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Bus Services (Hartlepool)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 4 May 2011

The Petition of residents of the borough of Hartlepool,

Declares that the petitioners are concerned that residents in areas of the borough such as The Headland and Burbank, as well as villagers in Dalton Piercy, Elwick and Greatham, have been left isolated and without transport following the decision of Hartlepool Borough council to cut public subsidy to private bus companies.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to work with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, residents of the borough, Hartlepool Borough Council and bus operators immediately to reinstate the services and then to secure a financial settlement and a regulatory framework which provides a comprehensive, reliable and cheap system of bus transport in Hartlepool, designed to address the social and economic needs of passengers in both the urban and rural areas of the borough, rather than the narrow interests of private bus companies.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Iain Wright, Official Report, 28 March 2011; Vol. 526, c. 142 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

The Government continue to provide significant funds for local bus services, in Hartlepool and elsewhere: through bus subsidy for operators and via the national concessionary travel entitlement, which was protected in the Budget.

However, it is not the role of central Government to determine which non-commercial bus services should be supported by local transport authorities. These are decisions which must be made locally, in consultation with the public.

I recognise that local councils are making difficult decisions in the light of reductions in revenue support from central Government, but they have almost total discretion about which services to value when budgeting for the future. Certain councils, such as East Riding of Yorkshire Council, have taken the decision to protect bus services and to make efficiencies elsewhere instead.

In rural areas, community transport can play a valuable role in preventing isolation. I therefore strongly encourage local councils to work in partnership with operators and local communities to examine how more flexible services might be provided. To facilitate this, my Department recently announced a £10 million fund for community transport in rural areas. Hartlepool Borough Council received a share of this fund, as well as six days of consultancy resource from the Community Transport Association.

With regard to the regulatory framework, the Government are waiting for the outcome of the current Competition Commission inquiry into the local bus market before making any decision of the future of bus services in England outside London. In the meantime, the Government encourage local transport authorities and commercial bus operators to work together to ensure that bus services meet the expectations of the travelling public.