Bus trade bids to head off new contracts deal

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New details have been revealed about plans which operators hope will head off a revolution on the buses.

West Yorkshire’s private bus firms have been working for some time on proposals for a new partnership with Metro, the county’s publicly-funded passenger transport authority.

The plans are designed to persuade Metro to call a halt to its push for a quality contracts scheme that would see it wrest control of fares and routes from profit-driven operators.

Now a Metro report has given an in-depth analysis of the partnership offer that the firms have put on the table, with key elements of their halfway house-style proposal including:

* A commitment to stability from the firms, with routes and timetables only changing once a year;

* A single point of contact for complaints and the introduction of a formal appeals procedure for dissatisfied customers;

* Infrastructure investment on the part of Metro and West Yorkshire’s five councils to reduce journey times and improve reliability;

* Development of a multi-operator ticket system utilising smartcard technology.

The Metro report also indicates, however, that the operators still have plenty of work to do. It reveals that, at a recent meeting of Metro’s executive board, there was “concern about the need for clarity with regard to many of [the] partnership proposals”.

Metro was yesterday expected to set itself a target of getting the necessary extra detail about the partnership by early autumn. That process is likely to be one half of a twin track approach – Metro was today also expected to commit itself to completing work in the autumn on its quality contract documentation.

If both those targets are met, then Metro should be in a position to choose whether to go for quality contracts or a partnership. Bus operators conceived the partnership scheme as an alternative to quality contracts that would give Metro more say on services without removing the private sector from the decision-making process altogether.