroup on this route and at greater frequency.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to press FirstGroup to operate only low-floor buses and at shorter intervals on the number 21 bus route between Southend and Canvey Island.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 30 March 2010; Vol. 508, c. 783.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:
The Government recognise that buses are, and will remain, the most important public transport option for most local journeys. Our overall aim is to drive up standards to provide a better quality service for those who already use buses and to make buses an attractive alternative for those who currently drive for short journeys.
Since deregulation of the bus industry in 1985, the majority of bus services outside London are provided on a commercial basis by private operators. Decisions such as where to run services, the frequency of those services, the type of vehicle used, and the level of fares charged are mainly a matter for the commercial judgment of the operator concerned. But it is of course in the commercial interest of bus operators to ensure that they provide a service that meets demand, and to ensure that the quality of their service is good. The Government recently introduced the Local Transport Act, which strengthens the powers to local authorities to work in partnership with bus operators and specify improvements to services on particular routes.
The Government want to make sure that everyone, especially those from disadvantaged groups and areas, can gain access to jobs, services and social networks. As part of this commitment all buses used on scheduled services with more than 22 seats will be required to be fully compliant with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 by 2016. The transition will take place over time and transport operators will inevitably use a mixed fleet of accessible and non-accessible vehicles. It is important that the regulations are affordable and sustainable. Following both informal and statutory consultation, which included a full Regulatory Impact Assessment, this date was considered to represent a reasonable compromise between the needs of disabled and other passengers, and the vehicle manufacturers and operators.
I will ensure the concerns raised about the use of low floor buses on this route are brought to the attention of the operator of this service.