Last reviewed 11 October 2023

Local government bodies know their communities and their transport needs best and recognise that buses are the lifeblood of the UK’s public transport network, delivering multiple economic, social, health and environmental benefits.

This is the view of the Local Government Association (LGA) and Urban Transport Group (UTG) in a joint report that reviews the provisions of the Bus Services Act 2017 and contains recommendations for legislative change as well as “quick wins” that could better support bus services in local communities.

A Smoother Ride: Reviewing the Bus Services Act 2017 to Empower Local Areas argues that the Government could achieve much more with less if it can lift the barriers to local government taking greater local leadership.

It calls for a review of current legislation that would allow all cities, towns and rural areas in England to have the same rights to introduce bus franchising as those enjoyed by Mayoral Combined Authorities, including the following.

  • Power over the fares that are charged and standards that should be met.

  • The frequency of bus services provided and where and when they run.

  • The ability for buses to be part of integrated transport networks to meet the needs of local communities.

The report recommends lifting the ban in the Bus Services Act 2017 that prevents councils from establishing their own bus companies and highlights that, in areas with municipally owned bus companies, bus journeys per head of population are well above the English average.

The publication also calls for the Government to urgently review Enhanced Partnerships between bus operators and councils to see how they can be improved to meet the ambitions set out in the National Bus Strategy, including making services more frequent, reliable and easier to understand.

Jason Prince, Director of the UTG, said: “If we really want to fulfil the ambitions of the National Bus Strategy — to truly transform bus services — it’s time to update the legislation. This report provides recommendations for how to do so.”