Bus services would be better ‘with TfL-style system’ says council leader

Bus services will improve if Essex gets the same powers similar to Transport for London, the leader of the county council has said.

Councillor Kevin Bentley told Essex County Council’s Corporate Policy and Scrutiny Committee on July 28 bus timetables could be co-ordinated centrally should more devolution come to the county.

His comments echo those of Councillor Graham Butland, cabinet member for devolution at Essex Council Council and leader of Braintree District Council, who has said lower-tier authorities such as his would have to concede a degree of autonomy over restructuring of local government.

But Essex having its own transport authority like TfL would be a major prize of devolution.

Councillor Bentley said: “We don’t run bus services at the county council. We can subsidise some services, but we don’t have a huge amount of money to do that and buses don’t run conveniently past everyone’s house.

“We have to make sure we improve services where we can under the current regime. I’ve said this many times that I believe that we should become a transport authority not dissimilar to TfL.

“We would have the authority to do certain things. That is to set the pricing, being able to subsidise routes more importantly having timetables coordinated.

“If we had a transport authority I could align them. I don’t have the wherewithal to be able to do what I wish to happen. Devolution I hope will make that happen.”

However, it seems devolution plans for Essex will only be considered after structural reform and once more unitary councils are created within Essex.

He said: “I would encourage all of you to support when the time comes we start moving ahead with evolution our plans for devolution we’d like the authority from government and the competencies from government to be able to do this.”

Communities with less need to be connected to the capital are therefore worse-served by public transport. and according to Cllr Bentley, this is a form of deprivation.

He said: “If you cannot get on a bus or public transport or or because they’re not there if you’re unable to access other facilities because of that then you are deprived.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter