Press release

Quality Contract Scheme board announces deadline for oral evidence requests

QCS board confirms receipt of written request from local transport authorities and deadline for parties to ask for oral evidence session.

The Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) board received a written request to consider the Tyne and Wear quality contract scheme 22 October 2014.

The QCS board is an independent board with a remit to provide an opinion on whether the proposed Tyne and Wear QCS meets the statutory public interest criteria, and on whether due process has been followed.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain has appointed the Traffic Commissioner for the north east of England, Mr Kevin Rooney, as the board’s chairperson.

Alan Wann and David Humphrey will act as members of the board.

The role of the QCS board is to review the consultation responses to the proposed QCS. It has the power to hold oral evidence sessions. The following groups can request the opportunity to give oral evidence to the board:

  • the local transport authorities proposing the QCS
  • bus operators
  • interested parties not consulted (who the board decide should have been)
  • other interested parties (at the board’s discretion)

Any party seeking an opportunity to give oral evidence must make a request to the QCS board by 11 November 2014. Parties must also provide a summary of the evidence they intend to present.

Requests to give oral evidence to the board should be sent to qcs@otc.gsi.gov.uk.

Further information about proposed oral evidence hearings will be notified in due course.

Background

A QCS is a scheme under which:

  • a local transport authority (LTA), or 2 or more LTAs acting jointly, determine what local bus services should be provided in the area to which the scheme relates and any additional facilities or services which should be provided in that area
  • local bus services may be only provided in that area in accordance with quality contracts (to which there are 3 exceptions)

Under existing arrangements, bus operators themselves determine which bus routes to operate, though they are legally required to register local services with the regional traffic commissioner. Further information about quality contract schemes can be found via the Department for Transport publication Quality contract schemes: statutory guidance.

QCS boards are independent boards with a remit to provide an opinion on whether proposed quality contract schemes in England meet the statutory public interest criteria, and on whether due process has been followed.

Mr Kevin Rooney, Traffic Commissioner for the North East of England, is the chairperson of the QCS board. Mr Rooney was appointed as Traffic Commissioner in March 2012.

Alan Wann and David Humphrey will act as board members for the QCS board. Mr Wann and Mr Humphrey were selected from the panel of QCS board members.

Alan Wann is an independent consultant and strategic advisor on transport, social, economic and cultural regeneration. He has previously held roles at Northumberland county council, including Head of Highways, Transport and Waste services; Head of Regeneration; and Principal Adviser to the Chief Executive.

David Humphrey held a number of senior roles in both the bus and tram sectors during a 42 year career in the public transport industry. Mr Humphrey is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and former President of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

The formal remit of the QCS board is to form an opinion whether the relevant ‘public interest’ criteria are met and whether the statutory notice and consultation requirements have been met. The 5 public interest criteria state that the proposed scheme will:

  1. result in an increase in the use of bus services in the area to which the proposed scheme relates
  2. bring benefits to persons using local services in the area to which the proposed scheme relates, by improving the quality of those services
  3. contribute to the implementation of the local transport policies of the LTA
  4. contribute to the implementation of those policies in a way which is economic, efficient and effective
  5. ensure any adverse effects of the proposed scheme will be proportionate to the improvement in the well-being of persons living or working in the area to which the proposed scheme relates

If the board’s opinion is that the criteria are not met, or that the notice and consultation requirements have not been followed, it may recommend actions that the authority might take to remedy the situation. The board is required to notify the LTA of its opinion, any recommendations and its reasons and publish them.

The QCS board will operate impartially and independently of government and will therefore have discretion to determine how to go about performing the duties. The board may, after reviewing consultation responses, ask interested parties to submit further evidence.

The board has the power to hold oral evidence sessions and the LTAs, bus operators and interested parties not consulted (who the board deems should have been) can request the opportunity to give oral evidence. The board must provide such opportunities. Parties requesting an opportunity to give oral evidence must provide a summary of their evidence. The QCS board retains certain powers with regard to oral evidence sessions. These included (but are not limited to):

  • determining the way in which evidence is to be presented
  • imposing time limits on the presentation of evidence
  • directing that, where 2 or more parties make a request to submit evidence on the same issue, the evidence is to be submitted by 1 of them on behalf of all
  • declining to hear evidence that could have been submitted to the LTA during the consultation process

Oral evidence sessions will normally be held in public but the QCS board can hear some sessions in private where confidential information is likely to be disclosed.

The QCS board would normally be expected to publish its opinion on the proposed quality contract scheme 8 weeks after the date the QCS board receives copies of consultation responses and other documents from the LTAs and 6 weeks after the date on which the QCS board receives the formal request from the authority to consider the scheme. The board is under a duty to take all reasonable steps to conclude deliberations within the above time periods though the legislation does acknowledge that this may not always be possible. If matters are not concluded within the aforementioned timescales, the board will prepare a statement explaining the delay, setting out the steps it will take to publish the report and the expected date of publication.

Should the QCS board’s opinion be unfavourable towards the quality contract scheme, there is an option for the LTAs to submit a modified proposal to the board for a further opinion. In these circumstances, the QCS board would be required to respond within 4 weeks. Although there is no requirement for the QCS board to hold oral evidence sessions it may invite further written and oral evidence.

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