Bus operators across the country are being approached by local authorities to input and engage in the process of devising Local Bus Service Improvement Plans (LBSIP), as part of the National Bus Strategy, and as required to receive the funding promised in the ‘Bus Back Better’ document. It is vital that bus operators understand the importance and significance of the LBSIP.
According to the ‘Bus Back Better’ policy document, the LBSIP is required to explain how the shortcomings and flaws in a local authority’s public transport network can be remedied by that local authority either franchising the bus network or entering into an Enhanced Partnership Scheme with the local bus operators. Where an LBSIP has been devised, local authorities will look to try and implement those plans through either of those two methods (i.e., franchising/enhanced partnerships). Therefore, bus operators need to be aware that these discussions local authorities are holding with them now, to produce these Local Bus Service Improvement Plans, are going to influence and shape how successful they are in the future under any franchised public bus network or under an Enhanced Partnership Scheme covering their area.
Bus Back Better requires all local authorities to produce their LBSIP by 31 October 2021 to receive the funding, and there is a risk in applying such timescales that bus operators will push on into agreement with LBSIPs that ultimately result in either a franchised network or Enhanced Partnership Scheme that is detrimental to them.
Furthermore, under the Transport Act 2000 and Bus Services Act 2017 and under Regulations made under that legislation, local authorities have powers to request information from bus operators to produce LBSIPs and in fact arrangements may be set out in the LBSIP to dictate how much and in what way bus operators and the local authority share information in the future. However, local authorities must engage with bus operators before and throughout the process of requesting this information, and there are parameters to what local authorities can and cannot be asking for, and how they are asking for it.
The Guidance published by the Department for Transport for delivering Enhanced Partnership Schemes was updated and amended on 01 July 2021 and was in fact retitled to read “The National Bus Strategy Delivering Bus Service Improvement Plans using an Enhanced Partnership”. This guidance lists the formation of the LBSIP as the first step along the process local authorities are required to follow to enter an Enhanced Partnership Scheme with bus operators.
If you would like advice regarding discussions surrounding LBSIP’s, franchising, or enhanced partnership schemes, please contact Backhouse Jones. Equally, we can help if you have concerns about the conduct of a local authority in working towards franchising or enhanced partnerships schemes and can discuss what sort of information you may or may not wish to provide. Contact Backhouse Jones on 01254 828300.