Since deregulation 30 years ago, bus use has gone down 40% in places like the West of England, while in London, (where they have a regulated network, or ‘franchising’) it has doubled. But Dan Norris still hasn't decided to franchise YOUR network.

Deregulation means private companies have the freedom to axe routes, hike fares, and cut corners on reliability with no real public oversight. There's no way to ban them from the region if they fail us. Franchising puts the public back in the driver's seat.

Under franchising, we design the network, coordinate routes and timetables, and integrate tickets. We keep more of the profits. Bus companies can still run services but only on our terms. They sign a contract for 5 or 10 years that allows us to kick them out of the region if they fail to deliver.

Here’s 10 big ways that regulation will mean better buses for you in the West of England!

  1. Profits from popular routes could be used to subsidise less busy routes so all communities have a decent service. This is done easily in London and Europe. In regulated networks the council redistributes profits, rather than pocketing them.

  2. Local authorities would set and enforce the timetabling of buses across the West of England, so buses are far more reliable. They would also be more evenly-spaced, joining up with other forms of transport, and stopping inconvenient and sometimes scary long waits.

  3. The network would be stable. Under franchising, operators would be working to a 5 or 10 year contract. That would stop them form cutting services year after year.

  4. Fares would be cheaper, consistent, and easy to under stand. In London, where the bus network is regulated, fares are £1.65, for a journey which could be an hour plus. You can make as many changes as you like on a single ticket, even if you change bus company! We could even have our own equivalent of the "Oyster-card" and have prices capped across services.

  5. We could access comprehensive, easy-to-find information. Bus companies would be obliged to share more information with the Combined Authority, so we could know if and trust that the bus was actually going to turn up at that time. Realistic schedules could be set by the Combined Authority for each service in advance. There would be penalties on the bus companies for under performing and rewards for keeping to schedule. Unreliable buses are a big problem all across the West of England, which really impacts on our lives.

  6. The network could be expanded to run desperately needed evening and weekend services. These services could be started up again, as bus companies are effectively told what services to run, and when, under a regulated network.

  7. Region-wide standards of accessibility for disabled users could be introduced and constantly improved by local authorities (see more here). We need audio-visual announcements and free companion passes for care workers of disabled people, as a starter. Standards could be set for emissions, the quality of the buses, cleanliness. We need to be in control of the standards of buses now more than ever, when air quality is such a threat to our health. Right now, local authorities are at the whim of companies’ kindness for better buses, higher standards and more training, which has led to wild inconsistencies across different services. With local authorities setting standards, companies providing our buses are more accountable to us. 

  8. Make sure that bus drivers and staff are valued in their work and get good pay and conditions. Regulating the network would allow us to set sector wide standards across the region for pay, conditions and pensions to win more for all drivers and other hard working staff. Drivers terms and conditions 'have dramatically worsened' since the de-regulation of buses in the 80s. In London, there was no driver shortage post-COVID and Unite the Union who represent drivers have called for franchising to help address understaffing.

  9. Plan routes for you which actually join up with other modes of transport. The Mayoral Combined Authorioty would have oversight of the network and decide where services go, so buses could join up with trains (and maybe one day trams) better.

  10. Bring in measures to fast lane buses. If councils were regulating the bus network and they were being held to account on their performance, it would be in their incentive to introduce more bus lanes, which would allow for much quicker journeys. Right now, introducing bus lanes is difficult, and people are understandably reluctant to do this without assurance that this bus lane will be used by a bus company. With bus services being run on a contract basis, authorities will know in advance whether a service is going to run for 5-10 years.

Right now, you have a chance to change your bus network and create a regulated and integrated bus system that works for you, not shareholders.