WYCA urges MPs to back bus franchising powers for non-mayoral authorities

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has backed the Bus Services Bill, but warned that the ‘once in a generation’ opportunities it offers should not be reserved for combined authorities with elected mayors.

When it was first published, the Bill only allowed devolved bus franchising powers to authorities with elected mayors, but it was altered so that other authorities could apply to the transport secretary for the same powers.

An amendment allowing all councils to gain franchising powers without central government approval was passed by the House of Lords, but it will now have to pass through the Commons.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, chair of the transport committee for the WYCA, which does not currently have an elected mayor, said the authority was supporting the amendment to “remove the restriction” on it potentially gaining bus franchising powers.

“There are good examples across the UK of local authority-owned bus companies providing very effective services so it doesn’t make sense to restrict the options available,” he said.

“The Bus Services Bill is ‘a-once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to provide a strong legal framework for the operation of buses in West Yorkshire, which is why I have written to local MPs urging them to support amendments to the Bill.”

Cllr Wakefield added that the WYCA currently had “no plans” to form a bus authority, but it could be “necessary or desirable” to do so in the future.

His remarks were made on the 30th anniversary of bus deregulation in the UK.

In an interview with PSE, Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, which has announced its intention to seek the devolved powers, said deregulation had allowed a “spiral of decline”, with councils paying to replace private franchises where they were found to be unprofitable.

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