Skip to main content

Bus and coach services

The main body of law in relation to bus and coach services in Wales is to be found in:

Transport Act 1985 (TA 1985)
Transport Act 2000 (TA 2000)
Transport (Wales) Act 2006 (TWA 2006)

Section 63 of TA 1985 places a duty on local authorities to secure the provision of such public transport services as they consider appropriate to meet any public transport requirements which would not otherwise be met. This includes the power to enter into an agreement providing for service subsidies where the service in question would not be provided, or would not be provided to a particular standard, without subsidy.

Sections 114 to 123 of TA 2000 allow a local transport authority, or two or more such authorities acting jointly, to establish a quality partnership scheme. This is a formal agreement between a local transport authority (or authorities) and a bus operator (or operators) to deliver enhanced services. Under such a scheme the local transport authority (or two or more local transport authorities jointly) agrees to invest in improved facilities at specific locations along bus routes (for example, bus stops or bus lanes) and operators who wish to use those facilities undertake to provide services of a particular standard (for example, new buses, or driver training standards).

Sections 124 to 134 of TA 2000 allow a local transport authority, or two or more such authorities acting jointly, to establish a quality contracts scheme. This involves the suspension of the deregulated market for bus services in an area, with the local transport authority letting an exclusive contract to an operator to run the services specified by the scheme. 
Section 6 of TWA 2006 allows the Welsh Ministers to give financial assistance to joint transport authorities and local authorities in Wales for the purpose of enabling or facilitating them to discharge their functions relating to transport. They may attach conditions to financial assistance under this section.

Section 7 of TWA 2006 allows the Welsh Ministers to secure the provision of such public transport services as they consider appropriate in order to meet any public transport requirements which would not otherwise be met. This includes the power to enter into an agreement providing for service subsidies. They may not enter into a service subsidy agreement unless the service in question would not be provided, or would not be provided to a particular standard (for example, in relation to the frequency or timing of the service and the vehicles used to provide the service), without a subsidy.

Section 139 of TA 2000 requires local authorities from time to time to determine, having regard to their local transport policies, what local bus information should be made available to the public and the way in which it should be made available.

Section 145B of TA 2000 concerns mandatory bus concession schemes. It enables any person to whom a current statutory travel concession permit has been issued by a local authority in Wales and who travels on an eligible service on a journey, on production of the permit, to a concession consisting of a waiver of the fare for the journey by the operator of the service. Local authorities are responsible for reimbursing operators providing concessions under section 149 of the Act. Section 154 of TA 2000 permits the Welsh Ministers to make grants to operators of eligible bus services towards their costs in operating those services.

Concessionary bus travel

The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 made wide ranging changes to the concessionary bus travel provisions of TA 2000, substituting the main sections which deal with concessionary travel, sections 145 to 150, with entirely new sections which make explicit reference to powers of the Welsh Ministers. The mandatory bus concessionary travel scheme is operated in Wales by virtue of sections 145B to 150 of TA 2000 and the associated regulations made under sections 149(3) and 150(6) of TA 2000 see the Mandatory Travel Concessions (Reimbursement Arrangements) (Wales) Regulations 2001 (MTC Regulations 2001).

Section 145B of TA 2000 provides that any elderly or disabled person in Wales who applies to his or her local authority must be issued with a concessionary permit. The permit can be used to travel at any time of the day, on any eligible service in Wales and also on services between Wales and places outside, but in the vicinity of, Wales. Bus operators are obliged, by virtue of section 145B(1) to carry concessionary pass holders at no charge to the pass holder. It is an offence (under section 148 of TA 2000), for an operator to refuse to comply with the obligation to carry concessionary passengers.

Section 149(1) of TA 2000 places a duty on local authorities to reimburse bus operators for providing concessionary travel. Section 149(3) of TA 2000 provides the Welsh Ministers with power to make regulations in relation to the determination by local authorities of the amounts to be paid by way of reimbursement to the bus operators see the MTC Regulations 2001. In the absence of these regulations, reimbursement arrangements would be a matter of negotiation as between the individual local authorities and the bus operators.

Section 150 of TA 2000 makes provision for variations in the reimbursement arrangements to be published at least four months in advance of their coming into operation. Section 150(3) provides that an operator which feels it is prejudicially affected by proposed changes to the reimbursement arrangements may apply to the Welsh Ministers for a modification of those arrangements on the basis that there are special reasons why the changes should not apply in relation to that operator.

Regulation 3 of the MTC Regulations 2001 states that it is an objective (but not a duty) of a local authority when formulating reimbursement arrangements to provide that operators are financially no better and no worse off as a result of the mandatory concession scheme.

Regulation 4 of the MTC Regulations 2001 provides that costs to operators of providing the mandatory concession scheme must be met by payments made by the local authority. 

In accordance with regulation 4(2), the cost to operators is calculated by determining the revenue foregone by the operator in carrying concessionary passengers, minus any additional revenue created as a result of the scheme, plus any costs in addition to basic operating costs less any reduction in basic operating costs achieved via operation of the scheme. Thus, the revenue foregone is an estimate of the revenue that would have been received in the absence of a scheme and is dependent upon the number of journeys that would have been made by concessionary travellers and the fares that operators would have offered those travellers, had the scheme not existed.

The MTC Regulations 2001 also make provision as to the manner and frequency of reimbursement payments (regulation 5) and provide that a local authority must adopt a standard method to determine the total number of journeys made by concessionary pass holders and the fares value to be attributed to those journeys (regulation 6), although an operator can be exempted from the standard method if the administrative burden is too great. Regulation 8 provides that when adopting the standard method in accordance with regulation 6, local authorities must have regard to any guidance given by the Welsh Ministers.

Community bus services

Community bus services are local services provided using a vehicle adapted to carry more than eight passengers by a body concerned for the social and welfare needs of one or more communities without a view to profit, either on the part of that body or of anyone else. The local traffic commissioner may, under section 22(2) of the Transport Act 1985, grant a community bus permit for a public service vehicle providing a community bus service.

Regulation of the bus industry

The Welsh Ministers do not have any powers in relation to the wider regulatory regime for the bus industry.  This covers the operator licensing and service registration functions undertaken by the traffic commissioners, as well as issues like driver licensing, vehicle insurance and the regulation of the use of vehicles. These powers are contained in various Transport Acts and a range of other more specific legislation such as the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, the Road Traffic Act 1988, the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 and the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995

Traffic Commissioners

Traffic Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport under section 4 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 and have responsibility in their area for licensing the operators of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and of buses and coaches (public service vehicles or PSVs); the registration of local bus services; and disciplinary action against drivers of HGVs and PSVs.

Published on
Last updated
13 May 2021