Changes To Bus Operator Licensing Will Lead To Isolation Warns Assembly Environment Committee

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 30 September 2010

Reference: ENV 01/10/11

Proposed changes to Bus Operator Licensing could increase rural isolation. That is the stark warning from the Assembly Environment Committee in response to the Department of Environment’s consultation on the Future of Bus Operator Licensing here. Draft proposals will mean that community and voluntary transport providers will need operator licences which will place additional financial pressures on these groups.

Committee Chairperson, Cathal Boylan MLA said: “The Committee accepts that changes are needed to the current licensing system to reduce the number of unlicensed and improperly licensed vehicles. However, we query whether such radical changes as proposed by the Department are necessary. We do not believe the options presented by the Department offer a solution that is fair to all operators.

“Our particular concern is the heavy financial burden the current proposals could place on the community and voluntary sector groups. These groups play a vital role in reducing isolation in rural areas. Additionally, such schemes make an important contribution to meeting climate change targets and reducing carbon emissions.

“It is the Committee’s view that alternative options are available. There is a scheme currently operating in London which allows community transport operators to provide services to people who are unable to access conventional public transport. We would strongly encourage the Department to consider such a scheme here thereby protecting valuable community transport services. We believe that such a scheme would be fairer to all operators.”

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