COMMONS

Transport Committee announces new inquiry into bus service provision

24 January 2012

Call for evidence: Competition in the local bus market

The Transport Committee is to undertake an inquiry into the Competition Commission’s report on the local bus services market.

The Competition Commission has reported on its lengthy investigation into the local bus services market in the UK, excluding London and Northern Ireland. It concluded that sustained head-to-head competition between bus operators was uncommon and that bus operators avoided competing in another operator’s core territories. As a consequence there were “adverse effects on competition”. These led to a detriment to consumers—less frequent, poorer quality services and possibly higher fares—valued at £110m–£295m a year. In addition, lack of competition may be costing local authorities £5m-£10m a year through higher contract prices for tendered services.

The Competition Commission recommended a series of measures intended to increase head-to-head competition. These include more multi-operator ticketing, longer notice periods for service changes, closer monitoring by the OFT of bus company mergers and incentives through revisions to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). It considered whether bus services should be awarded under franchises (as in London) but concluded that enhanced competition was generally the better solution.

The Competition Commission’s findings have been criticised by the bus industry as unrealistic. The passenger transport executives have expressed disappointment that the Competition Commission did not recommend franchising (Quality Contracts).

The Committee invites written evidence, particularly in relation to the following:

  • Has the Competition Commission addressed the issues of most importance to the bus passenger?
  • How effective are the remedies proposed by the Competition Commission likely to prove?
  • Is sustained head-to head competition feasible or desirable?
  • What role should Quality Partnerships play?
  • Has the Competition Commission adequately considered the franchising option?
  • What action should local government and central government now take?

We would be grateful to receive written submissions by Friday 17 February.

Notes on the submission of written evidence

It assists the Committee if those submitting written evidence adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Written submissions should be as short as is consistent with conveying the relevant information. As a rough guide, it is helpful if they can be confined to six pages or less. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference. A summary of the main points at the start of the submission is also helpful.
  2. Evidence should be submitted by e-mail to [email protected] in Word or Rich Text format, with as little use of colour and images as possible. If you wish to submit written evidence to the Committee in another format you must contact a member of staff to discuss this. The body of the e-mail should include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. It should be absolutely clear who the submission is from, particularly whether it is on behalf of an organisation or in the name of an individual.
  3. Once accepted by the Committee, written evidence becomes the Committee’s property and it may decide to publish it or make other public use of it. If the Committee decides to accept your contribution as evidence we will email you formally accepting it as such. You may publicise or publish your submission yourself, once you receive the formal acceptance of your evidence to the Committee. When doing so, please indicate that it has been submitted to the Committee.
  4. The Committee will publish the majority of written evidence that is received, but some submissions will be placed in the Parliamentary Archives for public inspection rather than being printed or published online. If you do not wish your submission to be made public, you must clearly say so, and should contact a member of staff to discuss this. Though the Committee is happy to receive copies of published material or correspondence sent to other parties, formal submissions of evidence should be original work produced for the Committee and not published elsewhere.
  5. Committee staff are happy to give more detailed guidance on giving evidence to a select committee, or further advice on any aspect of the Committee’s work, by phone or e-mail.

Additional information on submitting evidence to a Select Committee is available online in the House of Commons Guide to Witnesses (PDF PDF 1.25 MB).

Image: iStockphoto

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