The Green Party of England and Wales has urged local authorities across the UK to take advantage of new legislation and cut bus fares.
An amendment to the Local Transport Act of 2008 which came into force this month enables local governments to create Quality Contract Schemes. Such provisions allow authorities the power to instate London style quality control over service provision including fares, timings and routes.
Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party, said: "Greens welcome amendments to the law that allow for Quality Contract Schemes. We must make sure buses are a financially viable alternative to cars. While such provisions give local authorities a fantastic opportunity to move ahead with plans to reduce fares, the current government has done little to make buses an attractive option.
"In the past decade the cost of motoring has fallen by 13% in real terms whilst bus fares have risen by 17%, and funding for buses is poor compared to many of our European neighbours. In addition 53% of people would take the bus to work if the service was better . Cutting bus fares is a sure fire way of easing congestion and pollution on city roads. The QCS's present a real chance to make this happen."
However the optimism over QCS's may be short lived. Exponents of the scheme have warned that local authorities must act quickly after reports surfaced that a Conservative government would repeal the part of the act that allows for QCS's in favour of a more competitive bus industry.
A spokesperson for the CBT (Campaign for Better Transport) said:
"Shadow Transport minister Stephen Hammond wants to scrap Quality Contracts. We advise Quality Contracts should thus be quickly approved, and that the Department should play an active role in encouraging and supporting local transport authorities who want to use these new powers. Currently bus services in the UK receive some of the lowest funding in Europe. A better funded and attractive bus system would do a good deal to lower carbon emissions and create more pleasant city environments."