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This note outlines the overall policy approach of the present and previous governments towards bus policy in England. It includes separate information about competition in local bus markets, the role of the traffic commissioners and licensing. There are separate notes on bus funding and grants, concessionary fares and franchising.

The Coalition Government is committed to local delivery of bus services: to local authorities being able to deliver those services and infrastructure that they believe to be important, within the deregulated system. The government’s bus policy green paper was published in March 2012 setting out its general approach. The previous Labour Government had legislated to give local authorities more control over bus services in their areas through the use of statutory partnership arrangements and a form of franchising called Quality Contracts. To date, both statutory and informal partnerships have proven popular, but franchising has not been introduced anywhere in England outside London.

In December 2011 the Competition Commission published the results of its two year investigation into the local bus market. This found some failings with the operation of the present system and made recommendations to the government for improvements. The government agreed to act on many of these recommendations in its green paper.

The licensing of bus operators and services is the responsibility of the regional traffic commissioners. They have additional powers regarding punctuality and performance, which they can enforce using fines and prohibitions.

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