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There was all-party support at last
Friday's West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority Executive
Board meeting for Metro's continued work towards Quality Contracts
if they represent the best deal for local bus passengers.
A report to Authority members described how in its latest
Interim Report into the bus industry, the Competition Commission
had shied away from recommending Quality Contract schemes under
which bus companies bid to run services specified by organisations
like Metro. However the report also explained that many of the
solutions suggested in the Commission's provisional findings were
in place in West Yorkshire but were having no discernible impact
towards achieving its objective of more on-street competition.
"The Commission calculated that at least 50%, but possibly as
many as 98%, of West Yorkshire bus services were being
detrimentally affected by a lack of competition in the industry,"
said Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis. "If, as the Commission says,
the national cost of this lack of competition is £150m, in
West Yorkshire this could equate to as much as £25m
"Although it backed away from recommending Quality Contracts, we
have to remember that as its name indicates, the Commission's main
objective is promoting competition whereas Metro's is achieving the
best services for local people," he continued. "And if this means
Metro setting routes, fares, timetables and quality standards and
operators bidding to run services, as happens with most cities
throughout Europe including London, we will continue down the
Quality Contract scheme route."
In its Interim Report the Commission itself acknowledges the
limitations of its work, admitting that it does not, like Metro and
the other Transport Authorities, take into account the wider social
and policy objectives. The report also recognises that in West
Yorkshire there is little competition on many routes owing to the
dominance of single operators.
In a poll conducted last year by the Guardian Leeds website,
voters came out overwhelmingly in favour of Metro's plans to
introduce Quality Bus Contracts. Over 95% of voters who responded
to the Guardian's question, 'Should Metro regulate Leeds' buses?'
agreed that Metro should be allowed to set the specification for
Leeds's buses, and just over 90% said that bus services in Leeds
were poor or in need of improvement.
"By introducing a Quality Contract Scheme, Metro can create
competition and generate a better experience for passengers by
raising standards for vehicles and staff, and provide the
integrated smartcard-enabled ticketing system that passengers tell
us they want to see," added Cllr Lewis. "Making bus travel more
attractive for passengers will reverse the ongoing fall in bus
patronage and lead to a more stable market, which will in turn
ensure ongoing profitability for operators, so everyone's a
Find out more about Metro's plans for Quality
Read the ITA Executive Board Report.