Motion to Approve
My Lords, these draft regulations are being made to provide new legislation to require the operators of local bus services across England outside London, including cross-border services, to openly publish data electronically about their services, including timetables, fares and location data.
For the benefit of noble Lords who may not be aware, open data is data that is published electronically, standardised, publicly discoverable and can be used by those who wish to do so without restrictions on its use and disclosure. Open data has transformed other sectors; for example, rail, where open data is feeding into customer-facing apps such as Trainline and National Rail Enquiries, and is simplifying journey planning and ticket purchase.
Bus open data will allow app developers to create applications, products and services for passengers so that they can plan journeys, find best-value tickets and receive real-time service updates. This is absolutely essential if we are to encourage the travelling public to use their local bus services and make the switch to public transport, which is vital to reducing congestion and improving air quality.
Since 2007, Transport for London—TfL—has made all its bus and transport network data freely available through the London Datastore. Currently more than half—51%—of all bus journeys are in London, with the remaining 49% across the rest of the country. A 2017 study by Deloitte exploring the value of TfL’s data found that open data was being used by 8,200 application developers to power 600 apps used by 42% of Londoners. This includes apps such as Citymapper and Bus Times London, which together were found to be delivering economic benefits of between £90 million and £130 million a year. These benefits came from travel time savings, additional journeys taken, reduced congestion and business innovation. Transport for West Midlands has also invested heavily to improve its public transport data in recent years. It has provided a single source for apps and journey planners across the region and is one of the few areas to report year-on-year growth of 7.8 million bus journeys, against a backdrop of continuing decline in bus passenger journeys elsewhere.
The statistics show that we can change how buses are perceived and attract new customers. This will be particularly important as we continue to recover and rebuild our services after lockdown. We will need to get people back on the buses when it is safe to do so, and if people feel that buses are not for them, we need to change that perception. As franchising is not yet in place in any local transport authority in England, except London, we believe that it is a vital part of the levelling-up agenda that we, as central government, regulate to require bus operators across England to openly publish data. We need to enable the provision of travel apps and services up and down the country.
These regulations will mean that any operator of a local bus service in England must publish its timetable, fares and location data to the bus open data service—which I will call BODS—before the service comes into operation and that changes to the data must be provided as updates. Data must be provided using legally mandated data standards and within set time periods. The consequences of not providing the data from the commercial perspective of the bus operator is lost revenue, and for passengers, it can be the difference between waiting at a bus stop for two minutes or 20 minutes. These new rules will be enforced by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency—DVSA—which will conduct checks of the bus open data service to ensure that any operator of a registered local bus service has published the required datasets.
I turn to the content of the SI. Where a local bus service is being operated in England an operator will be legally required to make freely available information about that service, including timetables, fares and location data, to comply with the Public Service Vehicles (Open Data) (England) Regulations 2020. Punctuality data will also be legally required, and local transport authorities will be legally responsible for maintaining data about bus stops and stations. It will be a civil offence for any operator of a service to be in breach of the requirements in the regulations.
The regulations will be commenced in a phased manner, with timetables and stop data requirements being enforceable from 31 December 2020, basic fares and location data from 7 January 2021, and complex fares from 7 January 2023. Breaches of the requirements by operators can be enforced under existing provisions in Section 155(1)(c) of the Transport Act 2000.
This draft instrument ensures that those operators which breach the new requirements may face financial penalties or the removal of their licence. Operators in England may face a fine of up to £550, and this sum can be multiplied by the number of vehicles operating under all the different licences held by that operator.
The policy area of public service vehicles open data is devolved with respect to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland and Wales are currently preparing equivalent legislation.
In summary, these regulations are essential to ensure that operators of local bus services across England are compelled to make freely available information to help passengers plan their journeys. The new bus open data requirements can be enforced for local bus services across England from 31 December this year. These rules are at the heart of improving the public transport experience, digitally transforming the bus sector, and the levelling-up agenda. I am sure that noble Lords share my desire to ensure that they can be fully enforced as soon as possible. I commend these draft regulations to the House and I beg to move.
My Lords, I believe that what the Minister has said will broadly be welcomed by the bus industry. There is one question. The responsibility for making the information available should rest with the operator, and I believe there is some confusion about whether local transport authorities should be responsible. I think that responsibility for the registration of the route and the details should lie with the traffic commissioner.
I take this opportunity to remind the Minister that bus use outside London is still very low and much encouragement needs to be given to people to get back on the buses. In some places there are applications to expand city-centre car parking to cater for the extra cars on the road. It would be a pity if the message sent out is that you should not use the bus. It should be “Please use the bus”, because many operators—I can instance three—have got apps that tell you which journeys carry spare seats if you wish to use the bus.
The Government are to be congratulated on these regulations. As the Minister said, they open the possibility of people creating comprehensive apps to enable bus travel to become as plannable and easy as train travel is currently. This will be a considerable advance as we look towards a multimodal, well-integrated, low-carbon transport future.
I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could enlarge a bit on how these regulations will apply to demand-led bus systems—those designed to meet patchy demand, going to places only when they are required to, having variable routes to meet demand—as are being developed by TfL in some places on the outskirts of London, and contemplated in other places. For locations such as Eastbourne, where I live, where there are diffuse, tortuous estates of nice houses with lots of gardens around them, full of old people, it is really difficult to maintain an economical bus system on the standard model of a timetable and fixed stops. Something much more flexible is needed, and I very much hope that these regulations will not impede that.
I hope that the regulations will also not impede the use of frequency-based services, where you have services based on timetables, to which the operators tend to be held and penalised if they do not keep to them. But if you want to encourage multimodal transport, and therefore to be able to drop a bicycle or a mobility scooter on to the back of a bus when needed, you need something where the operator is held to frequency and not to timetable, and I hope that that will fit within these regulations.
I also very much hope that my noble friend will allow me to quote her when I write to Nick Gibb, saying that if the Government are heading in this direction it is high time that we look at schools admissions information and enable open data for that in the way that we have done here.
My Lords, I welcome these regulations. I want to say a few words about apps.
I first came across the multimodal transport app Moovit a few years ago when visiting the Rhine-Ruhr area of Germany. I was amazed that it could predict quite a complicated journey involving a bus, a train and a tram, timed down to the nearest minute. I do not know Citymapper so well. Pre-Covid, going up to London by train, most people would be checking the train company’s own app. Ultimately, one would want to use a single app that covers the whole of the UK, rural areas included, and abroad as well. Certainly, this would be true for tourists.
Of course, these apps are only as good as the detail and accuracy of the information fed to them, although presentation, including the map used, is clearly important. My questions to the Minister are as follows. Will these data for buses, including GPS data, be supplied alongside all other public transport data in a freely available format appropriate for use by any multimodal transport app? What recourse does an app user have if information is found to be deficient, particularly in regard to rectifying data? If equivalent legislation is happening in Scotland and Wales, can the Minister assure us that the data supplied will be easily connectible between countries? The question ultimately begged is: how much of an integrated national transport network exists that will then make sense for passengers?
These apps strongly emphasise the network aspect of our transportation system; in other words, this is about not just a national bus strategy but a whole public transport network, of which buses and coaches are a significant part. What is particularly interesting about these apps is that they do not recognise a hierarchy of modes of transport. Everything is equal. The question is just how you get from A to B, although the user might take other factors into account. Where the network is weak, that will weaken the network as a whole, such as it exists.
Last year’s report by the Campaign for Better Transport found that 3,000 bus routes had been lost or been significantly reduced in the past 10 years, which is bad news if we are fighting to protect the environment as well as combat social isolation in rural areas. Due to the Government’s austerity measures, local authority funding of bus services has fallen by 40%, while central government funding over the same period has reduced by 19%. This is relevant to the regulations because, without services, there will be no data.
Therefore, I ask the Government not just whether they will reverse these cuts—on top of the financial aid necessary to maintain services during the Covid crisis—but whether they will use these data, or encourage local authorities to do so, to help identify holes and unreliability in the network, in particular with regard to town-centre congestion, which bus companies, whose drivers have been doing such an important and dangerous job in recent months, have limited control over in terms of scheduling.
A happy moment is when I can say that the Government are moving in the right direction towards a cleaner, greener and much healthier future. It is true that Transport for London has led the way on a lot of this innovation. It has been able to make travelling in London much easier, and during this period of coronavirus it is again moving forward on that front in London.
We definitely want people to use public transport more, and we want to reduce car use, simply because it clogs up our towns and city centres. Therefore, this is a very good move. It is a little late, coming many years after Transport for London did it, but at least it is happening. However, I have two questions for the Minister.
First, when will the Government insist that bus crash data is also part of the information that potential passengers can look up? In places where this is freely and readily available—not just by digging into the STATS19 of police forces and so on—and people can see on which bus routes and with which bus companies there are regular crashes, brake failures or even driver failures, they can make decisions, and the companies become safer, because they become aware of the problem.
Secondly, going cash-free is another big move that has made Transport for London bus services much more regular and reliable. Therefore, I am curious about when the Government will help the rest of the country become cashless, as it would help people to make greater use of public transport. In these days of coronavirus, we have become used to not using cash, so this would be a sensible next step.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on introducing these regulations, which I warmly welcome in principle. My questions concern how they will work in practice—in particular, in rural areas. My information is that 51% of all bus journeys take place in London, where, as my noble friend said, you might have to wait between two and 20 minutes for a bus. In rural areas, you might have to wait two hours, which is unacceptable. Is one reason for the need for the regulations that currently fewer than 50% of the 87 local authorities in England provide real-time information for the bus system and there is no national database for fares information?
Will the Minister also respond to my concern that most passengers who use rural buses are on concessionary fares? Concessionary fares are most welcome but, when they were rolled out from a local/regional system to a national system, this left many local authorities, including North Yorkshire and others, cash-strapped as they had more people willing to use the service from outside than were contributing to it in the area.
The Transport Secretary is custodian of this digital service. Can the Minister explain the implications of that and where this service will be publicly available? Does one have to use the app? I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, that Movia, in Copenhagen, works very well indeed and provides information on not just buses but train connections. If, for example, you are connecting through York to the outlying villages, it is extremely important to know if your train is delayed as that might impact on the time the bus leaves.
Although I welcome the emphasis on buses, I think it realistic to say that the Government’s announcement on e-scooters will not bring any benefits to North Yorkshire. What are the cost implications for bus operators? Will there be any implications for local authorities, which are extremely cash-strapped, with very few staffing or financial reserves at the moment? Can the Minister put my mind at rest that these regulations will work as well in rural areas, where buses are few and far between, as they are currently deemed to do in urban areas such as London?
My Lords, I welcome these regulations and congratulate my noble friend the Minister on the clear and comprehensive manner in which she introduced them.
I salute all our frontline workers who have kept the bus fleet moving during the Covid crisis, putting themselves in harm’s way; we owe them all an enduring debt of thanks. I also send sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives while working to ensure that other key workers could get to work to look after those of us who have fallen sick as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I very much welcome these regulations. The provision of clear, coherent, consistent real-time data will not only drive passengers on to the buses in a really positive way; as other noble Lords have commented, it could bring tech and innovation into this sector. When this service was introduced in London, for example, it added some 14,000,700 jobs to the local economy. Anyone who has been on a London bus will realise the benefits of this service, and of audio-visual announcements on buses. I commend all the drivers on my local 65 bus route—for those who are interested, it runs from Ealing to Kingston very regularly.
I wrote to my noble friend the Minister last year with a question—WQ 15588—about the provision of accessibility data within this system. She said that it was not possible to include such data at that stage of the rollout. Does she think that, a year later, the time is now right to do so? Providing that information would enable those who may otherwise be uncertain about using, or unable to use, the buses to do so. There is a potential market to consider, as well as the obvious question of inclusion. It could also increase innovation in the form of apps and technology solutions to support, enable and empower disabled people.
Finally, on a separate but allied note, can the Minister tell us what is happening at Bank Junction in the City of London, where currently, only buses are allowed through? This is appropriate to a certain extent, but will she look into enabling London-licensed black taxis to go through the junction? They have never been involved in a crash. For some people, particularly those with accessibility needs, a black taxi is not a luxury but a necessity to get to appointments in that part of the City.
My Lords, I join my noble friend Lord Holmes in paying tribute to those unsung heroes: the bus drivers, taxi drivers, lorry drivers and shelf-fillers who have kept the country going during Covid-19.
I totally support these regulations—they seem like a jolly good idea, creating a sort of Trainline.com for buses. My interest today is in what the Government will do with the information they collect. It seems that they will put all the information on a website, but will they develop any apps for users? According to my understanding of the regulations, anyone else can take that information and invent an app, so long as they credit the Government as the source of the data. Is that correct? Are there any circumstances in which the department might wish to develop its own app, albeit that that seems a risky policy these days? When does my noble friend the Minister expect the Government’s website service to start? Will the Government wait until they have every bit of information from every operator, or will they kick off when they have, say, 50%?
One can buy train tickets from the train company or from Trainline. Would there be any bar to an app provider selling bus tickets? With regard to the Secretary of State’s liability, I know that the app developer has to state that he accepts that the Secretary of State cannot guarantee the integrity and quality of the information, but will that hold up in court? We know that lawyers are now piling in by their thousands to sue over Covid-19, and to sue for any excuse. Could an app developer sue by alleging that the department was, say, too slow in putting timetable changes on to the website? Suppose an app provider breaches some of the conditions in Clause 16: what can the department do to stop him or strike down his app? I cannot see any provisions for that.
The review period is every five years. I suggest that the first review should be after two years, with subsequent reviews at five-yearly intervals.
Finally, I have a couple of asides, prompted by what the Minister has said. She said that missing a bus may result in a delay of 20 minutes, or two hours in Yorkshire. Up here in Cumbria, if you miss the bus you wait another seven days until the next one comes along. I am not surprised that 51% of UK buses are in London. Every day when I was in London, I would see hundreds of empty, diesel-polluting buses clogging the streets. The boast that there is a London bus every 12 minutes reminds us just how mollycoddled Londoners are and how much the rest of the country needs to be levelled up. That said, from what I saw of the carnage in Paris the last time I was there, I suppose that diesel buses will kill fewer people than the e-scooters when they start this weekend.
My Lords, the Bus Services Act 2017 gave the Government powers to require operators and transport authorities throughout England and outside London to publish, free of charge, a comprehensive set of data including fares, timetables, bus-stop location and real-time data on bus location, hence allowing expected arrival time. For some mystifying reason, some operators seem to believe that this sort of information is commercially confidential. So, these regulations are greatly to be welcomed.
If you travel by train, you take this type of information for granted. As the Minister pointed out, if you travel in London, you take the availability of this kind of bus information via an app for granted. It is regarded as an essential part of the efficient use of public transport in the capital city. Yet, most of England lags badly behind. This is yet another example of the major damage done to bus services by deregulation in 1985. To put that into perspective, that legislation was passed when I was a very young councillor on my first council committee. It is therefore in great need of modernisation. Deregulation opened up a gulf between the quality of bus services in London and the rest of the country, and the decline of bus services almost everywhere else has had major social and environmental implications.
I hope that the regulations may start to address these problems because passenger surveys consistently show that a lack of information is a substantial barrier to getting new customers on the buses. The Explanatory Memorandum reveals the extent of the problem. Despite the bus industry and local authorities having had three years’ notice that they would be required to provide this information, only 40 out of 87 local authorities currently do so. The EM refers even now to a “phased implementation”. The Minister gave us some dates. Are those dates are set in stone? Does she regard them as being soon enough? Can she foresee anything that that might delay further the introduction of these regulations? I am getting pretty impatient for progress, and that is what we need as a result of the regulations.
The 2017 Act was very modest and in many ways it was a missed opportunity, but, as I said, we are now three years on, and it is two years since the DfT’s own consultation on the detailed requirements for this data finished. The Explanatory Memorandum’s reference number suggests that that was written in 2018 as well. Where has it been all this time? Is it yet another casualty of the long Brexit saga? Unfortunately, it has finally made its way here at a very difficult time for expanding bus usage. I spent some time in the last 48 hours using public transport in London, and it was obvious to me that things cannot carry on like this for very long. It is important that everything possible is done to get people back on to the buses and tubes as soon as it is safe to do so.
Paragraph 13.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to user research that was due to conclude this spring. Can the Minister confirm that that actually happened and was not interrupted by the pandemic?
Given the disparate nature of the bus industry and the financial plight of local authorities, I am glad to see that the Government have decided to bear some of the costs of processing this data. I also welcome the additional assistance to small operators, which tend to serve rural areas, where information on when the next bus is due is crucial. Various noble Lords have given an estimate of how long you wait in rural areas. I am aware that in many cases you can wait until the next day if you miss the bus, and sometimes you can wait until the next summer season.
I have a couple of other questions. The regulations apply to England only, but bus services go across the Wales-England border. Were there any discussions with the Senedd or the Welsh Government about the provision of information?
This could be a small revolution but only if potential bus users know how easy it will be to find information on their local bus services. Existing passengers will find out pretty quickly because bus companies will tell them about apps and further information, but buses need new passengers. What resources do the Government intend to put into raising public awareness of these regulations?
I thank the Minister for her explanation of the content and purpose of this draft order. I add my support to the words of the noble Lords, Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Blencathra, about the important role and work of staff in the bus industry, particularly during Covid-19.
As the Minister said, the Bus Services Act 2017 amended the Transport Act 2000 to provide for the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring bus operators and local transport authorities to make data available regarding timetables, fares, stopping places, vehicle location and the time at which buses arrive or are expected to arrive. Information on historic punctuality data is also included. These regulations now make that provision, to allow for the development of bus information applications for use on mobile and other devices to help passengers in England to make informed decisions about their journeys, although I suppose that in the current situation it is a moot point whether it is less a case of passengers wanting to find out where the buses are than the buses wanting to find out where the passengers are.
The objective of the regulations is to be achieved by requiring operators of local bus services, and local authorities outside Greater London, to make their bus data available, including on timetables, fares and location, through the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will in turn publish it on a website for developers of bus information apps to access so that they can create applications, products and services for passengers’ mobile and other devices. As has been said, that already happens in Greater London for buses, and across the rail industry, enabling passengers to plan journeys, find the cheapest fares and obtain real-time service updates and information.
The Minister has already answered in her opening contribution some of the questions that I was going to ask so I will try to avoid repeating them, at least in some cases. She said that the order was essential to encourage the travelling public to use their local bus services and to make the switch to public transport, in order to reduce congestion and improve air quality. I know the Minister will acknowledge that more than the provisions of this order will be needed to get people back on to buses. So, in addition to this order, do the Government intend to provide bus operators and local authorities, including Transport for London, sufficient long-term assistance, particularly financial funding, to ensure that their income from running buses is maintained at at least at pre-Covid-19 levels until passengers return in sufficient numbers to achieve this objective without financial support? If that is not the Government’s intention, the anticipated and hoped-for favourable impact of this order on buses, which we support, will be somewhat diminished.
Under the order, any operator of a local bus service across England must publish its timetable, fares and location data for the bus open data service before that service comes into operation. The new rules will be enforced by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, which will be able to conduct checks to ensure that the operator is complying. How will those checks be conducted and what form will they take? Will that require additional resources for the DVSA?
Punctuality data will also be legally required, and local transport authorities will be legally responsible for maintaining data about bus stops and stations. As has been said, the regulations will be brought in in phases: timetables and stop data requirements from the end of this year; basic fares and location data from early January; and complex fares from January 2023. Why is such a timescale deemed necessary in respect of complex fares? What is the definition of a complex fare? As far as the two much earlier deadlines are concerned, are the Government satisfied that these much shorter timescales can still be delivered in light of the disruption resulting from Covid-19?
The order does not appear to cover the provision at bus stops, as opposed to via mobile devices, of information for waiting passengers on when the next bus or next few buses will actually be arriving, on which routes and to what destinations. Is that the case? If so, what is the reason for that? Such information, where already available at bus stops, can be very useful for passengers who may not have any other means of finding out how long they will have to wait for their bus to arrive.
What growth in bus use are the provisions of this order expected to generate? Paragraph 12.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to it being “assumed” that this will
“lead to increased bus patronage.”
There is also a reference, I think in the same paragraph, to greater profits for bus operators of £0.8 million to £5 million per year. What percentage increase in profits does that represent? Would it also mean a reduction in the level of subsidy that local authorities pay to operators for running local authority-subsidised services?
As I have indicated, we support the provision of more comprehensive information, including real-time information, about bus services to passengers. We hope that the order achieves its stated objectives.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s short debate for their generally warm welcome for these regulations, and for the bus open data service as a whole. I will respond to as many points as I possibly can in the allotted time, but I will of course write on the points which—[Connection lost.]
My Lords, my sincere apologies to the House for my poor internet—and I am in London.
As I was saying, these regulations have been subject to extensive consultation with the industry and local authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, noted that they are broadly welcomed by the industry, which I believe recognises the important consequences of these regulations. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, noted that there has been a formal consultation on these proposals. The Government published their response in January 2019, and it was decided that 2020 would be the transitional year for operators to start publishing their timetable data, and for the bus open data service to come into its own. It was therefore launched in beta on 28 January this year, so we have already seen companies getting involved and publishing their data, and that is a very good sign.
However, to meet the requirements of the regulations, operators need access to appropriate software to generate the data files and to create digital and data capabilities within their organisations. We realise that that can be a challenge, but bus operators have had many years to think about this, budget for it and upskill their workforce. The costs of doing this will vary by operator: some operators do much of it already and use it with their own apps.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, asked why we have not done this earlier. One of the reasons why this has taken a little while to come in is the small operators. The bus sector is hugely diverse, from the very largest operators to the smallest, and it is the small operators that need the most support. We have been helping the sector make its way through these proposals and are focusing our support on the small operators. For example, the team within the department has created a timetable data creation tool, which allows these operators to submit their data in a standardised and easy fashion—we have done exactly the same for fares as well. We have also offered to host data for the small bus operators if they cannot host it themselves.
Given the potential impact of coronavirus on the bus industry, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, it is the case that we may need to give certain operators breathing space if absolutely necessary, and if there are mitigating reasons, as we move towards the deadlines in the regulations. We will work with the traffic commissioners to adopt a lenient approach, and of course we will work with the bus operators to ensure that they can make progress as quickly as possible.
My noble friend Lord Blencathra asked whether the review of the regulations should be after two years instead of five. I do not think that two years would provide the sufficient timeframe to evaluate the impact of these regulations, particularly the benefits and outcomes that we anticipate. The post-implementation review, which may happen every five years, is often started after three to four years, as these things can take quite a long time to deliver and report on.
We expect to see an uplift in bus usage as a result of these regulations, based on our experience with TfL and with Transport for West Midlands. This might mean that existing services become more sustainable and would therefore need less support from the local authority. That local authority would then be able to direct its own resources on to other routes that are perhaps particularly vulnerable. It could lead to a shift in resources, which would be a good thing.
We have had lots of round-table meetings with app developers all the way through developing these proposals, to make sure that they are happy with what is happening. Given that some data has already been published, some app developers are already accessing it and putting it to good use. I reassure my noble friend Lord Blencathra that it is not the intention of the Government to get involved in transport app development at the current time. But what we will do—I think this is only fair—is require developers to acknowledge on their app that the information has been taken from the bus open data internet site. My noble friend also asked what would happen if an app developer breaches the conditions of use for the data. If they do that, the Secretary of State can switch off the app provider’s API key and restrict access to their account or close it down completely. They would then not be able to access the data at all, which is clearly quite a significant sanction.
With regard to any liability on the Secretary of State and a potential challenge in court as to the accuracy of the data and so on, the Secretary of State has made the information available and the data consumer —the app developer—has chosen to use it in accordance with the restrictions in Regulation 16. There is no contractual relationship between the Secretary of State and the app developer, therefore there is no liability created to the state.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, noted the provision of real-time data at bus stops. I agree with him that it can be really useful for people to see when their next bus is coming. This falls under the remit of local transport authorities, and although the data on BODS—the bus open data service—would support its widespread rollout, the issue is that the purchase and maintenance of screens can be prohibitively expensive, particularly at less frequently used bus stops. We will look into this further; it may well be that screens become cheaper over time and easier to maintain. It is something that we believe would benefit passengers.
I was very interested in the broader issues raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and I will write with my reflections on them. App developers are already very good at taking data from lots of different datasets, collating it and then publishing it. We are in conversations with the devolved nations—Scotland and Wales—to ensure that we have equivalent data standards and that the data will be interoperable.
As apps develop further and become more mobile as a service, a more high-quality solution could allow the integration of different transport modes, so that passengers can plan an entire journey and eventually make a payment for a single journey across all different modes, if they can get agreement with the travel operators. I hope that we will move in that direction. This regulation will enable that, but in many cases we are not quite there yet; I hope we will be in the future.
One of the issues is the difference between complex and simple fares. At the moment, bus operators have no obligation to provide information about fares, except at the point of boarding. Even publishing the simplest fares will be a step forward. Bus fares can be hugely complicated. They can vary depending on the route taken, the duration of the journey, the type and number of passengers, whether a discount or a cap is applied and all sorts of other things. Therefore, establishing a digital standard for these complex fares will take some time, and that is why we have given ourselves the deadline of very early 2023 to establish it.
Rural areas are very important, as noted by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, and of course they do not have the sort of services that we have in London. The bus open data service will help passengers enormously in rural areas, because they will have real-time information. It is about giving rural communities the access to the same information as passengers in London. They will know if their bus is delayed, whether it is yet to turn up and how long they will have to wait at the bus stop, and they will be able to check that without even leaving home. For rural app development, we have made sure that the data is available in very developer-friendly formats, GTFS and GTFSRT—real-time—because we hope this will mean that the maximum number of app developers can come in and develop solutions for rural as well as urban areas.
My noble friend Lord Lucas mentioned demand-responsive systems, which are incredibly important. Flexible services are within the scope of the legislation, and hail and ride sections on fixed routes can already be represented and published. For demand-responsive transport, we will need a different dataset, which will require further development, but it is our intention to release this functionality in due course.
I am well aware of the commitment on information on accessibility mentioned by my noble friend Lord Holmes, and I would like to reassure him that we are considering how to provide accessibility data for vehicles and bus stops. The bus open data service has been designed to allow operators to provide some accessibility data, particularly about vehicles, and we will be encouraging operators to provide this information to the service. The information will also be very good for talking buses—accessible information on buses.
If I may take just a few more seconds, on enforcement, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the DVSA and what it will be doing. It will be checking that the data on the system matches what is happening on the ground, to make sure that practical provision is being matched with the data provided. Any resources needed will be scooped up as part of the annual work-planning process, but we will continue to monitor resource levels as these regulations come into force.
This Government are hugely supportive of the bus industry. Currently, we are supporting the majority of bus services in this country directly from government funding, because we recognise the important contribution they make. We also recognise that we will have to look at some sort of medium-term financial—and other—solution to bring the bus industry out of this current phase, back into recovery and out the other end.
We have committed £3 billion to the sector. We are working on how best we can invest that, both in zero-carbon solutions and supporting services across the country. Allied to that will be the national bus strategy, which will also discuss many of the issues outlined by noble Lords today, including demand-responsive transport, rural services, integration with other transport modes and all of that. Finally, we will be working with the industry on a very robust communications strategy. I share your Lordships’ concern that we will not get people back on buses. We have to get people back on buses, and we are committed to working on that. I commend the regulations to the House.