Quality Partnership Schemes
Section 3 Quality partnership schemes
11.This section empowers local transport authorities, either alone or jointly, to set up quality partnership (“QP”) schemes if this will to any extent implement their relevant general policies (as defined in section 48(1)) and either improve the quality of local services and facilities specified provided in a particular area, or reduce or limit traffic congestion, noise or air pollution. The expression “local transport authority” is defined in section 82(1) as meaning a local authority or the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority (“SPTA”).
12.A QP scheme entails the authority providing specified facilities (as defined in subsection (3)(a)), and setting quality standards to be observed by bus operators as a condition for using those facilities. The specified facilities under a scheme (such as bus lanes and shelters) must be provided at specific locations along bus routes (or where appropriate prospective bus routes) which bus operators can use. Authorities may also include other ancillary facilities.
13.Information facilities may not be included if the authority have determined that these must be provided throughout their area under sections 33 and 34 of the Act. Standards that may be imposed on operators under a statutory QP scheme may include minimum frequency of services, but do not extend to maximum frequency or timing of services. The Scottish Ministers or the Secretary of State must be party to a QP scheme if any of the facilities requires the making of a traffic regulation order in respect of a road for which they are, or she, is the traffic authority.
Section 4 Regulations as respects specifying existing facilities in quality partnership schemes
14.The Scottish Ministers may make regulations under this section as respects the specification of existing facilities in a QP scheme. They might be used to impose more onerous consultation or consent requirements; to limit the period of time within which pre-existing facilities can be specified; to allow for particular facilities or classes of facility to be specified only in certain circumstances; and to allow appropriate modifications to be made to the QP scheme procedures where those QP schemes specify existing facilities.
Section 5 Consultation as to proposed quality partnership schemes
15.This section sets out requirements as to consultation. Authorities must give notice of proposed schemes in at least one local newspaper circulating in the area, and that notice must either set out the authority’s proposals for facilities and standards of services to be provided, or state where, in what form and at what times such details can be inspected. A scheme may not be made without prior consultation with bodies specified in section 5(4). This includes bus operators and representatives of bus users and, if the scheme affects a trunk road, the Scottish Ministers or the Secretary of State.
Section 6 Making of quality partnership scheme
16.This section provides for the making of a QP scheme (with or without modifications) if an authority have complied with the terms of section 5 of this Act. The scheme must set out the specified facilities, specified standards of local services, the date on which it will come into operation, the period for which it shall remain in operation and the procedures for determining any dispute. A QP scheme must be in operation for a minimum period of 3 years and no longer than 7 years. In certain circumstances local services may be excluded from a QP scheme, but continue to operate on a specific route. An example might be a community bus service acting as a feeder to a main bus route, on which there are QP facilities.
17.A QP scheme may not be brought into force before the authority consider it is reasonably practicable for the relevant facilities to be provided and for the operators to meet the prescribed standards, although the Act provides for the phasing in of facilities and service standards. In any event, the operative date may not be earlier than 3 months after the scheme is made, or any necessary traffic orders are made, whichever is the later. The making of traffic regulation orders can often take some time, and a scheme should not be brought into force before the specified facilities are in place.
18.No later than 14 days after making a scheme the authority must publish a notice in a local newspaper and notify all operators affected by the scheme, and the traffic commissioner. The notice must set out the scheme, or say where, in what form and at what times the scheme can be inspected, and state if any modifications have been made.
Section 7 Postponement of quality partnership scheme
19.This section provides for consultation and publicity in the event that an authority decides to postpone the introduction of a QP scheme (for a maximum of 12 months). Again, this is to ensure that appropriate procedures are available for different circumstances. Authorities must, within 14 days of any postponement of a scheme, give notice in a local newspaper and notify all operators affected by the postponement and the traffic commissioner.
Section 8 Effect of quality partnership scheme
20.This section sets out the effect of a QP scheme, once in place. It places obligations on both the local transport authority and the bus operators – the former to provide the relevant scheme facilities, and the latter to operate their services to the relevant standards.
21.Authorities will be under a duty to provide specified facilities, and continue to do so while the scheme remains in operation, unless in the event of circumstances beyond their control – for example a sewer collapse rendering a bus lane unusable. This duty will not apply to the Scottish Ministers or the Secretary of State (if they are, or she is, party to a QP scheme) if they are or she is unable to provide the facilities owing to the variation or revocation of a traffic regulation order.
22.An operator may only use the scheme facilities if a written undertaking is given to the traffic commissioner, who will be responsible for enforcement, confirming that the services specified in the scheme will be provided to the required standard, and that those services are duly provided to that standard (except in circumstances beyond the operator's control). Where local services are excluded from a QP scheme (e.g. a community bus providing a feeder service may be excluded) such services are not to be subject to the quality standard requirements. But any conditions applicable to that exclusion are to be treated as if they were prescribed particulars registered under section 6 of the Transport Act 1985. Thus an excluded operator who fails to comply with these conditions can face enforcement action by the traffic commissioner.
Section 9 Variation or revocation of quality partnership scheme
23.This section provides for the variation or revocation of QP schemes. This will give flexibility both for future changes and for any circumstances where it may be necessary to revoke a scheme. The local transport authority may revoke a scheme before its end date, but only if all participating operators consent. Consent cannot be unreasonably withheld. If a variation requires the making of a traffic regulation order, then the variation will be subject to the procedures set out in section 5 and 6 of the Act. Unless modified by regulations made under section 11 any other variation or revocation is also subject to the procedures set out in sections 5 and 6.
Section 10 Reports on quality partnership schemes
24.This section imposes a duty on local transport authorities to prepare a report on the effectiveness of each QP scheme for each successive 12-month period and to submit these reports to the Scottish Ministers. In preparing reports, authorities must have regard to representations received during the relevant period. An authority may require an operator to provide information, and the operator is under an obligation to provide that information in so far as the provision of that information would be reasonable. Reports are to be submitted within 6 months of the end of the period to which they relate. The traffic commissioner must be consulted on the terms of the report before an authority submit it to the Scottish Ministers.
Section 11 Regulations as respects quality partnership schemes
25.This section empowers the Scottish Ministers to make regulations for various purposes in connection with QP schemes. This will enable any necessary provision to be made in respect of the detailed implementation of QP schemes. The regulations may deal, in particular, with the procedures for making, varying and revoking QP schemes, specify any case where no procedure requires to be followed, the scope of permitted exclusions under section 6(3), the form and manner of undertakings under section 8(4), the making of traffic regulation orders in connection with schemes and other incidental matters.
Section 12 Eligibility for service subsidies
26.This section amends section 63(5) of the Transport Act 1985 to enable authorities to provide a subsidy to an operator where a service would not otherwise be provided because it did not meet the standard required in a QP scheme. This power will enable authorities to provide a subsidy to an operator to enhance the quality of its buses, perhaps in an area where it would not otherwise be commercially viable to do so.