The Bus Services Bill stands a good chance of clearing its last few hurdles to become law before parliament is dissolved, LGC understands.
It has been brought forward by a day to 25 April to enter ‘ping pong’ – the process by which amendments shuttle between the commons and lords – suggesting a deal may have been done between parties as often happens with relatively uncontentious bills that would otherwise lapse once parliament rises.
Under the bill, it would become easier for transport authorities to adopt a bus franchising system – similar to that used in London – where competition takes place between operators bidding for contracts to run services rather than between vehicles on the roads.
It would also introduce ‘enhanced partnerships’, which allow councils and operators to agree standards for local bus services including frequencies and joint ticketing.
The bus industry trade body the Confederation of Passenger Transport indicated it expected the bill to go through by agreement.
John Carr, chair of the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers’ performance executive, said some lords might still want to try to reinstate earlier amendments reversed by ministers in the commons but “this is unlikely to be a majority view and most lords will be keeping their powder dry for post-election battles”.
Mr Carr said transport secretary Chris Grayling was “not a fan of devolution of major powers”, but many Tories were likely to support franchising “out of frustration with poor performance by bus operators”, and other parties would back this.