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Is Now The Time To Relaunch Plusbus

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Llandudno

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With the recent ‘Backing Buses’ fanfare from the Prime Minister is now the time to look at relaunching Plusbus.

With most bus (and rail) routes in Britain propped up by financial support from the Government due to Covid, and the likelihood that this will remain the case for a period of time, perhaps indefinitely, perhaps the Plusbus scheme could improved in an effort to stimulate public transport use.

Here are a couple of ideas:
Plusbus add on tickets for unlimited day travel reduced to £1, (50p for children/railcard holders) but the same ticket is valid at both ends, ie in your origin town AND your destination town

Extend, where, sensible the validity of the Plusbus boundary

Plusbus tickets to be valid on all British tram networks, within the area of validity

Ability to buy bus tickets in advance on your phone, so that you can you use them on your outward journey, by showing your phone to the bus driver.

All Station vending machines to sell and promote Plusbus tickets
 
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JonathanH

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Plusbus add on tickets for unlimited day travel reduced to £1, (50p for children/railcard holders) but the same ticket is valid at both ends, ie in your origin town AND your destination town
Who are you expecting to pay for this? I assume the idea is that the Government pays. How does it then get increased again when the funding runs out? Why set it at £1? How much difference does £1 or £3 / £4 really make in this context? Why is it always the bus fare that needs to be reduced and not the train fare? Why do people using a train and a bus get a cheaper bus fare than people who are just using a bus. Those bus users may well have lower incomes and more requirement to actually use the bus capacity to get to work etc?
Plusbus tickets to be valid on all British tram networks, within the area of validity
Likewise. The reason why it isn't valid on some British tram networks is a commercial decision about not undervaluing the commercial value of those tram networks.
All Station vending machines to sell and promote Plusbus tickets
Yes, this would seem reasonable.
With most bus (and rail) routes in Britain propped up by financial support from the Government due to Covid, and the likelihood that this will remain the case for a period of time, perhaps indefinitely, perhaps the Plusbus scheme could improved in an effort to stimulate public transport use.
The people who run PlusBus must have some idea about how special offers encourage use of PlusBus with their annual promotion during (I think) June / July.
 

Bletchleyite

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Who are you expecting to pay for this? I assume the idea is that the Government pays. How does it then get increased again when the funding runs out? Why set it at £1? How much difference does £1 or £3 / £4 really make in this context? Why is it always the bus fare that needs to be reduced and not the train fare?

Likewise. The reason why it isn't valid on some British tram networks is a commercial decision about not undervaluing the commercial value of those tram networks.

I would make the following changes to make it more useful:
  1. Expand it to be an "outboundary Travelcard" type scheme like London which includes all transport, local rail and tram included, in the relevant urban zone rather than just bus. This may require some zonalisation to keep the cost down if you aren't going to need the whole city. DB calls something similar the "CityTicket" - perhaps that name could be nicked. Transport works better when it works together.
  2. Introduce a "single fare" version that is half the "day ticket" version and is valid for only one journey (by any combination of modes) to the relevant railway station and applied to period return tickets.
I don't think the cost is the prohibiting factor (other than for single journeys as noted), it's the absence of these key items of utility.

On the other hand, perhaps contactless acceptance just reduces the need for it as it's primarily a convenience rather than money-saving product (it tends to be priced around the local bus day ticket rate). So perhaps we don't need it if we have contactless tap-in-and-out acceptance everywhere before long?
 

SCH117X

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Certainly cheaper than a day ticket in many places - for example Plusbus for Harrogate is £2, a Transdev day ticket is £4.70
 

Non Multi

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With the move to optical ticketing, I'd like to see local area day 'travelcards' that you could buy from the bus driver, not just from a rail ticket retailer.
 

markymark2000

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I think that Plusbus needs a relaunch with the ability to be able to use a plusbus ticket to get to the train station in the first place. Currently, the only way that this works is if you pick up tickets before your day of travel or get them posted. If you purchase tickets online, why can't they have an app where you can redeem codes which are buy train tickets. Alternatively, work with train operators so that the plusbus tickets can be shown on those apps. I think adding onto that, Plusbus needs better borders and maybe to start working with some of the existing multi modal tickets as there are many instances where they could simply be a sales outlet for existing tickets which are much better known. For example. Sheffield Plusbus is valid in Doncaster. This probably isn't as well known by drivers. If however it was a 'All Zones SYConnect ticket', this is a local ticket which drivers will know very well and it will mean simpler borders for the ticket as it will follow some existing travel zones rather than it being yet another ticket with yet another travel zone boundary which no one knows.

Another issue with Plusbus is that it's not easy for new operators to join (I've enquired in the past and got no reply) and the majority of operators who would accept the ticket have absolutely zero idea that it exists.

Finally, I think why aren't all train stations within the zone allowed to be used as a station to travel to/from. For example, within the Chester zone is Bache station but you can't get a ticket to Bache and use the Chester Plusbus. Why? It doesn't make any sense.


I emailed the Plusbus manager last May about the move to digital and he said ' it's up to the Train Operating Companies, as they are the retailers of our tickets and it will be their mobile apps that will need to be re-designed to offer our ticket to their customers. The cost and the activity is therefore all for TOC's to undertake.'

I also pulled up the fact that some season tickets were more expensive than existing all bus schemes like in Merseyside. He blamed bus operators for this.

With this in mind, I gather that PlusBus is just disconnected from the other transport systems. It costs very little and makes very little and as it's so independant, neither bus nor train operators see it as an opportunity to increase passenger numbers. As of last last month, PlusBus is no longer being ran by CPT and is instead moving to be ran by Traveline (see link below for source). I do wonder if this will bring more or less though as Traveline don't do much advertising but on the plus side, they have a lot of people linking to them so if Traveline takes it under their wing fully, it may lead to more promotion just by being on their site. I don't know, I think we will have to wait and see.

 

route101

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I have used Plusbus a few times, only Edinburgh. No problems until my last time, driver refused to honour the ticket, saying ' that's a rail ticket and not a bus ticket'. I pointed out the words Plus bus and Edinburgh to no avail. Got the next bus without problems. That's why I don't like products that are not used well.

I would like to see plus bus available on TVMs.
 

Megafuss

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The problem with PlusBus is that it's a Rail product, rather than a bus product. Bus operators don't set the fares (they get a "This is this fare for the next 12 months, are you Ok with that" email before the start of the Rail Settlement Plan calender year

However, the basic scheme is a good starting point to build from with regards local area fare capping and integration when looking at the Nationa Bus Strategy

The boundaries are already predefined (may need tinkering in some in places).

The fares will need looking at though as some of them are simply unsustainable in any operating model.

So I think we'll end up with PlusBus being replaced by the local area capped fares in due course
 

JonathanH

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This probably isn't as well known by drivers.
I have used Plusbus a few times, only Edinburgh. No problems until my last time, driver refused to honour the ticket, saying ' that's a rail ticket and not a bus ticket'. I pointed out the words Plus bus and Edinburgh to no avail. Got the next bus without problems. That's why I don't like products that are not used well.
All these multi-modal tickets do is make life difficult for bus drivers. As Bletchleyite points out above, with Contactless and less need to fumble with cash, there really isn't as much point in PlusBus at all now.
either bus nor train operators see it as an opportunity to increase passenger numbers.
Almost certainly because it isn't.
 

RT4038

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I think that Plusbus needs a relaunch with the ability to be able to use a plusbus ticket to get to the train station in the first place. Currently, the only way that this works is if you pick up tickets before your day of travel or get them posted. If you purchase tickets online, why can't they have an app where you can redeem codes which are buy train tickets. Alternatively, work with train operators so that the plusbus tickets can be shown on those apps. I think adding onto that, Plusbus needs better borders and maybe to start working with some of the existing multi modal tickets as there are many instances where they could simply be a sales outlet for existing tickets which are much better known. For example. Sheffield Plusbus is valid in Doncaster. This probably isn't as well known by drivers. If however it was a 'All Zones SYConnect ticket', this is a local ticket which drivers will know very well and it will mean simpler borders for the ticket as it will follow some existing travel zones rather than it being yet another ticket with yet another travel zone boundary which no one knows.

Another issue with Plusbus is that it's not easy for new operators to join (I've enquired in the past and got no reply) and the majority of operators who would accept the ticket have absolutely zero idea that it exists.

Finally, I think why aren't all train stations within the zone allowed to be used as a station to travel to/from. For example, within the Chester zone is Bache station but you can't get a ticket to Bache and use the Chester Plusbus. Why? It doesn't make any sense.


I emailed the Plusbus manager last May about the move to digital and he said ' it's up to the Train Operating Companies, as they are the retailers of our tickets and it will be their mobile apps that will need to be re-designed to offer our ticket to their customers. The cost and the activity is therefore all for TOC's to undertake.'

I also pulled up the fact that some season tickets were more expensive than existing all bus schemes like in Merseyside. He blamed bus operators for this.

With this in mind, I gather that PlusBus is just disconnected from the other transport systems. It costs very little and makes very little and as it's so independant, neither bus nor train operators see it as an opportunity to increase passenger numbers. As of last last month, PlusBus is no longer being ran by CPT and is instead moving to be ran by Traveline (see link below for source). I do wonder if this will bring more or less though as Traveline don't do much advertising but on the plus side, they have a lot of people linking to them so if Traveline takes it under their wing fully, it may lead to more promotion just by being on their site. I don't know, I think we will have to wait and see.
You make some very good points and understanding of the PlusBus product.

It is a standalone product from rail tickets and TOC revenue. PlusBus revenue is entirely to the participating bus companies' account. I think it would be true to say that bus companies participate to 'tick a box' rather than they feel it is commercially worthwhile. It is not difficult to see why this would be - discounting their fare (and not any part of the rail fare) risks a reduction in revenue from those who would buy both parts of the journey at the normal price, without any guarantee of sufficient increased take up of tickets to compensate, plus an increased level of possible fraud, because bus drivers do not have knowledge of the ridiculously complicated rail fares system, and electronic validation 'on bus' is just too expensive to contemplate for such a small portion of their business.

I think no meaningful progress is going to be made until the funding of rail and bus portions of the ticket come from the same pot and the finances of the transport system is being judged as a whole, rather than its (modal) parts.
 

Aictos

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I rather they allowed Plusbus purchases to be made from the ticket vending machines as there are times that one is needed and the ticket office is shut, besides there's no reason why it can't be done.
 

mark-h

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Bus operators don't set the fares (they get a "This is this fare for the next 12 months, are you Ok with that" email before the start of the Rail Settlement Plan calender year
I notice that Edinburgh only has day plusbus tickets available when a lot of other areas have longer term tickets available as well. I would assume that this is at the request of Lothian who's participation is required to make plusbus work in the city.
 

Megafuss

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I notice that Edinburgh only has day plusbus tickets available when a lot of other areas have longer term tickets available as well. I would assume that this is at the request of Lothian who's participation is required to make plusbus work in the city.
It's definitely by design as longer term tickets are covered by the combined rail and bus "One Ticket" scheme https://www.one-ticket.co.uk/
 

charley_17/7

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Despite living in what I would call 'prime' PlusBus territory, being in Brighton, I didn't bother renewing my annual this year, which I normally do along with my Annual Gold Card. This is despite the 'inter-availability' across all companies, and the significant discount over a normal Brighton & Hove annual bus only season ticket.

Too many arguments with Stagecoach drivers about "we don't accept that as it says B&H PlusBus", and a failed attempt at using the smartcard 'theKey' version which never worked properly was enough to consider it was often just as quick to walk/cycle to the station, and spend the money on a holiday somewhere instead.
 

Llandudno

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Despite living in what I would call 'prime' PlusBus territory, being in Brighton, I didn't bother renewing my annual this year, which I normally do along with my Annual Gold Card. This is despite the 'inter-availability' across all companies, and the significant discount over a normal Brighton & Hove annual bus only season ticket.

Too many arguments with Stagecoach drivers about "we don't accept that as it says B&H PlusBus", and a failed attempt at using the smartcard 'theKey' version which never worked properly was enough to consider it was often just as quick to walk/cycle to the station, and spend the money on a holiday somewhere instead.
Yep, if public facing transport staff are unaware of the existence or validity of Plusbus, what chance has the general public got of being aware that such a product exists. Slightly improved and properly marketed it could save a number of unnecessary car and taxi journeys to/from the station.

Mind you in north Wales there is a (secret!) zonal day rover bus and train ticket, which, can be decent value depending on where you want to travel. Needless to say, not many people including transport staff are aware of the tickets’ validity, and you guessed it you can’t buy it online at a station TVM
 

asb

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I used to work at London Victoria ticket office in the days before the national PlusBus product, but there was a local forerunner called Brighton RailBus. Being keen to see the product catch on, I tried to "upsell" (in modern parlance) the RailBus ticket to anyone buying a day return to Brighton. What I hadn't foreseen was being asked loads of questions about it, mostly "Do I need to catch the bus when I'm there?". Anyone who knows Brighton will know there is not a particularly simple answer to this question, as of course it rather depends on where you want to go when you get there, and how much walking you are happy with. The upshot of all this was that a ticket I could normally sell in less than 30 seconds was taking on average 3 minutes or so, and with the lengthy queues we always had I quickly had to abandon my lofty ambitions. I don't think knowledge of the product has probably improved much in the 20+ years since!
 

markymark2000

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The problem with PlusBus is that it's a Rail product, rather than a bus product. Bus operators don't set the fares (they get a "This is this fare for the next 12 months, are you Ok with that" email before the start of the Rail Settlement Plan calender year

However, the basic scheme is a good starting point to build from with regards local area fare capping and integration when looking at the Nationa Bus Strategy

The boundaries are already predefined (may need tinkering in some in places).

The fares will need looking at though as some of them are simply unsustainable in any operating model.

So I think we'll end up with PlusBus being replaced by the local area capped fares in due course
In which case 1. Why did CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport), a bus and coach trade body), run the service and 2, why did the manager of Plusbus say in an email to me that Plusbus charge what the bus operators choose

Boundaries I get are predefined but there is nothing wrong with simplifying the zones so that they are more in line with local operators tickets.


All these multi-modal tickets do is make life difficult for bus drivers. As Bletchleyite points out above, with Contactless and less need to fumble with cash, there really isn't as much point in PlusBus at all now.
Too many arguments with Stagecoach drivers about "we don't accept that as it says B&H PlusBus", and a failed attempt at using the smartcard 'theKey' version which never worked properly was enough to consider it was often just as quick to walk/cycle to the station, and spend the money on a holiday somewhere instead.
I think that is why it would be good so that where a multi operator ticket exists, Plusbus merely becomes a sales outlet for those tickets. The local multi operator ticket will be much, much better known about by drivers than Plusbus and it's boundaries. The Manchester PlusBus is valid in Wigan, how many drivers will know that vs 'All zones System One' which is sold and accepted on almost every bus in Manchester.

Almost certainly because it isn't.
It could do though if it was properly marketed. There are so many people calling out right now for integrated travel tickets and if it was more advertised and was made easier to use prior to getting to the train station, it may help alleviate some stations parking problems and break down the barrier of costly parking and lack of spaces at stations while also increasing bus usage. Once people are on the bus, you have an opportunity to encourage them back onboard in the future possibly making a more regular passenger. The benefits for trains are that people can see the parking at stations as a barrier to travel and so if plusbus was more advertised, it could help break down that barrier.
 

RT4038

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In which case 1. Why did CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport), a bus and coach trade body), run the service and 2, why did the manager of Plusbus say in an email to me that Plusbus charge what the bus operators choose

Boundaries I get are predefined but there is nothing wrong with simplifying the zones so that they are more in line with local operators tickets.




I think that is why it would be good so that where a multi operator ticket exists, Plusbus merely becomes a sales outlet for those tickets. The local multi operator ticket will be much, much better known about by drivers than Plusbus and it's boundaries. The Manchester PlusBus is valid in Wigan, how many drivers will know that vs 'All zones System One' which is sold and accepted on almost every bus in Manchester.


It could do though if it was properly marketed. There are so many people calling out right now for integrated travel tickets and if it was more advertised and was made easier to use prior to getting to the train station, it may help alleviate some stations parking problems and break down the barrier of costly parking and lack of spaces at stations while also increasing bus usage. Once people are on the bus, you have an opportunity to encourage them back onboard in the future possibly making a more regular passenger. The benefits for trains are that people can see the parking at stations as a barrier to travel and so if plusbus was more advertised, it could help break down that barrier.

The bus companies set the fare. I think they have one or two dates per year to change, which may not correspond with their own fare revision dates.

There are so many people (are there really?) calling out right now for integrated travel tickets, but this is mostly with the aim of getting cheaper overall travel rather than just not having to make separate transactions. The train company will not look favourably on a reduction of car parking revenue, and the bus company will not look favourably on a reduction in revenue from existing passengers who currently buy more expensive bus tickets to get to and from the station, plus various fraud/seepage issues. Yes, it may attract more people to ride buses, but will it result in more revenue to the farebox?

What would be envisaged to fulfil this 'properly marketed', and how much would that cost? How many extra PlusBus tickets would have to be sold to pay for this marketing?
 

johncrossley

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Maybe it will soon be up to the local authorities to set the fare, as a consequence of enhanced partnerships and franchising?
 

JonathanH

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Maybe it will soon be up to the local authorities to set the fare, as a consequence of enhanced partnerships and franchising?
How is that going to work? The costs of operating the bus service are still going to have to be met.

From some of the comments in this thread anyone would think that bus companies are making supernormal profits and fleecing their markets.
 

johncrossley

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How is that going to work? The costs of operating the bus service are still going to have to be met.

From some of the comments in this thread anyone would think that bus companies are making supernormal profits and fleecing their markets.

Obviously under franchising all fares are decided by the local authority.

In a few months, operators will not be able to access funding without committing to entering an Enhanced Partnership. Under that partnership, the local authority can impose rules on fares, especially regarding integrated fares.
 

90019

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There are so many people (are there really?) calling out right now for integrated travel tickets
Even if there are, I do wonder how many would actually use them.

Being a driver in Edinburgh where we have One Ticket, there's been a noticeable decline in the numbers of people using it over the last few years.
Four or five years ago they were fairly well used - seeing ten or more of them every day was pretty normal - whereas just over a year ago (before covid) I was only seeing one or two a week, if that.
 

Bletchleyite

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Even if there are, I do wonder how many would actually use them.

Being a driver in Edinburgh where we have One Ticket, there's been a noticeable decline in the numbers of people using it over the last few years.
Four or five years ago they were fairly well used - seeing ten or more of them every day was pretty normal - whereas just over a year ago (before covid) I was only seeing one or two a week, if that.

Because they cost more?

What I personally call for is integrated tickets being the only and default option, and that cost is kept down by way of zones or similar rather than modal or operator split.
 

RT4038

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Obviously under franchising all fares are decided by the local authority.

In a few months, operators will not be able to access funding without committing to entering an Enhanced Partnership. Under that partnership, the local authority can impose rules on fares, especially regarding integrated fares.
But they won't be able to impose fares on the railways, and are they really going to impose rules that reduce that damage the viability of the bus services (i.e. that they will have to finance)? Pie in the sky is what I am thinking. Until the funding of bus and rail services come from the same pot, I don't expect much change really.
 

K219UHA

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Yep, if public facing transport staff are unaware of the existence or validity of Plusbus, what chance has the general public got of being aware that such a product exists. Slightly improved and properly marketed it could save a number of unnecessary car and taxi journeys to/from the station.

Mind you in north Wales there is a (secret!) zonal day rover bus and train ticket, which, can be decent value depending on where you want to travel. Needless to say, not many people including transport staff are aware of the tickets’ validity, and you guessed it you can’t buy it online at a station TVM
I used to use the North Wales Rover on occasions around a decade ago, mainly for going on multiple bus operators. I always found it a nightmare getting most operators in Wrexham, back in the GHA dominated days, to accept it without showing the leaflet and facing an argument usually due to lack of awareness. GHA could easily issue the tickets and Arriva were hit and miss. The X94 drivers however had no issues finding it on the machine and issuing the ticket.

It was another nightmare getting an operator to accept the ticket if it was issued by a rival. It was easier to purchase a railway issued one; many bus operators assumed it was a PlusBus.

I ended up giving up with it and preferring to drive closer to a target location and just get the particular bus operators day ticket or even a Gwynedd Red Rover, avoiding the trains in North West Wales.
 
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johncrossley

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But they won't be able to impose fares on the railways, and are they really going to impose rules that reduce that damage the viability of the bus services (i.e. that they will have to finance)? Pie in the sky is what I am thinking. Until the funding of bus and rail services come from the same pot, I don't expect much change really.

Someone above said that the bus companies set the fare, he didn't say anything about the railways. So the local authority would be taking the place of the bus companies in a franchising/partnership scenario.
 

RT4038

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Someone above said that the bus companies set the fare, he didn't say anything about the railways. So the local authority would be taking the place of the bus companies in a franchising/partnership scenario.
The local authority will be setting the fare in the franchising scenario, but not quite in the partnership. However, the bus operation has to be paid for somehow, so I am not expecting give away fares. It must be realised that PlusBus is entirely a bus product - the railways make no financial contribution at all, and this is a reason for its shortcomings.
The integrated fares model (as envisaged by @Bletchleyite) is only really possible when both rail and bus are funded from the same pot.
 

Cesarcollie

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Obviously under franchising all fares are decided by the local authority.

In a few months, operators will not be able to access funding without committing to entering an Enhanced Partnership. Under that partnership, the local authority can impose rules on fares, especially regarding integrated fares.
Only with the agreement of the majority of operators.....
 

johncrossley

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Only with the agreement of the majority of operators.....

If an operator doesn't agree then they won't get funding. So given that funding will be required for the foreseeable future then operators don't have much choice other to go along with it.
 

Cesarcollie

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If an operator doesn't agree then they won't get funding. So given that funding will be required for the foreseeable future then operators don't have much choice other to go along with it.

But not at any cost. If what the local authority seeks is unreasonable, operators will say so, and DfT will have to come to a view - local authorities are also expected to act reasonably.....
 
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