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week, West Yorkshire's Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) members
are being asked to support the introduction of England's first
Quality Contract framework for the county's bus services.
A report to next Friday's ITA meeting will recommend that
councillors approve the introduction of a Bus Quality Contract
Scheme, which the report says is the best way to provide
significant customer benefits including integrated ticketing,
higher service standards, a more stable network and pricing
structure and better local accountability for service
"Around 180 million bus journeys are made in West Yorkshire each
year which represents around 90% of all public transport use, so we
very much value our relationships with local bus operators," said
Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis. "If approved, this new framework
will be an opportunity for us to develop the strong partnerships we
already have with them, based upon aligned incentives and with
risks and rewards shared between partners.
The recent partnership offer made by ABOWY, the Association of
Bus Operators of West Yorkshire, was a strong one said Cllr Lewis
but it did not offer a common integrated ticketing system which, he
said, was at the heart of successful public transport systems in
London and many European city regions. Examples in Denmark and
Sweden show that partnerships under the contractual framework we
are proposing can flourish, he said.
ABOWY's offer also failed to address significant concerns about
value for money raised by a recent Competition Commission
investigation and did not provide sufficient certainty about its
delivery, Cllr Lewis added.
"When any of my ITA colleagues and I attend a public meeting on
transport it is clear that people across West Yorkshire are not
happy with some bus services and this has been reflected by a
steady drop in passenger numbers over the past 10 to 15 years,"
continued Cllr Lewis. "Because councillors are listening to what
the public are telling them, Metro's work towards the Quality
Contract framework has at each stage received cross-party backing
on the ITA.
"No matter what party they represent, my colleagues recognise
that buses are vital to West Yorkshire's economy and wellbeing and
that the current de-regulated framework, which has led to
fragmentation, a lack of long term planning, instability inadequate
rewards for some operators and excessive profits for others, is not
"Annually Metro already spends £23m
subsidising local bus services that otherwise would not run because
the operators don't consider them profitable, approaching
£50m on the county's concessionary fares scheme and another
£1m or so supporting bus services through bus stations and
other infrastructure," continued Cllr Lewis. "And based upon the
Competition Commission' recent report that says the national cost
of this competition deficit is as high as £300m, Metro has
calculated that in West Yorkshire this could equate to as much as
£25m lost as a result of higher fares and poorer
Cllr Lewis said his ITA colleagues understood the potential
risks involved in developing and implementing a bus quality
contract scheme, but considered those risks necessary in order to
develop the integrated, stable, attractive and accountable public
transport system that West Yorkshire needs.
"I can understand why the bus operators could perceive the
change as a threat," he said. "But with declining patronage numbers
and passengers saying that they have nowhere to voice any
dissatisfaction they may have with services, they cannot want to
continue with the current framework which is failing everyone."
Read the ITA report (pdf 1.26mb -
opens in new window).
More about Quality Contracts