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Bus Act 'chance to boost services'

NEW measures are an opportunity for local authorities to improve services, say transport campaigners.

The government confirmed on Thursday (27 April) that the Bus Services Bill has Royal Assent and will become an Act of Parliament.

The act aims to strengthen arrangements for partnership working in the sector, introducing 'enhanced partnerships'.

It also introduces new franchising powers with decision making at a local level.

    See also: Buses Bill 'must deliver for passengers'

One of the benefits is that local authorities control can design bus services according to local need.

Confirmation of Royal Assent was welcomed by the Campaign for Better Transport, which described it as a new beginning for buses.

Transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said the act was "a great opportunity for local authorities and new mayors to plan and improve their bus services, and grow passenger numbers".

She added: "The act will bring real benefit to both cities and more rural areas."

It would enable better integrated transport with simple, smart ticketing; while giving councils new powers to boost bus access and air quality.

Ms Etkind said the Bus Services Act also offered hope to people across the country who had been left isolated by bus funding cuts.

Already local authorities such as Kent and Cornwall were looking at how the act could help them repair their bus networks.

They were working in partnership with operators to create joined-up networks that connect people to jobs, education and healthcare.

"Buses are used by more people every day than any other form of public transport.

"It is vital that alongside these new powers, local authorities and mayors have the assurance of long-term and sustainable bus funding."

Passenger group Bus Users UK said the Bill did not exclude predominantly rural areas from applying to have a franchised system approved – although this would possibly be more complex.

But it does require urban schemes to take account of the services to outlying or cross-boundary areas to ensure passengers are not unduly inconvenienced by any changes.

A quick guide to the Buses Bill and what it means for passengers is available here.

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