Earlier this week at the state opening of Parliament in Westminster, the Queen laid out the UK Government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead. In this blog we have looked at the three main pieces of legislation which will be of interest to community transport. We believe that the Modern Transport Bill, Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill and the Bus Services Bill, represent new opportunities for the community transport sector. In this blog we have laid out their potential impact for the transport sector and the opportunities for community transport operators to engage with the new legislative agenda.
Modern Transport Bill
The Modern Transport Bill lays out provisions that the UK Government hope will put UK transport at the forefront of innovation. The measures in this Bill are applicable to the entirety of Great Britain and primarily cover the development of autonomous vehicles, measures to alleviate congestion and steps to put Britain at the forefront of international transport technology.
In line with their ambitions for transport innovation the Bill primarily focuses on the development of the legislative frameworks that will enable innovation to thrive. This includes; ensuring appropriate insurance is available to support the use of autonomous vehicles, reducing congestion to boost the economy, and creating the conditions that puts the UK at the forefront of modern global transport developments.
Autonomous vehicles are undoubtedly a big development in the evolution of personal transport. We believe that autonomous vehicles present a number of opportunities for community transport in the future. Whilst the first autonomous minibus may be some time away we believe that autonomous vehicles in the future could enable the development of a more integrated transport network.
We believe that whilst this Bill is ambitious it is important that further detail is provided on the insurance and safety regulations of autonomous vehicles. The priority for community transport operators is always the safe transport of their passengers to where they need to be. In this light we hope that the introduction of legislation in Parliament will also consider not only how autonomous vehicles can support the community transport industry but how it can do so safely with proper insurance in place.
It’s fair to say there are reasons to be sceptical about all this too. We would ask what value is technology that furthers people’s independence if that simply becomes another word for isolation? We believe that shared transport experiences help reduce isolation and keep people in good shape so this must not be lost in this debate.
Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill
The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill sets out to:
“Support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeships, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure Britain needs to grow.”
The government hope to achieve this primarily through further devolution of powers to local communities. It is hoped that these devolved powers will enable more effective delivery of local infrastructure projects. Additionally the government will establish the independent National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis in order to provide the government with expert, independent advice on infrastructure issues.
Again, we believe that devolution offers the opportunities for communities to build the transport solutions that are best for them. At our Roadshow we have repeated on numerous occasions that we believe it is important that further devolution is accompanied by sufficient funding to enact the legislative changes.
We hope that the National Infrastructure Commission will take a comprehensive approach to infrastructure development which gives proper attention to rural communities and the unique transport make up of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In a previous blog we have outlined our concerns that infrastructure investment has been consistently London-centric, we hope that the National Infrastructure Commission does not inadvertently further entrench this funding divide.
Bus Services Bill
Perhaps one of the more anticipated pieces of legislation is the Bus Services Bill. The recent announcements in the Queen’s Speech do not add much detail to the announcements previously outlined but there are a few points of clarity that are worth highlighting. It is also important to highlight that these measures apply to England only.
The first is that whilst new powers from the Bill will be made available to combined authorities with directly elected Mayors the government will consider applications from other local authorities on a case by case basis.
We believe that it is particularly important that in areas of acute rural isolation local authorities are able to work with local communities to develop the transport solutions that best address their transport needs. We hope that as the Bill develops more guidance will be issued over the circumstances in which local authorities are able to apply for these additional powers.
Another interesting development is the proposal that Bus companies will be required to make data freely available. It is hoped that this will enable app developers to produce journey planners and other app based transport products.
There is less detail over what this data will be but we hope that providing information on routes, journey length and frequency of service will enable apps to be developed that better account for the needs of passengers who often need to access multiple modes of transport. In addition, we hope that easily accessible data will enable community transport operators to best assess where they can make the biggest impact in alleviating social isolation. Finally, we hope the sharing of data will enable more collaboration in transport planning that involves community transport from the outset.
There is a lot of potential for community transport to benefit from the measures laid out but a lot of this is speculative until the Bill goes through Parliament. This optimism has to be tempered with an acknowledgement that there is a lack of detail in areas of the bills that leave the sector with some unanswered questions.
If you have any further questions or comments you can email James at James@ctauk.org