By Marcus Leach

The Competition Commission (CC) is looking at ways to open up more bus markets across the country after concluding that too many operators face little or no competition in local areas.

In a summary of the CC’s provisional findings report on the local bus market in the UK (excluding London & Northern Ireland) published on Friday, it provisionally concludes that although there are 1,245 bus companies in England, Scotland and Wales, the great majority of routes and local areas experience a high degree of concentration. Consequently in many local areas, the largest operator has consistently faced little or no competition.

Many passengers dependent on bus services in those areas can expect less frequent services and in some cases higher fares than where there is more competition.

The CC has also concluded that the way local authorities tender for supported services– necessary services which would not be provided without public subsidy–and the limited number of potential bidders in local areas can restrict competition and increase the cost of supporting these services.

The CC is now consulting on measures to open up more markets by tackling the factors which can hinder competition. The CC is also seeking views on whether Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) should take measures to encourage competition, including whether franchising (where operators would compete for the right to provide services) might be required in cases where there has been a particularly marked failure of competition.