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Mayoral combined authorities to be given powers over bus service franchising

Power over bus services will be devolved to elected mayors and local transport authorities, it was confirmed at the State Opening of Parliament today.

In the Queen’s Speech, in which the monarch sets out the government’s reform agenda, she announced the much-anticipated Bus Services Bill for England.

The Bill will give mayoral combined authorities powers to franchise transport services, similar to those already seen in London.

Cllr Peter Box, transport spokesperson at the LGA, said: "With government forecasts of an increase in traffic levels of up to 55 per cent by 2040, the ability for local areas to take responsibility for bus services through the option of franchising and greater access to buses data will help councils struggling to avoid gridlock on their roads and local people to access vital services.

“Franchising should be available to all local authorities who wish to improve bus services in towns, villages and rural areas that are poorly served at present. It should not depend on having a directly-elected mayor.”

He called on the government to also devolve traffic management powers and the bus service operators grant, as well as to fully fund concessionary fares.

The Bill will also give councils powers to set required standards of service with bus providers, including branding, ticketing and frequency of services, and will require data about timetables and fares to be more widely available.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, called the Bill “a step in the right direction”, but said it must be backed by better funding.

4.30pm UPDATE

Cllr Paul Carter, chair of the County Councils Network, said: “The legislation put forward today in the Queen’s Speech should be welcomed by county leaders, as it has the power to continue the trend of increasing our autonomy and putting power back in the hands of local decision makers, empowering them to further improve public services for taxpayers.

“But, as always, the devil is in the detail. That’s why Ministers should work with county leaders in advance of proposing legislation to ensure that it does have support for the sector, but crucially, is right for both councils and residents.

“We have significant experience at the coalface in both delivering public services and turning legislation into action, and I would welcome closer dialogue with the government on major changes in advance.”

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