West Yorkshire Combined Authority has resurrected plans to regulate bus services across all of its council areas.
The authority aims to develop a bus quality contract scheme, which would set out details of the regulation, with a view to completing consultation in early 2016. It estimates the cost of this to be £700,000.
A proposal for a quality contract scheme had been put on the back burner. Papers that went before WYCA’s transport committee on Friday said “resources allocated to work on a bus quality contract scheme had been reduced as a result of unfilled vacancies and competing demands”.
It said this was in part because of the abolition of the West Yorkshire passenger transport executive in April, the work on the £1bn transport fund as part of the Leeds city deal and a public inquiry into a “transport corridor” scheme. WYCA was also keeping a close eye on the North East Combined Authority, which recently moved a step closer to regulating bus services in Tyne and Wear, to see how its proposals progressed.
James Lewis (Lab), chair of WYCA’s transport committee, told LGC: “The legal advice we got last year was not to do anything until they [the North East Combined Authority] had finished.”
Committee papers also said a proposal for a partnership agreement between the WYCA and private bus operators had been dismissed in June because the combined authority did not believe the partnership met its requirements in terms of integrated ticketing and proportionate contributions. There were also concerns that proposals for new buses would not come to fruition.
Marking the decision to resurrect bus regulation plans, Cllr Lewis said: “The partnership offer was so short of our expectation that it’s clear to the bus operators which direction we are going [in] now.”
Previous work indicated a quality contract scheme would meet four of the five public interest tests, according to the committee papers, but there was a recognition that that work would need to be updated with further modelling and assessments.
The papers said: “It would be necessary to re-establish an adequately resourced project team, drawing on independent advice when necessary, should WYCA wish to progress a quality contract scheme to the formal consultation stage. The implementation of a scheme would require significant organisational change, with the need to acquire new skills and experience.”
Cllr Lewis said: “I think we will be using some of the resources in the organisation but when it comes to more of the legal and detailed work we will look at using external consultants.”
The news follows Labour’s commitment to let councils take control of bus services if the party won next year’s general election.
Picture taken by Callum Cape