New National Bus Plans Will End Disastrous De-Regulation Era

27 April 2021

New National Bus Plans Will End Disastrous De-Regulation Era


Green Party councillors have welcomed the Government’s ‘Bus Back Better’ strategy (1)  which will end thirty five years of a lack of regulation over public transport (2)  and give local communities the chance to shape their bus services.


Under ‘Bus Back Better’, local authorities must agree to set up statutory Enhanced Partnerships (3) with bus operators across their entire areas by July 2021 or else see their bus funding cut. By October, councils must publish Bus Service Improvement Plans based on widespread consultation.


Councillor Denise Carlo of Norwich Green Party said:

“These new arrangements mark a decisive break with bus de-regulation which led to a collapse in bus services in rural areas and loss of bus patronage generally. The new plans are intended to create better network coverage, with new bus services that include evenings and, where possible, lower fares. 


"For several years, Green councillors have been calling on Norfolk County Council to use regulatory powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 but the County Council did not want to upset its cosy relations with bus companies. (4) Now, the County Council and bus companies will have no choice about re-regulating services under the new bus strategy.”


‘Bus Back Better’ is part of the Government’s efforts to de-carbonise transport by encouraging more people to take the bus. Although bus use in Norwich has improved in recent years, bus use in Broadland and South Norfolk is low. (5)     


Councillor Carlo said:

“The councils’ Transforming Cities strategy for improving bus services in Greater Norwich lacks ambition, with just a 6% projected target increase in the number of people using buses. (6) We need to see many more people travelling on buses if Norfolk is going to have any hope of achieving net zero carbon emissions. We also need to see a complete switch to either electric or hydrogen buses and not the pretence of so-called ‘clean’ diesel buses.” (7)       



Further information from:

Councillor Denise Carlo          t. 01603 504563          e.


1. ‘Bus Back Strategy’, Department for Transport, March 2021. National bus strategy for England with aims of contributing to net zero carbon emissions and levelling up.



2. The Transport Act 1985 brought in under Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative Government privatised bus companies and deregulated services outside of London. It resulted in the disastrous decline in bus services and passengers especially in rural areas.   


3. An Enhanced Partnership is a statutory arrangement under the 2017 Bus Services Act which can specify, for example, timetables, and allows the Local Transport Authority to take over the role of registering bus services from the Traffic Commissioners.  


4. Norfolk County Council has various long standing voluntary partnerships with local bus operators.

-          a Voluntary Quality Partnership  (Norwich Bus Charter launched in 2014) is in place across Greater Norwich. It covers fares, facilities, safety, accessibility and overall bus operations.

-          Various ticket arrangements eg multi-operator ticketing (the ‘Fusion’ ticket).

-          a Punctuality Improvement Partnership.


The partnerships are broad brush and allow the bus companies to decide on routes, service frequency and fares.  There are big gaps in the partnership arrangements in rural areas.


5. Bus use for travelling to work based on the 2011 Census is:

Broadland – 5%   Norwich – 8 %   South Norfolk – 4%

Reference: 2.5.12   Table 2 showing the method of travel to work for each of the local authorities in the GNR against the regional and national averages.

Norwich Transforming Cities Fund: Strategic Outline Business Case: Strategic Case  Nov 2019



6. The Transforming Cities Funding Strategy published by Norfolk County Council and Greater Norwich district councils in November 2019 sets a 6% target for increasing the number of people using buses. This represents just 4,000 additional bus trips each day in Greater Norwich which has a population of 300,000.

Norwich Transforming Cities Fund: Strategic Outline Business Case Exec Summary, Nov 2019



7. First Bus is planning to spend £15.8million on 55 new Euro 6 diesel buses for Norwich. In early March 2021, Councillor Denise Carlo wrote to First’s new UK managing director to ask whether the company would switch its planned investment for Norwich to zero emission buses and cut carbon as well as pollution. The reply was positive, with the company saying that it is open to the possibility.    

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