HL Deb 27 June 2000 vol 614 cc23-8GC

(".—(1) The appropriate national authority may by regulations make provision about the specifying in quality partnership schemes of facilities which are already being provided before the schemes are proposed ("existing facilities").

(2) The regulations may in particular—

  1. (a) provide that existing facilities may not be specified if they were being provided before a date prescribed by, or determined in accordance with, the regulations.
  2. (b) provide that particular existing facilities or classes of existing facilities may not be specified (whenever they were first provided),
  3. (c) provide that particular existing facilities or classes of existing facilities may be specified only in circumstances prescribed by the regulations,
  4. (d) provide that, in circumstances prescribed by the regulations, particular existing facilities or classes of existing facilities may be specified only with the consent of a person prescribed by, or determined in accordance with, the regulations, and
  5. (e) make provision modifying any provision of sections 105 to 107 in relation to schemes which specify existing facilities.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 109 agreed to.

Clause 110 [Variation: supplementary]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 61 and 62: Page 68, line 6, leave out ("that in section 104(1))") and insert ("those in section 104(1) and (3A))"). Page 68, line 27, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(3B)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 110, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 111 to 123 agreed to.

Clause 124 [Joint and through ticketing schemes for buses]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 63: Page 77, line 4, leave out from ("tickets)") to end of line 14 and insert ("of any of the descriptions which may by covered by a ticketing scheme and to which the scheme applies. (3A) The descriptions of tickets which may be covered by a ticketing scheme are—

  1. (a) tickets entitling the holder to make more than one journey on particular local services or on local services of a class specified in the scheme (whether or not operated by the same person),
  2. (b) tickets entitling the holder to make a particular journey on two or more local services (whether or not operated by the same person),
  3. (c) where a particular journey could be made on local services provided by any of two or more operators, tickets entitling the holder to make the journey on whichever service the holder chooses, and
  4. (d) tickets entitling the holder to make a journey, or more than one journey, involving both travel on one or more local services and travel by one or more connecting rail or tram services.
(3B) A connecting rail or tram service, in relation to a ticketing scheme, is a service for the carriage of passengers by railway or by tramway (or by both) which runs between—
  1. (a) a station or stopping place at or in the vicinity of which local services stop and which serves any part of the area to which the ticketing scheme relates, and
  2. (b) any other place.
(3C) Different arrangements may be specified in a ticketing scheme for different cases.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 63 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 64, 65, 66, 83, 84 and 86. The main purpose of these amendments is to extend through ticketing schemes for buses under Clause 124 of the Bill to include bus/train and bus/tram ticketing. In this we are responding to suggestions that that would be a valuable addition and serve to strengthen the integrated nature of the Bill.

Amendment No. 63 introduces substitute provisions in place of subsections (3)(a) to (c) and subsection (4) of Clause 124. The key addition is the new paragraph (d), which allows ticketing schemes to extend to buses and "connecting rail or tram services". These are defined in the new subsection (3B). The definition is deliberately broad. It speaks of rail or tram services which run between a station or tram stop where, or near where, local buses stop, and which serves any part of the area to which the ticketing scheme applies, and any other place. So a ticketing scheme can include train or tram services which may be just outside the boundary of the authority making the scheme, if they provide connecting services with local buses. In short, the pattern of travel connections is more important than the administrative boundary of the scheme-making authority.

Amendment No. 64 introduces an important caveat. Ticketing schemes cannot include train or tram operators unless they have given their consent. There are good reasons for that. In the case of train operators, the position is that rail franchise agreements already require them to participate in multi-modal ticketing schemes proposed by a relevant local authority, as long as the franchising director (in future, the Strategic Rail Authority) has approved, and provided that participation is at no net cost to the train operator. The main benefit of this amendment, therefore, will be to ensure that once such arrangements are in place, local bus operators can be obliged to participate.

Similarly participation by tram operators is to be subject to their agreement. Many tram operators already offer multi-modal ticketing, and some have specific clauses in their concession agreements in that respect. The Bill deliberately does not seek to override those. But, again, it will mean that bus operators can be bound into a bus/tram scheme that the tram operator has agreed.

Amendment No. 65 adds the Strategic Rail Authority to the bodies to be notified of a ticketing scheme under Clause 126. Amendments Nos. 84 and 86 provide for definitions in Clause 150, and Amendment No. 83 amends a drafting error to ensure that the definition of "national authority" in Clause 150 also applies to Clause 126, which contains regulations about ticketing schemes.

I hope that these amendments will be welcomed as a further demonstration of our desire for integrated transport. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley

I congratulate my noble friend on his amendments. They may assist in doing away with interminable queues at bus stops when nobody has a travelcard and everybody pays a 70 pence fare with a £5 note. I have one question for my noble friend on Amendment No. 63. New subsection (3B)(b) states that a ticket can be bought on a bus for a journey to any other place in the country. Any noble Lord who has tried to buy a train ticket from a station that has a computerised system, especially for complicated journeys such as those on Virgin, will know that it takes a couple of minutes. If such a ticket is to be sold from a bus, it will be very exciting for the other passengers. Can my noble friend tell me where it is proposed to sell these tickets? Will they be readily available? Will bus conductors have credit card machines? How will it work?

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

It is not difficult to prophesy that in any new arrangement ticketing problems are bound to arise. I want to be reasonably sure that the Government are now engaged—without waiting for the Bill to be enacted—in some form of consultation with bus operators. Putting it as delicately as I can, not all of them are known for their flexibility. I hope that Ministers will ensure that at this stage they come to some arrangement which will hold water when the scheme comes into effect.

Lord Bradshaw

Again, we on this side welcome the amendment. However, we have some concerns, which have been partly expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It is a fact that under the present system used by the railways for issuing tickets, tickets can be bought for use on buses and trams, but there is virtually no reciprocal arrangement for the railways to accept tickets that have been sold on buses for travel on trains. A great deal needs to be done before the intentions that are set down here can come into effect.

We are also concerned about the effect of the Competition Act and the relationship between the powers of the Director-General of Fair Trading, the local authority and the bus companies, and how we believe they will be able to interfere with ticketing and other things. However, when we come to debate Schedule 10, I shall say something more about that.

Specifically in relation to tickets I should say that bus companies are now extraordinarily reluctant to enter into any ticketing arrangements, because there are two barriers. If the local authority under the Bill promotes a ticketing scheme, the Director-General of Fair Trading will consider it without charging a fee. But if a bus company promotes a ticketing scheme, for each scheme it is required to pay a fee (I believe around £13,000) to the Director-General of Fair Trading. In most cases it would take a long time for the proceeds of a ticketing scheme to recoup that £13,000, and that does not include the costs of legal representation, in persuading the Director-General of Fair Trading that the scheme is anti-competitive.

From this side we very much welcome this amendment and the extension to trams and trains. But a great deal more work needs to be done; not drafting work, but work behind the scenes between the department and the director-general, and between the department, the Strategic Rail Authority and ATOC before this highly desirable system can be made to work.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

We too welcome the principle of the three ticketing schemes. And I hope that the Minister has answered my question about why it should be compulsory for bus companies to provide tickets on different modes of transport but not compulsory for train companies to do the same. The Minister covered that point, but the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has just raised an extremely important point about the cost of the Competition Commission's inquiries. I hope the Minister can give a good answer to that.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised the problems of buying tickets on the buses, and I would put in a plea which I have made before: why is it not possible to buy a one-day Travelcard on London buses, particularly conductor-operated ones? It is extremely irritating if one is starting the first leg of one's journey on a bus not to be able to do that, whereas it is possible if one starts at the tube station. Maybe the Minister would care to pass that on to London Transport.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is the most I can do because the Bill is not concerned with London. However, I certainly undertake to pass that on. It may be said that it is possible not just at tube stations, but also at newsagents and various other places.

Let me respond first of all to my noble friend Lord Berkeley who expresses concern as to whether ticketing will be physically possible; whether it will slow things down if tickets are issued on buses. The best answer I can give to him is that it is already happening. In over 130 towns one can buy a £1 bus add-on entitling the holder to use a local bus network at the end of a rail journey. The bus and rail industry is working together through a joint body called Journey Solutions, committed to having at least 200 schemes of this kind available by the end of this year. In Oxford a person can buy a ticket on the local bus which entitles him to travel by rail to London and then have the use of the London Underground, and in Manchester he can buy a Travelcard which gives him the freedom of the bus, rail and tram system or different combinations of them, including travel on buses operated by over 40 bus operators in the conurbation. That is already quite commonplace in a number of conurbations.

There are other examples, like through-ticketing from London to Portsmouth, across on the ferry to the Isle of Wight and then for travel round the island. There are plenty of examples of how it can be made to happen, and it is important that we should be encouraging that. I use the word "encouraging" but I shall come on to that when I respond to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. Those schemes are clearly beneficial to passengers and we want to see them extended.

5 p.m.

Lord Islwyn

I am a little concerned about the issue of rail fares. We all know that these are multifarious. If we go to certain stations we can obtain certain concessions but are often quoted different prices for a ticket. How are we going to standardise things, particularly now that this is going to be operated through buses as well?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Perhaps I may respond to that point before returning to my tack of trying to keep up with other Members of the Committee who have taken part.

Clause 124 is concerned with ticket types, not with prices of multi-modal tickets, to which we shall return in due course. The Office of Fair Trading will naturally have a view about price fixing against the public interest. This is clearly a matter for the Committee in the Chamber later on. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Peyton—I hope it will be clear from what I have said about what is happening now—that there is already plenty of consultation with the bus companies.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised the specific point about the role of the Office of Fair Trading and charges to the bus operator. He mentioned the fee of £13,000 to the Office of Fair Trading for ruling on whether or not a competition test in Schedule 10 should be passed. We have not reached that yet but he is right that there is a power in that schedule for the Director-General of Fair Trading to charge a fee. However, it has not been decided what that fee shall be, nor even that there will be a fee. The £13,000 is the fee under the Competition Act, which is different legislation. I shall pass on the noble Lord's point to the Office of Fair Trading and perhaps it can be teased out in subsequent stages of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, rightly pointed out that the obligation in these amendments is on the bus operator. It is only fair to say, however, that the train companies already have an obligation on them in legislation. Tram companies tend to operate under private or local legislation so it would be difficult to impose an obligation on them without immense complication in the Bill. However, many tram operators have obligations on them in their concessions and there are many examples both of train and tram operators collaborating through ticketing arrangements. For example, Midland Metro is involved in joint ticketing with bus and rail as part of their concession agreement. In Sheffield, the Supertram is part of the PTE ticketing scheme. In Tyne and Wear, the PTE operates the Metro and there is fully integrated ticketing, as is also happening with Croydon Tramlink and the Docklands Light Railway, with London Transport's ticketing and travelcard arrangements.

Considerable progress is being made, therefore, and the degree of compulsion which is proposed here is the correct degree.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 124, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 125 agreed to.

Clause 126 [Making of scheme]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 64 to 66: Page 77, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) If the scheme applies to tickets within section 124(3A)(d), it may only be made with the agreement of the operators of the connecting rail or tram services concerned."). Page 77, line 43, leave out from ("services") to ("and") in line 44 and insert ("or services for the carriage of passengers by railway or by tramway (or by both) who would, in the opinion of the authority or authorities, be affected by it, ( ) to the Strategic Rail Authority if it applies to tickets within section 124(3A)(d),"). Page 78, line 6, leave out from ("operation") to end of line 7.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 126, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 127 to 132 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 67: After Clause 132, insert the following new clause—