The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 (“the 2019 Act”) received Royal Assent on 15th November 2019. The 2019 Act provides local transport authorities with a range of flexible powers to improve the operation of local bus services in their areas.
The 2019 Act allows local transport authorities to run their own bus services; franchise bus services in their areas; or enter into a Bus Service Improvement Partnerships (BSIPs) with bus operators within their areas. The Act also introduces new regulations covering the way in which bus operators must provide information to local authorities when they plan to reduce or withdraw the services they provide.
Local Authority Run Services
Section 34 of the 2019 Act essentially gives local transport authorities the power to run local bus services that they were previously prohibited from doing under the Transport Act 1985. Section 34 came into force on 24 June 2022.
Franchising is a model where a transport authority awards exclusive rights to run a bus route or routes for a set period to the most competitive bidder. Section 38 of the 2019 Act allows a local transport authority to make a franchising framework covering the whole or any part of their area, replacing the Quality Contract model which had never been used in Scotland. The Scottish Government plans to bring forward franchising regulations by the end of 2023.
Bus Service Improvement Partnerships (BSIPs)
Section 35 of the 2019 Act allows local transport authorities to form a Bus Services Improvement Partnership (BSIP) with bus operators within their area. BSIPs replace Quality Partnerships to provide an updated and revised model of how local transport authorities can work with operators to improve the quality and efficiency of local services. The Scottish Government plans to bring forward BSIPs regulations by the end of 2023.
Provision of service information when varying or cancelling registration
Regulations under Section 39 of the Act will come into force on 1 April 2023, prescribing the way in which bus operators must provide information to local authorities when they plan to vary (reduce) or cancel the registration of (withdraw) local services they provide.