Bridging the gap between business and governmentClient: Tower Transit Published: July 2016
The bus market in the UK, outside London, was de-regulated in the 1980s and since then has consolidated with five large operators dominating the market and there is a growing downward spiral in bus patronage in many areas while fares have risen and routes have been closed. A number of Transport Authorities, notably Manchester, asked government for the same regulatory powers as London, where Transport for London has the power to competitively let operator contracts, determine routes and fares and the quality of services. As a result bus patronage has grown steadily in London and fares are affordable and routes integrated with other modes of public transport. Transport Authorities saw the success of the Bus franchised system in London and wanted the same franchising powers to deliver such improvements for their area. So the Bus Services Bill, was introduced to Parliament in 2016 as part of the government’s Devolution deals to give Mayoral Transport Authorities the powers to franchise bus services as happens in London.
From a bus operator perspective, the existing non-regulated system makes it very difficult for new market entrants, like Tower Transit, to compete against incumbent operators. If used by the new Mayors, the franchising powers in the proposed legislation would enable them to compete on a level playing field with other operators. Not surprisingly, therefore, the large incumbent bus operators in the UK opposed the proposed new legislation because it poses a threat to their market share and margins. They had been successful in preventing earlier reforms succeeding in the north east and, in spite of the Bill having cross party support, supporters of the Bill, were concerned that the powers they needed might be eroded as the Bill went through Parliament.
What We Did
On our advice, Tower Transit, persuaded a number of operators who were also supportive of the Bill to working together to support the Bill’s passage through Parliament. These companies included Abellio UK, HCT Group, Keolis UK and RATP Dev – as well as Tower Transit. Stephanie Elsy Associates was asked to help co-ordinate this Group of companies in their efforts to persuade Parliamentarians across the political spectrum and Government to pass the Bill undiluted. In support of this objective, we executed a coordinated plan to support the Bill which included
- engaging with Ministers, advisers, government officials, Parliamentarians, and other influencers to ensure they understood the transformative potential of the legislation for passengers
- supportive coverage in specialist and mainstream media
- a highly successful dinner in Parliament to promote the Bill, hosted by former Labour Shadow Transport Secretary of State, Mary Creagh, MP and former Minister, Conservative Peer, Lord Horam. Numerous Parliamentarians, Councillors and transport authority officials and industry experts attended.
The Bill successfully completed its passage through Parliament just before the 2017 General Election. Transport for Greater Manchester has now started the process of introducing franchising.
Stephanie Elsy Associates then organised a one day master class on bus franchising sponsored by Abellio, HCT Group Keolis and Tower Transit, with the support of the Urban Transport Group. The masterclass shared the experience of international Transport officials on how to operate a successful franchised bus system. We had experts speakers from the transport bodies in Newcastle, Jersey, the Netherlands, Australia. Over 50 UK Transport officials attended. The slides from their presentation are hosted on the Urban Transport Groups’s website so that others may benefit from the workshops.
Stephanie’s knowledge and expertise has really helped us to better understand our government customers, their needs and priorities. Her advice and support has been invaluable.