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Plea to tighten bus laws

LOCAL AUTHORITIES this week said they would continue to push for stronger legislative power over bus operators following publication of the Government's integrated transport White Paper daughter document on buses.

In the document, published on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott failed to set out a timetable for new legislation, preferring instead to press ahead with a voluntary Quality Bus Partnerships scheme.

Council transport officials have been seeking greater regulatory powers to enforce quality partnerships with bus operators. They fear that without contractual agreements in place unscrupulous bus operators could use facilities constructed under Quality Partnerships to 'steal' business from participating companies (NCE 4 February).

This, they add, could lead to funds drying up as bus operators become disillusioned with the schemes.

Chairman of the Local Government Association transport board Derek Bateman said the document did not go far enough in spelling out what legislative powers would be introduced. He said the LGA would continue to press for contractual agreements to be 'the norm rather than the exception'.

'In many areas franchising is the only option to secure a quality service,' he added.

Quality Partnerships between local authorities and bus operators are key to the Government's strategy to increase passenger numbers on buses. They will see local authorities investing in bus lanes, information systems and bus shelters in return for investment by operators in new vehicles .

John Prescott said he preferred voluntary agreements but confirmed that the Government would introduce legislation. 'We need alternative measures to Quality Partnerships and I am willing to authorise some pilot schemes for Quality Contracts,' he said.

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