Last reviewed 24 February 2021

An Enhanced Partnership (EP) is an agreement that enables local authorities and operators to set shared aims with regard to improving bus services.

Created under legislation set out in the Bus Services Act 2017, EPs are one of three options available to local authorities when working in partnership with bus operators, the others being Franchising or Advanced Quality Partnerships (AQPs).

The Department for Transport (DfT) has updated its guidance on EPs with The Bus Services Act 2017: Enhanced Partnerships, which is available — here.

This offers both informal guidance, which seeks to explain how the newly introduced provisions of the Act will work and to offer practical suggestions on their application, and statutory guidance, which a local authority must follow in exercising relevant functions.

The guide emphasises that, before any formal processes are embarked upon, the authority (or authorities) and operators that run services in the geographical area being considered should hold informal discussions on whether an EP is viable in that area.

In these initial discussions, the authority (or authorities) and bus operators should consider whether a formal partnership is the most appropriate way to improve local services or whether that joint goal could be better achieved through a voluntary agreement, which can deliver change more quickly.

“These early informal discussions are vital,” the DfT notes, “as they will allow authorities and operators to form a view on what is likely to be collectively deliverable under an EP within an informal environment and before any commitment is made to an EP.”