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"Scottish Government Transport Bill - discuss" by George Mair, Director CPT-UK Scotland: Aberdeen meeting of 12 September 2017.

George Mair (right) with Jenny Milne (left)d

George Mair (right) with Jenny Milne (left).

© John Yellowlees, 2017

The Confederation of Passenger Transport exists to speak for the UK bus and coach sector. There are 1500 members, whose Scottish section operates over 90% of the commercial mileage north of the border, representing one-third of operators, but the other two-thirds are small.

Working by means of consultation, inputs into legislation and support to members on regulations, practices and standards, CPT seeks to influence and to inform and to enhance partnership working. Its overall aim is to achieve members' compliance with the requirements of government and legislation at all levels, however it does not run buses!

The forthcoming Scottish legislation, consultation on which commences 13 September, will be the first Bill north of the border since 2005 primarily about buses, and will be an enabling one whose pre-consultation has already concluded.

The equivalent Act for England and Wales contains only one provision, on accessible information, that is applicable to the whole of the UK, and London too is otherwise excluded. The Scottish consultation is due to close on 5 December 2017, and with legislative stages next year the Bill will become an Act in 2019. Brexit is a possible barrier to implementation.

Road costs and responsible parking are likely to comprise the Bill's non-bus elements. The bus provisions will cover partnerships, local franchising, municipal operations, open data and Smart ticketing. Some idea of the scale is that the English consultation was on a 192-page document which generated 50 pages of responses.

Partnership provisions will be about local authorities working closely with operators, using powers never before actioned in Scotland. Local franchising may envisage exclusive contracts for a limited time which in England are permitted only in mayoral areas, but all Scottish Councils may be able to use these provided that their schemes are demonstrated to be affordable. Municipal operation of buses will be an option that becomes open to all Scottish Councils although forbidden in England. A provision on open data requiring release of information on timetables and fares seems unnecessary since this is already done through Traveline. A separate consultation on Smart ticketing may will provide for mandatory participation in Transport Scotland schemes.

Almost as significant as what is in the consultation may be what is not. Will we see the legislation helping put growth back into bus ridership when it does not address the impact of online on retail? Will the message be that it is okay to fill the roads with autonomous vehicles? A separate consultation will seek to advance the cause of Low Emission Zones. The consultation will preach the principle of partnership, but for this to be effective in boosting bus travel local authorities must do their bit by managing traffic.

The Scottish Region thanks First Aberdeen for hosting the event and providing refreshments.

Report and photographs by John Yellowlees.


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