As Transport Secretary Chris Grayling recognised in a recent speech, transport is intrinsically local and must be designed to meet the needs of the people and places it serves. Given that Department of Transport figures reveal there were 5.2 billion passenger journeys on local bus services and 240 million passenger journeys on light rail systems in 2015, it is significant that the Government has recognised the need to devolve power to local authorities in the provision of public transport to improve integration, innovation and respond to the specific needs in their area to deliver efficient, affordable and reliable services.
In January 2016, the Government passed the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, which included the creation of Sub-National Transport Bodies (STBs) to advise on strategic transport decisions and priorities for their local area. STBs will be able to provide a coordinated perspective of needs for their area and support more effective economic development. Further legislation is currently going through parliament, the Bus Services Bill is intended to enable local authorities and private operators to collaborate through a variety of partnership mechanisms to provide the following potential benefits: consistent fares, improved timetables and service levels, attractive branding of routes, ticket acceptance on the services of multiple operators, provision of open data to third parties to provide transport apps and the full specification of bus services (franchising). Franchising, competing for a contract, is a particularly important part of the bill, as this would potentially make a real difference for those living outside of London. In addition, it would also have economic benefits through better connecting people with opportunities to work and learn as well as potentially improving access to transport links in rural areas.
In rail services, the Government equally recognises the importance of maintaining the connection between public transport and local growth, as well as responding to the needs of passengers. In 2015, over half of all rail journeys were for commuting or business purposes. Thus, it is positive that in November 2016, the Government took steps to make claiming compensation easier, following a report published by the Department of Transport, which showed nearly £45 million paid out to successful claimants in 2015 to 2016.
This timely symposium provides an invaluable opportunity for bus operators, local transport authorities, passenger groups, local traffic management and parking professionals, road user organisations, the police, enforcement agencies and professional bodies to examine the potential impact of the Bus Services Bill and other proposals to improve public transport. The event also offers the opportunity to discuss the vital role that local authorities can play in to ensure that these improvements are embedded in the fabric of local communities to boost economic growth and ensure a sustainable and innovative future for public transport across the country.
- Review the current progress of the Bus Services Bill, evaluate its potential impact and discuss next steps
- Assess the impact of devolution of power to local authorities through franchising and how local authorities can improve delivery of local bus services
- Consider how to respond more effectively to the needs of both passengers and the public transport workforce at the national and local levels
- Examine the costs and benefits of improving public transport and boosting economic growth in local and regional areas
- Gain insights from Transport for London on programmes and strategies that can be realistically implemented across the country
- Evaluate ways to integrate public transport more effectively in rural areas
- Look towards the future of public transport and consider the role of technology and innovation in improving service delivery
- Hear from colleagues and have the opportunity to share best practice on improving integration, innovation and overcoming challenges in local service delivery