The Bus Quality Contract Progress Thread

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scandal

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I've been reading nibbles in various magazines, websites and official reports for some time about certain ITAs going down the route of quality contracts, I think considering the knowledge on this forum it is about time that we had a dedicated thread to keep track of what could be a revolution in regional transport provision.

To my knowledge so far:
West Yorkshire: ITA in favour, appears to have local support, progressing to apply for Government permission, Quality Contracts from 2014? (http://www.wymetro.com/news/releases/qualitycontracts)

Tyne and Wear: The ITA has asked Nexus to explore the respective merit of both a Quality Contracts Scheme and Quality Partnerships approach to deliver its aim of improving bus services and providing a sustainable network. Nexus will report top the ITA in September on the progress of these parralel workstreams (with thanks to Huw Lewis, July 2012)

South Yorkshire: Rejection of Quality Contracts in favor of voluntary partnership (http://www.transportxtra.com/magazines/local_transport_today/news/?id=31669)

Bristol: Considering contracts, although no doubt on hold post city deal and mayoral campaigns....possible rumours of a West of England PTE (http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Row-council-buses-Bristol/story-15977299-detail/story.html)

West Midlands: Unknown, appears to have been granted greater powers under the City Deal.

Greater Manchester: Unknown

Merseyside: Unknown

Would appreciate other peoples input here to work out what the current state of affairs are, this is the extent of my knowledge and a lot could of changed since then, ideally I'd like to keep this thread on topic of discussing ways of implementation, progress and official news/views rather then a debate on the merits or disbenefits of quality contracts per se.
 
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Max

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SYPTE considered quality contracts for some time but have instead gone down a partnership route whereby operators cooperate with each other as well as the PTE and council to deliver coordinated timetables and one ticket that will be valid on all services.
 
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To clarify the situation in Tyne and Wear: The ITA has asked Nexus to explore the respective merit of both a Quality Contracts Scheme and Quality Partnerships approach to deliver its aim of improving bus services and providing a sustainable network. Nexus will report top the ITA in September on the progress of these parralel workstreams. It would be wrong to say the ITA prefers either approach at this stage.
(Huw Lewis, Head of Communications, Nexus)
 

scandal

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SYPTE considered quality contracts for some time but have instead gone down a partnership route whereby operators cooperate with each other as well as the PTE and council to deliver coordinated timetables and one ticket that will be valid on all services.
Do you know how well this seems to have worked? I read some documents regarding the new Barnsley bus station and the requirements from operators ie. Euro emissions, Low Floor, etc but had heard in reality it often changed very little (the SQBP)
 
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hacman

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MerseyTravel are not in favour of quality contracts, and are instead pushing on with voluntary agreements with operators.

They have no plans for exploring a QCS in the near future, as the general feeling is that the current arrangements are working well.

Jon
 

WatcherZero

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GM has done it three ways:
Bus Operators’ Code of Conduct, voluntary agreement between the authority and bus operators (currently 7 operators making up 86.7% of services) where the authority pledges to rectify infrastructure issues or disputes with councils and in return the operators commit to allow the monitoring of individually assigned performance targets reviewed every six months for punctuality, driver training, service, appearance, engine EURO standard, low floor, etc.

Quality Bus Corridors, since 1999 £88m has been spent by the authority and £55m by operators on these and they currently cover 172 miles.

Quality Bus Contracts/QPS, currently active on the A6 191 and 192 routes which carry 10m passengers a year, likely to be extended to cover the whole of the Cross City Bus routes when their completed.
 

34D

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I've been reading nibbles in various magazines, websites and official reports for some time about certain ITAs going down the route of quality contracts, I think considering the knowledge on this forum it is about time that we had a dedicated thread to keep track of what could be a revolution in regional transport provision.

To my knowledge so far:
West Yorkshire: ITA in favour, appears to have local support, progressing to apply for Government permission, Quality Contracts from 2014? (http://www.wymetro.com/news/releases/qualitycontracts)
I'm trying to keep an open mind on quality contracts within WY at least until more is known, however the simple facts are that small operators may well loose their businesses overnight. At the same time, there are lots of potential opportunities.

Arriva are planning a legal challenge. Metro have apparently said unofficially that the only reason they are pressing on with QCs is that First WY offers its own day ticket at £4.60 to undercut metro's any operator ticket at £5.20.
 

radamfi

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Quality Bus Contracts/QPS, currently active on the A6 191 and 192 routes which carry 10m passengers a year, likely to be extended to cover the whole of the Cross City Bus routes when their completed.
Please be careful when using terminology such as 'Quality Bus Contracts' (I do note you also use QPS which is more appropriate in this context) as some readers may think you mean bus Quality Contracts.

Just to clarify for readers, 'Quality Contracts' is where the local authority decides the routes and fares and merely pay the operators to run the services. There is nowhere in the UK where QCs exist as yet, although London has had a very similar franchised system since the 80s.
 

tbtc

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The Sheffield "Partnership" will supposedly see no changes to routes for four years (from October 2012) and the "all operator" bus/tram tickets come down from their current price to a level roughly equivalent to the range of First-specific tickets.

I'm not aware of any agreement over single fare prices - presumably operators will still compete on their own range of tickets (which should come down a bit, in the case of First), but with the "safety net" of an all operator price.
 

WatcherZero

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Please be careful when using terminology such as 'Quality Bus Contracts' (I do note you also use QPS which is more appropriate in this context) as some readers may think you mean bus Quality Contracts.
Blame the Government for recycling legislation with a minor name change from previous legislation.
 

142094

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The legislation has been around since 2000, so only taken 12 years to realise that we could actually have a decent bus network instead of one run for shareholders rather than passengers benefit.

Seems as if councils/PTEs and local authorities have tried each measure but none have really worked so far - Voluntary Partnerships were useless as obviously they weren't binding agreements, which left councils footing the bill for infrastructure work, with the bus company deciding when to serve it (plus, any bus company could use that bit of infrastructure, even if they weren't signed up in a VP agreement).

QBPs had the right idea, to improve patronage by investment by both parties, but again any bus company could use the new infrastructure etc so hasn't really worked. Key point that QBPs had to pass OfT competition tests, and again the LA/PTE/Council couldn't set fares or timetables.

So we find ourselves at the situation where tangible progress can be made to restoring the bus services back to what they were like before deregulation. Hopefully Nexus and the other PTEs who are looking at QCs will stick with their guns and get it put through, even if the bus companies are trying to scare passengers by saying costs will rise and taxpayers will be at risk.
 

WatcherZero

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There was a tweak to the law in 2008/9? that made it more practical to implement and thats where the current wave of momentum is coming from but local authorities are still very wary of the concept, can be seen by the way the bus companies in the north east basically ganged up and submitted identical bids so that didnt undercut each other.

Competition Commision should have had cause to intervene but it continually says the bus industry is fine as it is and doesnt need any changes, which gets the PTE's banging their heads against the wall.
 

34D

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So we find ourselves at the situation where tangible progress can be made to restoring the bus services back to what they were like before deregulation. Hopefully Nexus and the other PTEs who are looking at QCs will stick with their guns and get it put through, even if the bus companies are trying to scare passengers by saying costs will rise and taxpayers will be at risk.
Erm what about the operators who could loose their livelihoods?
 

Ze Random One

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Erm what about the operators who could loose their livelihoods?
There's precious little evidence that the operators are likely to lose their livelihoods, for four good reasons:
1. The existing operators will still own their existing buses and depot facilities, as well as understanding the pre-existing market better than any potential competitors. Providing the buses comply with the standard demanded by the contract (and any contracting authority would be foolish to make too many demands of the bus companies, as it will push the bid prices up too much) that puts the incumbents in the best position to bid for the contracts.
2. The small operators who could risk their livelihoods already rely on PTE/Council contracts for the vast majority of their incomes. Since they already operate primarily as contractors, I don't see how their plight will change substantially. The rest -- well their pockets are deep enough to cope, no one city is going to break the likes of Arriva, First et al.
3. The Local Transport Act 2008 forces TUPE arrangements onto any incoming QCS contractor. Therefore, if an operator was to leave an area on the back of losing their right to operate, the new contractor replacing them is forced to accept their employees under TUPE law (i.e., with their employment contracts protected). Nobody should be losing their jobs over a QCS (unless, of course, there were a significant reduction in service provision)
4. This process actually provides a stability of income to contractors, as they will be given a fixed sum to operate to a specified standard. The risks are transferred onto the PTE/council.

Remember that in London, although all the buses are red, they still have "First" or "Stagecoach" or "Arriva" ... emblazened across their sides. The franchising system that operates successfully in London, or indeed in thousands of cities the world over, has not led to operators losing their livelihoods.

Since the PTEs are specifically trying to move away from a position where their transport networks are decided by one or two very dominant operators, which have, and can, exert substantial pressure over council budgets*, without sharing in any rewards, they aren't going to design their contracts in a one-model-fits-all fashion. The PTEs want to retain the smaller operators, so that the market can get more competitive, and this is exemplified by West Yorkshire ITA's decision that they want to split their scheme into about 50 contracts of differing sizes and types.

(* just see how many bus operators have miraculously retained - albeit not in full - Sunday bus services despite having their council subsidies stopped by budget cuts)
 

radamfi

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Erm what about the operators who could loose their livelihoods?
Ze Random One has just responded as I was about to do, in a far more detailed way.

I would also add that it would be no great loss if some of the low cost operators that compete on already overbussed corridors in some of the major cities disappear as a result of QCs.

just see how many bus operators have miraculously retained - albeit not in full - Sunday bus services despite having their council subsidies stopped by budget cuts)
I always thought that many evening and Sunday services were run under tender when they were really commercial. The daytime operator basically assumed that they would win the tender as there was little competition. They just put in a low tender just to extract a bit of extra public cash for a service they would have run commercially anyway.
 

bluenoxid

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Since Huw posted, they have sent a draft to relevant stakeholders.

http://www.nexus.org.uk/news/2012/nexus-invites-operators-help-develop-plans-local-bus-services

Arriva will put changes to the Newcastle and Northumberland network in for mid September. Ten days later TWITA meet. With the anger in the back of the mind from one of the most reluctant operators to engage in the back of the mind of the most reluctant councillors, they may be more likely to engage with QCS.
 

markydh

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One of the reluctant councillors is a certain Lib Dem by the name of Greg Stone, who is something of a cheerleader against anything that goes against the status quo. Personally I feel it is somewhat inevitable TWITA will instruct NEXUS to start QCS proceedings. That doesn't, however, mean QPS won't happen instead as long as the North East Bus Operators Association continue constructive talks (and a certain Scottish CEO stops threatening to take poison).
 
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