Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Draft Bill to improve public transport and tackle congestion

A draft Bill to help improve public transport across the country and cut congestion in our towns and cities was published by the Government today. The draft Bill sets out proposals to restructure how local transport is delivered within communities. It would mean that the travelling public could benefit from local authorities taking local action to meet local transport needs.

If approved by Parliament the draft Bill would:

* Give local authorities the right mix of powers to improve the quality of local bus services, as proposed in Putting Passengers First last December following an extensive bus policy review.

* Empower local authorities in our major urban areas to review and propose their own arrangements for local transport governance to support coherent and effective transport planning and delivery.

* Update existing powers so that where local areas wish to develop proposals for local road pricing schemes, they have the freedom and flexibility to do so in a way that best meets local needs. It is expected that any scheme would be part of a wider package of measures to address local congestion problems and the draft Bill would require that the proceeds from any local schemes are spent on local transport. The draft Bill would give local authorities the flexibility and powers to deliver a tailored transport system better suited to the needs of the local area. For instance local authorities could:

* Introduce 'quality contracts' schemes to specify bus networks, timetables and fares in their local areas and to let contracts to bus operators to run those services.

* Propose reforms to the existing responsibilities of Passenger Transport Authorities and district councils in major conurbations outside London to enable a more coherent integrated approach.

* Propose new Passenger Transport Authorities in areas where they do not currently exist, and changes to the boundaries of existing Authorities where it makes sense to do so.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said:

"Improving public transport is vital if we are going to tackle congestion and climate change.

"Two-thirds of public transport journeys are made by bus, so it is only right that this Bill focuses on how we improve bus services.

"The measures we have published today will give local authorities the powers they need to ensure that local bus services meet local needs as part of a broader package which will give them the flexibility they need to tackle congestion."

The draft Bill is now made available for Parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny by the House of Commons Transport Committee alongside a full public consultation.

In addition to publishing the draft Bill the Government also announced the first payments from the Urban Congestion Performance Fund totalling £2.2 million. The fund is designed to encourage local authorities in the ten largest urban areas to outperform their local congestion targets. The fund is worth £60 million in total over four years.

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