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Reforms to end bus 'free-for-all'

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LOCAL AUTHORITIES will be given tighter controls over bus frequency, fares and timetables to improve the service for passengers in changes announced by transport secretary Douglas Alexander this week.

'To many people, buses are a lifeline, giving them access to jobs and shops, and allowing them to stay in touch with family and friends. But since deregulation some areas have seen a free-for-all with the needs of passengers being neglected, ' said Alexander.

Under the proposals, local authorities will be able to introduce franchise contracts, enabling them to set frequency, timetables and fares.

No local authority outside London has these powers.

In addition, the eight existing traffic commissioners will have greater powers of enforcement, holding not just operators but also local authorities to account for the performance of bus services.

Bus company Arriva chief executive David Martin said that voluntary partnerships were sufficient. 'Our experience confirms that where both sides have made a proper commitment the partnership approach has yielded significant benefits, not just for operators and authorities, but also, most importantly, for passengers.' Proposals will be included in the draft Transport Bill published next year.

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