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The suggestion affects some community transport providers bidding for local authority bus service contracts.
A letter from the Department for Transport suggests providers may require a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operator licence.
The letter was sent to the Community Transport Association, whose chief executive Bill Freeman described it was “not the news that any of us wanted”.
The Rural Services Network believes the government's decision could have particular implications for rural community transport providers.
Mr Freeman said the association was already supporting an operator mentioned in the letter but it was a “live case” so he couldn't comment on the individual circumstances.
But he added: “In changing how it intends to interpret the definition of ‘non-commercial’ in future, the DfT’s actions are likely to have implication for many community transport operators.
“This is not the news that any of us wanted.”
The implication was that operators competing for local authority contracts may need to do this under a PSV Operators Licence in future, said Mr Freeman.
The government said it intended to explain the situation and its implications at greater length in a public consultation expected to be launched this autumn.
It said the Department for Transport hoped to clarify the situation both for permit issuing authorities and permit holders.
It said it would also “invite permit holders to provide the department with more information, so that we can better understand developments in the sector.”
RSN assistant director Andy Dean said: “This is a concern for the community transport sector which is a valued provider of important local bus services in rural areas across the country.
The government should do its upmost to ensure existing valued community transport services continued to be provided, said Mr Dean.
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