Bus Franchising – Best Way to Improve the Network

Bus franchising has been recommended as the "best way to improve the country network" by South Yorkshire's mayor, Oliver Coppard. Since the introduction of The Bus Service Act 2017, bus franchising has emerged as the favourable model to elevate bus service quality, competition, and innovation. Since 2017, transport authorities outside of London have the powers to opt for franchising, and we are beginning to see this power utilised following the introduction of the franchising model in Greater Manchester.

Major bus operators are now committed to supporting the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) to deliver a bus franchising model in South Yorkshire. What is bus franchising? Bus franchising is a system where public transport authorities grant private bus service companies the exclusive right to operate bus services within a specific area or route.

Under franchising, the SYMCE would contract and work with private bus operators to run the services. What does this mean for private bus operators? Transitioning to a full franchise model would suspend the de-regulated bus market and private bus operators would only be able to provide its services under contract to the local authorities.

The franchise model creates a monopoly on the local bus network and gives that monopoly to the local transport authority who become known as the franchising authority. Bus service franchising means that private bus operators lose the power to make decisions about routes, timetables, and fares. In a bus franchising model, the franchising authority will retain control over all key aspects of the service.

Private bus operators would be required to engage a competitive tendering process arranged by the franchising authority.  Once a bus operator wins a tender to operate a particular service for a defined period, becoming the "franchisee", no other operators would be permitted to operate in competition with the franchisee. Can you challenge? Despite the purported benefits, many private bus operators disagree with the bus franchising model and have expressly objected to the transition.

Operators should be aware that there are options available to them to challenge transport authorities from exercising the power to adopt the franchising model.

If you want further detail on the bus franchising model, or require advice on how to challenge, contract Backhouse Jones Commercial Litigation Team at: www.backhousejones.co.uk/contact

Transport & Logistics - Driving The Industry Forward