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Bus subsidies are wasted say MPs

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BUS COMPANIES across Britain are wasting government subsidies because they have no incentive to improve performance, MPs and transport officials said this week.

They called for a London style regulation system under which passenger transport executives (PTEs) manage bus operators, plan routes, specify service levels and penalise poor performance.

In London, the mayor's Transport for London department also has the power to terminate contracts at any time.

Buses across the rest of the UK were de-regulated in 1986.

Bus operators determine the services they operate and the fares they charge according to demand and subsidy levels.

A nationwide survey of 153 MPs, carried out for the PTEs, shows that 61% of MPs want a London-style system across the rest of the UK. This figure was higher among Labour MPs, with 84% supporting the move.

Manchester Passenger Transport Authority chair Roger Jones told NCE: 'It is quite disgusting that we are left in this position where we are subsidising bus services to the tune of £25M every year, yet there are no performance incentives.

'We are working in partnership wherever we can with private sector bus operators to deliver real improvements for passengers.

'However, we lack the regulatory powers we need to ensure that buses turn up on time, are more frequent and better integrated with other transport modes, ' he said.

The Department for Transport argued that local authorities can run efficient services within the current regulatory framework.

'Local authorities have a range of options at their disposal - including, ultimately, the introduction of a quality contracts scheme which allows them to specify routes, fares and frequencies, as in London, ' said a spokeswoman.

These contracts can only be used if they are deemed to be the only way of delivering local transport strategies.

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