PLANS to give council bosses more power over bus services have been welcomed by a York area MP.

The Government has published a White Paper to give local authorities more control over routes, frequencies and fares, making it easier for them to ensure minimum standards are met.

Selby MP John Grogan welcomed the paper, and said it should protect villagers in his constituency who have been repeatedly threatened with service cuts or alterations.

The Labour MP said he hoped City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council would embrace the scheme when it comes in, which will probably be in 2008.

Mr Grogan said: "The Government has promised to introduce a draft Bill in 2007 to implement greater bus regulation.

"The current system needs to be urgently reformed. In York, even where buses have been relatively frequent on the main routes into the city, fares have been high.

"In the villages of York and Selby, district bus routes have been under constant threat of cuts and changes. In London, the mayor has long had greater powers over the bus companies, and as a result passenger numbers are at a record high. I very much hope that when the new system is introduced probably in 2008, both the City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council will consider introducing quality bus contracts to improve local bus services."

Launching the White Paper, titled Putting Passengers First, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "The bus review has shown that, in some places, bus services are working well.

"But in too many communities, the current framework is still not delivering the service that passengers rightly expect.

"Improving services in these areas demands better performance by bus operators and better traffic management by local authorities, and different approaches will be needed to reflect the diverse range of local circumstances that exist across the country.

"Crucially, higher quality and more reliable services are needed to make the bus a more attractive alternative to the private car and play its full role in tackling congestion and supporting economic growth."

The paper's proposals include:

  • Enhanced partnership schemes between local authorities and bus operators
  • Quality contract schemes between councils and bus operators
  • Developing a new performance regime, holding councils and operators to account for local bus services
  • Giving more opportunity to the community transport sector
  • Considering the scope for refocusing the current bus subsidy regime.