09 April 2008

New bus watchdog

Ruth Kelly has announced the creation of the first official National Bus Passenger Champion to actively represent the millions of people who use buses in the towns, villages and cities across England. It has been awarded to Passenger Focus, who will widen its remit to take on the new role of bus passenger champion.

The decision comes after measures in the Local Transport Bill to give bus passengers an influential and unified national voice.

Ruth Kelly said: "Passenger Focus already does a great job representing rail passengers across the country. Now it will also champion the interests of bus users, making sure their voices are heard and influencing the way local bus services operate. Buses are an essential means of transport for many people, and are increasingly the transport of choice for many others. Two thirds of all public transport journeys are now made by bus, amounting to nearly five billion bus journeys every year. This follows the Government doubling its investment in buses, which now stands at £2.5bn, as well as strengthening the powers available to help councils improve local buses."

Passenger Focus has welcomed the decision to be awarded with its new Passenger Champion role, although Bus Users UK, the independent organisation working on behalf of bus passengers, had campaigned hard to be assigned the role of official watchdog. BUUK Chairman Gavin Booth said "The Department for Transport has today announced that the role of rail watchdog Passenger Focus is to be extended to include the role of statutory Bus Passengers' Champion for England (outside London). Bus Users UK, which has championed bus passenger interests for more than 20 years, is naturally disappointed not to have been selected as the Bus Passenger Champion".

Passenger Focus is best known in the railway industry with its evidence-lead research which has benefited rail passengers for many years through its successful fostering of relations between itself, train operating companies, infracos and the DfT.

But where now for Bus Users UK? Many assumed it would have been automatically given the Passenger Champion remit. Gavin Booth said that BUUK will gladly work alongside Passenger Focus to ensure the best deal is always done for passengers.

We are still waiting to hear exactly what remit Passenger Focus are likely to be granted by the DfT with their new role.