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Transport Bill could hit bus plans

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NEW STATUTORY contracts between local authorities and bus operators are being made unrealistic by the wording of the Government's Transport Bill, the Local Government Association warned this week.

The draft bill gives local authorities statutory powers to allocate priority routes to bus operators in return for better quality services. The bill states that these powers apply when it is 'the only way in which (local authorities) will be able to implement the policies set out in their current bus strategy'.

However, the LGA claimed that the clause was too strongly worded. It said it was likely to hinder local authorities' ability to force operators to take up the measures if voluntary quality partnerships could not be agreed.

LGA transport policy officer Vince Christie said: 'The bill says that quality contracts should be introduced where it is the 'only way', but we believe that such wording would give people an excessive power of veto.'

The LGA also wants fares and frequency of service to be included in the clause on quality contracts and is keen to see a shortening of the 21 month waiting period required before local authorities can strike a quality contract. It was this week set to brief municipal engineers on its recommended amendments to the Transport Bill.

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