Run a Local Bus Service
Table of Contents
PSV licensing authorities use specific terms and conditions to define local bus services. As a rule, operations will use public service vehicles to carry passengers who pay separate fares for specific routes of short distances.
The overall distance of a route can be any length, providing the passengers can alight (get off) within fifteen (15) miles of the boarding point (measured in a straight line).
In most cases, operating registered local bus services in England (outside of London), means you would need to register it with the local authority and with the local traffic commissioner.
Anyone running a bus service inside London would need to have a London Service Permit. But, some bus services qualify for an exemption and do not need to be registered at all (see sections below).
An organisation operates an express service running from Bristol to Chepstow. In fact, the distance that passengers will travel will be over fifteen miles between the boarding point and the place they get off.
Even so, the organisation would need to register the bus service because the distance traveled is less than fifteen (15) miles when measured in a straight line.
Who Can Register a Local Bus Service?
You will need to meet the licensing criteria and principles to register a local service, such as by (either):
- Holding a valid and unconditional PSV (Public Service Vehicle) operator licence.
- Holding a section 22 Community Bus Permit.
- Being a local education authority that will use a school bus they own to provide a service in the local area.
Note: Private hire vehicle (PHV) or taxi owners can also register by obtaining a special PSV operator’s licence.
There are several important points to consider before registering a local bus service, including:
- Is the proposed route suitable and how will any traffic congestion affect your schedule and timetable?
- Do you need to get new bus stops installed and are there any traffic regulation conditions?
- Do you have appropriate vehicles and access to others if yours are out of service (e.g. being inspected or undergoing annual test?
- Will you have enough drivers to cover the service during work absences and annual leave entitlements)?
- Does a Quality Partnership Scheme (QPS) or Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) already exist in the district?
Note: There are severe penalties for failing to run a local bus service as registered in the application. This rule also applies if vehicles are unavailable (e.g. taken off the road) or staff members are absent through illness.
Registering a Local Bus Service
You would need to notify the local authority in England or tell the local council in Scotland that you want to start a bus service. The notification must take place at least 28 days before making the application to the traffic commissioner.
You should apply to the traffic commissioner at least 42 days in advance of starting the service (beginning on the day they accept your application). The notification period is 56 days if the bus service is in Wales.
You can fill in a supplementary form if you want to start the service sooner. But, the traffic commissioner will make the final decision.
Important: Holding a ‘Section 22’ community bus permit means you would only need to provide 28 days of notice in England and Wales (56 days in Scotland). But, some of the regulations for running a local bus service differ in Strathclyde.
- The registration fee for running a local bus service is £60.
- The registration fee for running a community bus service is £13.
The electronic bus service registration (EBSR) system allows you to apply online. Call the helpline at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for further information on how the process works.
Applying by Post
There are several different application forms to use (depending on what type of service you will run):
- Application to register a bus service (PSV350) for England, Wales, and Scotland.
- Application to register a flexible bus service (PSV529).
- Supplementary form (PSV350A) to start, change, or cancel a local registered bus service with less than the required notice (England, Wales, and Scotland).
Print off the relevant form for your type of application. Fill it in and send it along with the current fee to:
Central Licensing Office (England and Wales (except London))
Central Licensing Office
386, Harehills Lane
Office of the Traffic Commissioner (for Scotland)
The Stamp Office
10 Waterloo Place
Send copies to:
- All councils that your proposed bus route will pass through (e.g. the county council, shire council, a unitary authority).
- The relevant ‘Urban Transport Group’ (where applicable).
Traffic Commissioners Guides
- Local PSV service registrations (PSV353A) for information on how bus operators should run new or existing local bus services (includes registration and legal requirements).
- Registration of flexibly routed local bus services is a guide about the rules for operators on registering a flexibly routed local bus service and claiming a bus service operators’ grant.
How to Change or Withdraw a Bus Service
The operator can vary (change) or withdraw (cancel) any time by making an application using the correct form (PSV355). There is no fee for making a cancellation but there will be a charge of £60 for a variation.
So, you would need to apply to the local authority and to the local traffic commissioner to:
- Change a bus timetable, a route, or any other details about the service you offer.
- Cancel, or withdraw, the service altogether.
You must notify the local authority in England (or the local council in Scotland) 28 days before applying to the traffic commissioner. Make an application to the traffic commissioner a minimum of 42 days before the service will change or stop (56 days for services in Wales).
By filling in a supplementary form (PSV350A) (England, Wales, or Scotland) you may get the changes or cancellation completed sooner. But, it will the traffic commissioner who decides whether to agree (or not).
Note: Holding a section 22 community bus permit means you would need to provide at least 28 days of notice in England and Wales (56 days in Scotland).
Related Application and Supplementary Forms
Print off the relevant form (England, Scotland, or Wales):
- Application to change or cancel details of a local service registration (LSR) (PSV355).
- Supplementary form (PSV350A) to start, change, or cancel a local registered bus service with less than the required notice.
Bus Service Registration Exemptions
Some services do not need to be registered as a bus service. So, you would meet the exemption criteria if all these apply:
- The person responsible for arranging the journey, and bringing the passengers together, is not you or your agent.
- The journey is not advertised in advance, or available, to the general public.
- All the passengers travel together as a group to or from the same location (e.g. a supermarket, a factory, or a school).
- There is no payment of separate fares by passengers. So, they will all pay the same fare no matter how far they travel.
Bus Services for Schools and Colleges
As a rule, you would not need to register a bus service if it is provided by a local education authority (LEA) in England or Wales. To qualify for an exemption, the passengers paying fares must be (either):
- People studying or receiving training at a school or a college.
- People supervising or escorting pupils or students.
- Teachers or assistants who work at the school (or college).
Note: The service must be registered if it is available to the general public (e.g. other people can also use the bus).
Exemptions also apply to:
- A replacement or substitute bus service (e.g. using it to transport passengers due to the temporary interruption of a train service) provided under an agreement with the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, or the National Assembly for Wales.
- Tours or excursions that do not operate more than once a week or for a period of six (6) consecutive weeks.
Note: The definition of an excursion or tour is one where passengers travel together on a journey, either with or without taking rest breaks, from at least one place to at least one more place and then back.
Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRC)
Traffic commissioners can determine and impose Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRCs) on a licence. In most cases, the purpose of local council asking for a Traffic Regulation Condition will be to:
- Prevent certain types of danger to other road users.
- Reduce the impact in areas with severe traffic congestion.
- Reduce, or limit, environmental pollution (e.g. air and noise pollution).
Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRCs) may start with immediate affect and in most cases they can make a difference to:
- The number of vehicles operating on a given route, their frequency, and their type.
- The routes of a particular bus service.
- Where and when buses can stop (and for how long) and where the drivers can turn or reverse.
Note: The traffic commissioner will inform you if they have imposed, and then added, conditions to your PSV operator’s licence.
If You Cannot Meet the TRCs
You would need to change the registration of the bus service within 28 days if you are unable to operate it under the imposed conditions. In this case, there would be no fee for changing the registration.
Even so, you would need to meet any of the existing TRCs until the change of registration takes full effect.
Disagreeing with the Conditions
What if you disagree with the traffic commissioner’s decision? If so, you would be able to ask for a traffic commissioner public inquiry within 28 days.
Note: Disobeying Traffic Regulation Conditions (TRCs) is against the law in the United Kingdom.
Penalties for Running a Poor Service
The traffic commissioner can impose penalties if you fail to operate in accordance with the registered particulars.
So, having already registered a local bus service, your responsibilities and obligations will include:
- Running it at the times you stated it would run.
- Running it along the actual route that you registered.
Traffic Commissioner Penalties
Failing to run a reliable or punctual service can result in the local traffic commissioner stopping you from running a particular service. In some cases, they may also stop you running any bus services whatsoever.
Traffic commissioners can also impose financial fines for the operators of poor services. They would base the amount of any fine on the number of vehicles the operator’s license allows for use.
Failing to provide a proper local bus service in England and Wales means you may also need to:
- Compensate any disgruntled passengers.
- Pay towards improvements in local services or facilities.
You may be able to make an appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you disagree with the decision given by the local traffic commissioner.
Note: You can read more about the standards for local bus services and how traffic commissioners can use their powers to take action against operators for failing to run their services in accordance with the registered particulars.
How to Register a Bus Service in London
You need a London Service Permit to run a bus service inside London. As a rule, you should apply at least three (3) months before you start operating the service. The permits last for five (5) years.
A shorter period of notice may be possible. But, Transport for London (TfL) would need to agree before you apply.
Note: You can find registered local bus services in London and elsewhere around the United Kingdom. You can find bus services by operator name, licence number, or the route start and finish point.
Concessionary Fare Schemes
Taking part in a concessionary fare scheme can reimburse a PSV operator for carrying passengers who receive discounted travel. Typical examples include:
- Disabled people
- Older people
Note: Check with your local council about taking part in voluntary membership schemes and for more information on their compulsory schemes.
Grants for Local Bus Service Operators
The Bus Service Operator’s Grant is available in England and Scotland and the Regional Transport Services Grant exists in Wales. You may qualify for a bus service grant if:
- At least half of the seats are available to, and regularly used by, members of the general public.
- Bus stops on your route are in locations that the public will use on a regular basis (fixed stops or otherwise).
- The price of your single journeys are ‘reasonably’ priced.
- People can pay your fares in a convenient manner.
- The bus does not display signs (or any other indication) that it is unavailable to the general public.
- The general public can easily access information about your service, the route, and your timetable.
- Any advance bookings of your flexible services do not deter people from making a single journey.
Note: Conditions differ for services intended for transporting people with disabilities, pupils, or the elderly.
Read more about the Bus Service Operators Grant reforms and the changes to eligibility and funding. You can also contact the helpline for your particular area.
Bus Service Operator’s Grant Helpline (England)
South East Wales Transport Alliance (Sewta)
Consortium covering: Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan Newport, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire.
Telephone: 029 2078 8352
Mail: [email protected]