On Wednesday 1st March, Jo Churchill MP lent her support to the benefits of the Bus Services Bill, to her constituency, in the House of Commons. The Bill aims to energise the bus service sector; growing passenger numbers and improving the overall bus service for passengers. Intending to develop a quality and competitive bus sector, the Bill is devised to facilitate local areas in driving forward the opportunities of an effective bus service; a measure Mrs Churchill argued can deliver for areas of her constituency.
The Bill focuses on three core areas; introducing ‘Enhanced Partnerships’ to strengthen working in the sector, especially between commercial companies and local authorities; providing for a step change in the information available to bus passengers; and introducing new franchising powers with greater decision making at local level.
Intervening on the debate, Jo Churchill MP argued, in light of the current challenges to the Westley bus route, “the Bill’s flexibility, which we all welcome, is that it also works for rural areas and even small market towns.”
She then went on to highlight that this Bill, is not about comparing regional differences in service where, barring London, the service has seen relative decline. Instead, she focused on the Bill’s capacity to deliver the means to local areas across the country to drive “the quality of service all our constituents deserve.”
Speaking after the debate, Jo Churchill said:
“Having recently chaired a local meeting to discuss the issues in and around the bus services in Bury St Edmunds, I know not only the strength of feeling, particularly around the Westley Estate bus route, but the importance of securing a bus service that delivers for residents.
Having spoken with local councillors and authorities, I believe this Bill has scope to deliver improvements to the services in our local areas. By enabling authorities with greater powers to determine and manage the services available, I see the potential for the better procurement of service partnerships. Moreover, I know that measures to open data and improve ticketing, is very welcome and can significantly improve the quality of service on offer.
Nevertheless, there is always room for improvements and whilst greater local oversight is the right step, we must ensure the responsibility on local authorities, is manageable. That is why I feel it is important this Bill is flexible to the needs of local areas and enables our local councils, especially where the service is poor, to be able to act fully and in the best interest of their residents.