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Transport industry predictions for 2017

Posted: 4 January 2017 | John Birtwistle, CPT President for 2016 | No comments yet

John Birtwistle, Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) President for 2016, gives his transport predictions for the year ahead…

Transport Industry 2017

2017 – a watershed year for the bus and coach industry?

Yes, 2017 will be a watershed year- if only because it will see the first bus-specific UK legislation for several decades reach the Statute Book.  The Bus Services Bill is expected to become law in the spring and will effect some profound changes on our industry. Or will it?

We will be expected, most likely, to fit our new buses with audio-visual route and next stop information.  Many of us already do this.  We will be expected to make information about our services and fares available in open source format.  Again many of us already do this, and there are excellent Traveline services that make the information available to the public.  We will be able to form multi-operator voluntary partnership agreements with local authorities and take a holistic approach to network planning.  Not many of us do that, but it has already been done, and it will become easier.  We will face the challenge of local authority ticketing schemes, and local authority statutory partnerships, with new names.  We already face that.

And we will face the prospect of local authorities being able to close the market and effectively confiscate our businesses.  We already face that with Quality Contracts.  There haven’t been many attempts to create them and the process to be followed may become slightly easier for an authority, but the affordability and value for money arguments won’t get any easier.  So we’re used to that, too.

“The Bus Services Act will provide some good opportunities for us and some old threats dressed up as new ones”

The Bus Services Act will therefore provide some good opportunities for us and some old threats dressed up as new ones.  And in Scotland we can expect to see a Transport Bill (or ‘wider transport measures’) published for consultation, with the promise of legislation in a year or two.

Next “Brexit”.  We will continue to feel the pressure from difficulties in recruiting staff from other member states who fear that they will be “sent home” before the end of their probationary period.  We will continue to suffer from economic uncertainty as the timing and form of our economic separation from the European mainland becomes clearer, or we hope it becomes clearer.  We will continue to fight for open market access and for the ongoing freedom of movement and freedom of travel – for passengers and for drivers, and to ensure that our employees and our businesses do not suffer in comparison to our mainland colleagues.  We will lobby for these outcomes.  Some of us already do that.

“We will continue to fight for open market access and for the ongoing freedom of movement and freedom of travel”

We face the challenges set by impending air quality management – within London – possibly all of Greater London – and in the first tranche of Clean Air Zones outside the capital, with no doubt a number of “me too” authorities following suit. In Scotland for example, Low Emission Zones will be introduced from 2018. Whilst the high level lobbying will continue, bus and coach operators will be forced to identify and prepare ingenious engineering and operational solutions, if we are to be able to continue commercial and sustainable operation in future years.  Many of us already have to do that.

“We need to spend 2017, one and all, emphasising what a great asset our industry represents”

Finally, bus and coach operators alike will continue to face the operational and marketing challenges set by congestion.  What can we do in the face of local authority spending cuts and priorities which all too often place the car first in the desire to maintain economic prosperity and accessibility?  We need to make the case for the bus and coach, the most efficient user of roadspace for moving people in an environmentally and socially inclusive manner.  The mode which brings great economic, environmental and societal benefits to all our communities and which is our guarantee of future sustainable development.  There is a lot of great research out there to back up our claims.  We need to spend 2017, one and all, emphasising what a great asset our industry represents and that if we are given the opportunity to operate efficiently, protected from congestion, how much we can offer to our communities.  Not enough of us do that.

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