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Public Transport Management Bill tabled

Public Transport Management Bill tabled

The Government has tabled legislation to enable regional councils to provide better public transport services, Transport Minister Annette King said today.

"Improved public transport services are vital to achieve our goal of sustainability. This legislation will give regions the tools to improve public transport services so that they provide better value for money for users, local and central government, and taxpayers," she said.

Ms King said regional councils can already negotiate on standards for services they contract with operators to provide.

"This Bill will also give regional councils the power to set standards that all commercial services will be required to meet over time. These will apply to scheduled bus and commuter ferry services nationwide, but not to long-distance coach and ferry services (such as the Interislander) or rail, school services provided by the Ministry of Education, or taxi operators."

The main objectives of the Public Transport Management Bill are to give regional councils greater powers over non-contracted services (the Bill calls these commercial public transport services); to help regions get the best value for money while achieving an integrated, responsive and sustainable transport system; to encourage fair competition and an open market for all PT service providers; and to clarify the role of Regional Public Transport Plans.

"The changes will enable regional councils to require operators to meet quality and performance standards for commercial public transport services which could include emissions standards or more accessible vehicles. Operators could also be required to integrate services, fares and ticketing.

"The Bill will also enable operators to maintain their existing commercial public transport services without change, where this is deemed appropriate by the regional council, or for the council to opt to group services together if this best suits the needs of the region and its community."

Ms King said the changes follow a review of current public transport legislation by a working group, comprising representatives of central government and local government and public transport operators.

The Bill will now be referred to the Select Committee where there will be an opportunity for the public and stakeholders to make further submissions. There will be a link from midday to the Bill on:

Questions and answers

Which legislation will be affected? Both the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 and the Land Transport Management Act 2003 will be affected. There will also be some consequential amendments to other legislation such as the Land Transport Act 1998. Why have these changes to the legislation been proposed? They provide an opportunity for the Government to help regions provide improved PT services throughout the country. Under current legislation, regional councils have limited control over public transport services that are not contracted by the council (the Bill calls these non-contracted services 'commercial' services). This legislation will empower regional councils to impose controls on commercial PT services. The controls will be set out in the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP), which would be the result of consultation with the community itself. The ability to impose controls would give local government more power to ensure that commercial public transport services are meeting the standards expected by the region. For example, there would be the ability to require integrated ticketing or to set standards for ease of access for passengers into vehicles. At present, operators of commercial services are not required to provide any ongoing information about their services, such as the demand in particular areas or for certain routes, or on the cost of services. This type of information is crucial for regions to establish systems that are integrated and responsive to community needs. Controls set out within RPTPs could require operators to provide this information as a way for regions to better manage their public transport system. This information will be made available to the regional council or others engaged by the regional council to assist with public transport planning and monitoring.

What are the benefits for New Zealanders? This legislation will enable local people to develop local solutions for local problems. It will give each region tools to ensure that all PT services in that area comply with the local Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). This will make it easier for regions to implement affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport systems. Benefits will include better value for money and more consistent public transport services. Are RPTPs required under the current legislation? Currently there is no statutory requirement to prepare a RPTP, but under the Bill regional councils will be required to do so if they intend to contract, fund or impose controls on public transport services in their regions.

What is the difference between a contracted and a commercial service? A contracted service is a service that a regional council contracts with an operator to provide. It is a service that the council wishes to see operate in a region and may or may not be commercially viable. A commercial public transport service is a service that is registered with, not contracted by, the council. It is a service that the operator wishes to provide in a region for commercial reasons. A contracted service operates for the length of the contract, while a commercial public transport service operates until the operator withdraws it. A council can impose requirements on a contracted service through the contract itself, but a council has no mechanism to impose requirements on a commercial PT service.

How will a more consistent public transport system be created? Under current legislation, public transport operators can register and de-register services (which may be a single trip at any time on any day, not necessarily a complete timetable for a route) with a notice period of 21 days. Regional councils may be obliged to replace deregistered services, but 21 days notice leaves them inadequate time to implement the best possible service for the community. It restricts their ability to offer a reliable, consistent and sustainable service for the local people. The changes will mean councils can specify a longer notice period of 90 days and better control over other aspects of the public transport services, such as the ability to set quality standards, in accordance with the RPTP of that region. It will also mean that regions can opt to "group" services together if this best suits the needs of the region and its communities.

What is "grouping" of services? At the moment, it is possible to register and operate a single bus run at one time of the day, or a few scattered services through the day. If the region wants a fuller service to be provided through the day, it would need to contract for the services in between. This can lead to different operators with different tickets operating on the same route, at some inconvenience to passengers. Grouping will allow a region to require that a group of services be registered and operated together as a package or "group". The group required could be the whole timetable for the route, or it could be just the morning peak services – whatever the region determines is an efficient and effective way for the services to be provided.

How would this legislation improve services for people with disabilities? It will enable regions to better cater for those with disabilities by allowing regions to stipulate in their RPTP appropriate measures such as super-low floor buses, tactile surfaces in conveyances and public address systems. Currently, regional councils can only ensure those with disabilities are catered for on the contracted services. Operators of commercial public transport services are not required to ensure appropriate facilities are available on the services they run.

What are the potential environmental benefits under this new legislation? At present, any bus that meets the minimum standards set by land transport rules can be used on a commercial public transport service. This Bill will empower regions to insist on better environmental practices from commercial services. For example, regional councils can now specify EURO4 low-emission buses on contracted services, but not for commercial public transport services.

Why does this legislation not apply to long-distance coach and ferry services, rail, school bus services or taxi operators? The changes have been designed to address concerns raised by local government regarding public transport services. No concerns were raised around these other services. Rail is already predominantly a contracted service through regional councils and further development of rail networks is a transport sector priority. The Bill will allow passenger rail to be subject to controls in the future should this be necessary.

When are we likely to see changes from this Bill implemented in regions? This will depend on each region and decisions the councils make. It may take regional councils up to three years to renew their RPTPs under the new regime, and some controls will have an 18-month lead in before they apply.

How would these changes affect the commercial industry? Commercial PT service operators will still be able to operate existing commercial services, but will, over time, have to comply with any RPTP controls. There will still be scope for innovation in terms of the services they provide. A key aim of the legislation is to encourage fair competition and a competitive market for all public transport service providers, and to enable councils to shape public transport services to best suit the needs of their region and communities.

Will these changes mean cheaper fares? The changes will mean a fairer, more competitive market for contracting public transport services. This may alter fares in some regions over time, but the aim is essentially to achieve better value for money, rather than a flat reduction of fares.

Will these changes result in a safer public transport system? The safety of all public transport services is managed through the transport services licensing regime and various transport rules, but it is anticipated the proposed changes will positively affect safety through the standards and controls stipulated by councils and their communities in their RPTPs.

How does the Bill help to create fairer competition? The Bill enables regions to impose controls specifying notice periods for registration, variation and deregistration of services; setting minimum duration periods for the operation of new services; allowing regional councils to decline registrations submitted during the tender process for a route or service; and requiring individual trips to be grouped. Allowing minimum durations to be set and registrations submitted during tendering to be declined will prevent commercial registrations from inhibiting competition for some contracts. Requiring individual trips to be grouped will also improve competition for contracted services. Under the new regime peak and contra peak services could be grouped, so that any operator wishing to run the peak service would also have to run the contra peak service, meaning that there would be fairer competition.

What central government oversight of controls is there? There are a number of checks and balances to ensure that controls are not onerous. All controls must be in Regional Public Transport Plans, which will need to be developed in consultation with stakeholders. Land Transport New Zealand is developing guidelines to assist regions in the development of plans, and will have a function to monitor plans. If LTNZ is concerned about controls, it will negotiate with the regional council. Also, if required, the Governor General can make regulations to restrict, limit the scope of, or suspend controls.


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