Bus Services Bill on brink of becoming law

The Bus Services Bill — paving the way for changes in the operation of buses in parts of England — has completed its remaining stages in the House of Commons and was expected to receive the Royal Assent in April, passing into law as the enabling Bus Services Act.

All opposition amendments were defeated, thus reversing moves made in the House of Lords that would have made it possible to establish new arms length municipal bus companies or extend unilateral powers for franchising route networks beyond combined authorities with elected mayors.

One late amendment promoted by the Confederation of Passenger Transport has been accepted, with bus minister Andrew Jones agreeing that auditors appointed to assess a proposed franchise scheme must not have a commercial relationship with the franchising authority for at least five years.

Jones also said that Department for Transport guidance will stress that franchising can only be pursued where it is of benefit to passengers, that it is not done for ideological reasons and only after establishing that there is no realistic partnership proposition available as an alternative.

The CPT failed in a final attempt to amend the Bill to provide financial compensation for operators whose livelihood is lost through a move to franchising.