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Bus Services: Franchises

Question for Department for Transport

UIN 6356, tabled on 24 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what criteria need to be met to demonstrate that a Local Transport Authority can develop a franchising assessment rapidly enough to avoid having to implement an Enhanced Partnership Scheme to retain access to funding beyond April 2022.

Answered on

27 May 2021

On 17 May, the Government published guidance on Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs). As the guidance sets out, only Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) currently have powers to implement bus franchising, so only they can issue a statutory notice by 30 June that they wish to pursue franchising. Where a Local Transport Authority (LTA) is not an MCA and wishes to pursue franchising, it should publish a statutory notice that it intends to prepare an Enhanced Partnership Plan by 30 June and seek franchising powers from the Department for Transport in parallel. The process of granting the LTA franchising powers requires secondary legislation, so the LTA should pursue an Enhanced Partnership by April 2022.

As set out in the National Bus Strategy and the BSIP guidance, the Government will grant franchising powers to any LTA which has the capability and resources to do so; and that this will deliver better service improvements for passengers. The Department’s guidance on franchising sets out a five-part process for developing a franchising assessment. We expect local transport authorities that have issued a notice of intent to pursue franchising, and are pursuing it as their only option, to be actively following the franchising assessment process to be eligible for future funding.

Local authorities that are pursuing franchising can switch to an enhanced partnership at any time. However, they must issue a notice of intent to pursue an enhanced partnership if they have not already done so.

BSIPs set out the vision for delivering the step-change in bus services that is required by the National Bus Strategy. It does not need to explain whether it will use franchising or enhanced partnerships to deliver BSIP ambitions.

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