New legislation for operators applying for, varying or amending a local bus service
The Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 quietly came into force on 24 April 2018. Very little has been written about the new Regulations, but the amendment will be relevant to operators running (or wishing to run) local bus services.
The new Regulations amend the Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services) Regulations 1986. Those Regulations set out the process that must be followed for an operator to register a local bus service with a traffic commissioner and these Regulations relate to the registration of services with stopping places in England.
Why is this happening?
The Competition and Markets Authority (previously The Competition Commission (Commission), undertook an investigation into the market for local bus services in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland and London) and made recommendations following this in 2011. The Commission recommended that local authorities should have powers to request and make available from operators, information about the patronage and revenue of commercial services that are cancelled. The reasoning being that if an operator is withdrawing or reducing a commercial service, local authorities are able to make informed decisions about any replacement services and to avoid disruption to passengers. These Regulations are intended to implement the Commission’s recommendations.
How will this affect my business?
The new Regulations mean each bus operator must now provide each appropriate English authority with a copy of the complete draft of an application it wishes to submit for registration, variation or cancellation of a service at least 28 days before it makes that application. Additionally, it provides that the applicant must not submit their application until the appropriate English authority has either confirmed receipt of that application or 28 days have elapsed, whichever is the earlier. This will only be needed for applications made on or after 24th April 2018 and that the requirement will not apply in cases where the period of notice of the registration or the effective date of the variation or cancellation is modified by the Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services)(Franchising Schemes Transitional Provisions and Amendments)(England) Regulations 2018.
The new Regulations also state that bus operators which have applied to vary or cancel a registration of a service (except in the case of certain excluded applications), must, if requested to do so, provide certain information to each appropriate English authority. That information relates to the types of tickets used by the passengers, the numbers of passengers using that service, the structure of the fares on that service and the revenue obtained from it over a period of at least 12 months. There are also rules about the disclosure of such information to other operators and providers of public transport and to other appropriate English authorities.
Furthermore, the new Regulations reduce certain notice periods. The notice period between the time when the traffic commissioner accepts an application for registration or for variation or cancellation of a local service and the time when the notice period expires in relation to that application is now reduced from 56 days to 42 days. It also reduces the same period for applications for registrations, variations and cancellations in relation to community bus services from 28 days to 14 days.
There is also a requirement in the new Regulations for the Secretary of State to review the operation and effect of these Regulations and to publish a report within five years after these Regulations come into force.
What if I need help?
James Backhouse who specialises in this area of law warns operators: –
“The new Regulations impose a stricter timetable and set of rules for disclosure of potentially sensitive information on operators who wish to apply for, vary or cancel the registration of a service. We recommend that operators contact us in good time, so they can be given proper advice on how not to fall foul of the new rules.”
Please contact a member of the Backhouse Jones regulatory team if you would like advice in this area on 01254 828300.