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Response of the Policy Group of the Institute of Logistics and Transport's Scottish Branch on the establishment of the Bus User Complaints Tribunal (BUCT) under Section 41 of the Transport (Scotland) Act, 2001.

SectionComment
1.Noted
2.The Institute supports the establishment of this body and sees it as providing a useful forum for addressing unresolved issues relating to bus services. We recognise the need for encouraging the use of public passenger transport and believe this to be a positive step in achieving same. (See also 4. below).
3.It needs to be clear that BUCT is the final "court of appeal" after operators have had the opportunity to fully deal with complaints and that complaints referred to BUCT should only be made, after that process has been exhausted. All publicity associated with BUCT should stress this point. Complainants should be encouraged by operators to put their complaints in writing to them (paper or electronic forms), since BUCT can only reasonably deal with those where there is a document trail.
4.The public at large will be unfamiliar with any legal definition of "local registered services", consequently we recommend that BUCT should deal with complaints relating to "all scheduled public bus and coach services", provided this does not conflict with the terms of the Act.
5.We have concerns on the numbers comprising BUCT. What eg comprises a quorum? In the event of illness there needs to be a fallback position to ensure delays in dealing with complaints do not arise. We suggest that BUCT should be comprised of the Convenor, 2 members from the industry and two representing consumer users interests. The Convenor must be independent of the industry. Should it be considered that increasing the number of members is not legally possible, it would be necessary to have reserve deputies appointed, to step in to cover for absent members.
6.Noted
7.Noted
8.We believe that the Traffic Commissioner should not be involved in the complaints process of BUCT but should have an awareness of extreme or frequent causes of concern relating to particular operators. This should be dealt with in the quarterly and/or annual reports.
9.Noted
10.Noted
11.See 5. above.
12.Noted
13.Suggest that the process is made clearer and that complaints to BUCT should be made within 21 days of the complainant receiving the final response from the operator (thus at the stage of having exhausted all possibilities with the company) the BUCT appeal is made. Perhaps a flowchart would help in elucidating the process. Should Local Authorities receive complaints about supported services, these should be routed to the operator.

We would also ask that consideration is given to determining how the travelling public are made aware of the purpose and existence of BUCT and the rules associated with using its process, for the final resolution of outstanding complaints.

Some operators are likely to have mature systems already in place for dealing with complaints and the BUCT system could perhaps benefit from that experience. It is also suggested that:

- provision be made for the submission and processing of complaints by electronic methods
- that documents used for submitting a complaint be constructed to facilitate the categorisation of complaints for subsequent statistical analysis and the structure of a relevant database.
14.The frequency of meetings should be reviewed after 12 months and be commensurate with experience, workload and achieving published deadlines.
15.See 3. and 13. above.
16.Some complaints will inevitably relate to matters where there is joint responsibility between operators and Local Authorities. In these instances BUCT will require authority to secure responses from LAs and to "square the circle" with the operator concerned. BUCT's objectives should be to resolve complaints but also, to assist in improving services generally, from lessons learned from the process.
17.Compensation payment to an individual passenger and the level of the award, should relate to the real loss suffered. There should be a ceiling on compensation levels and payments "in kind" or monetary must be consistent. Lessons could perhaps be learned from the processes used by the Rail Passengers Committee.
18.Tenures of office appear reasonable, however consideration should be given to members having variable/overlapping periods of office, to ensure that experience gained is not lost at changeover. Should Executive powers be taken to remove a member of BUCT, reasons should be given and be made public, to ensure transparency.
19.Payments to the Convenor and members should be commensurate with levels of responsibility, time commitment required and quality of individual sought. Again the RPC model could possibly provide a beneficial guide. Payments should also be subject to review in the light of experience.
20.See also 13. above. The Annual Report must be in the public arena and should also include broader issues beyond statistical data e.g. where changes to legislation or local traffic arrangements would facilitate improvements which could avoid repeat complaints of a similar nature.
21.Noted.
22.Agreed.
23.Noted.
24.Our view is that the BUCT determination should be final and that there should be no further reference to any other source. It is however recognised that citizens have a general recourse to civil action and that their legal advisors might support same.
25.Should further regulation be considered, it is our view that proposals be the subject of further public consultation.
26.Noted.
27.Noted.
28.Noted.
 

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