Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
The Welsh Government has today launched a White Paper setting out proposals for improving the legislative framework in Wales for how local bus services are planned and delivered, together with reform of the licensing regime for taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).
The White Paper contains proposals for a range of options to empower local authorities to determine the most appropriate model for providing bus services in their area, and for tackling the inconsistencies and challenges with the licensing of taxis and PHVs.
Using the new powers we have gained in the Wales Act 2017, we can reshape the public transport network in a way that supports our ambition to increase the number of people using public transport and encourage travellers to switch from private car use; reducing pollution and congestion.
We are determined to deliver a more effective public transport network, comprising an improved network of local bus services, consistent quality for taxi and PHV services, together with rail services delivered as part of the new Wales and Borders Rail Franchise.
We aspire to the development of a seamless, integrated, multi-modal transport system for Wales, which is accessible, affordable and integrated across the whole of Wales; providing choice and opportunity as a viable alternative to the private motor car.
To achieve our aspirations we need to ensure we have the right legislative, institutional, technical and administrative tools in place and that we work in collaboration – both across government and in partnership with local authorities and the private sector.
There is currently a lack of coordination between bus operators, and bus services are not well-coordinated with rail services. There are inconsistent standards across vehicle fleets. Some communities have little or no public transport provision, and passenger information is often inconsistent and poorly presented across different providers. The law around taxis and PHVs is complicated, outdated and is in need of reform.
The proposals set out in the White Paper seek to put in place the legislative tools to enable local authorities to work together, and with bus operators, to respond flexibly to local community needs; tailoring the approach to different circumstances and challenges. The proposed legislative changes would: allow for improved partnering schemes; provide an improved franchising option; and provide local authorities with the option to run bus services.
In relation to taxis and PHVs, the proposals seek to address the fact that the archaic legislation does not reflect modern practices. We are determined to: tackle the inconsistency of existing licensing standards; strengthen existing enforcement powers; and create new duties in relation to information-sharing. Taxis and PHVs are a vital component in our ambitions for a fully integrated public transport network and would need to be considered as part of the solution, in particular as part of any demand-responsive transport scheme.
The White Paper also outlines proposals for improved partnership working between local authorities through the establishment of Joint Transport Authorities, which would relate to both bus services and the licensing of taxis and PHVs.
The White Paper also sets out proposals to incrementally increase the age of eligibility for a concessionary bus pass, so that it ultimately aligns with a woman’s pensionable age. This proposal retains the fundamental principles of universal entitlement. No current pass holder will have their eligibility removed and passholders will remain able to travel free of charge anywhere in Wales.
The paper invites members of the public, local authorities and industry stakeholders to consider the proposals and provide us with their feedback.
I welcome and look forward to your views on the consultation document, which is available via the following website link https://beta.gov.wales/improving-public-transport.
The closing date for responses is 27 March 2019.