Expect franchising in provincial England to become a reality today, as the West Yorkshire integrated transport authority considers its future bus strategy. ITA members will weigh up the merits of greater partnership working as proposed by the Association of Bus Operators of West Yorkshire against plans to develop a full quality contract scheme. The report reads,
“On balance, it is recommended that the Quality Contract option should be adopted as the preferred approach…”and, if endorsed, could see the start of franchised operations as soon as April 2015.
Metro, the PTE, has to date not entered into any partnerships. Instead, it asked operators to present their proposals to the ITA. In a spirited defence, ABOWY has done just that but it fails to get full endorsement.
“Whilst (sic) the ABOWY partnership proposal has considerable merits and constitutes the lowest risk option in the short-term, it does not meet the Authority’s requirements in full”
ABOWY is very much a lone voice. The ITA, the public and the media are all for the greatest possible control of bus services. This is largely the result of mileage reductions and fares increases, principally by one West Yorkshire operator, one who is perceived by the public to be doing very nicely out of West Yorkshire, in spite of it all.
And the ITA already has cross-party support for QCs. The previous Conservative-Liberal colalition together with the current Labour-controlled seem staunchly in favour of franchising.
“The primary reasons for [QCs] are the impact of simplified integrated ticketing, the ability to promote and market a stable, integrated network with consistent standards and the ability to re-deploy some buses to enhance accessibility rather than duplicate other services”ABOWY won’t give up without a (legal) fight. But its partnership approach seems doomed because of a specific failure, perceived or otherwise, to address integrated ticketing. Operators currently individually undercut Metro PTE’s Metrocard prices. In response, ABOWY states, “The West Yorkshire operators are keen to be allowed the freedom to offer lower prices and other innovations if they are able.”