T HOSE parts of the Transport Charges (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which
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deal with road transport are important. Provisions concerning seating capacity and standing passengers are particularly welcome, for they will bring much-needed order out of the present chaos.
As The Commercial Motor reported last week, Clause 1 of the Bill provides that the Licensing Authorities may fix fares charged on public service vehicles run by all independent statutory undertakings, and on those of independent undertakings which are not statutory but have the fares on any of their services regulated by an agreement which is itself confirmed or authorized by statute. By " independent " is meant any undertaking not forming part of the British Transport Commission.
Fares will be regulated by way of conditions attached to licences. It is, however, not in any way obligatory upon an Authority to determine charges. If he chooses not to do so, the fares chargeable shall be "such as the undertakers may think fit."
A Free Hand
The Licensing Authorities thus have a completely free hand and Clause 14 provides for the repeal of all those statutory provisions by which, until now, all such fares have been deter
mined. It will be interesting to observe how the Authorities react to this new power.
Clause 2 and the First Schedule to the Bill, which should be read together, bring for the first time the fixing of fares and charges for tram and trolleybus services within the power of Licensing Authorities.
The First Schedule contains detailed provisions:as to the powers and duties of the Licensing Authorities in respect of (a) regular services. (b) occasional services, and (c) appeals. As regards regular services of such undertakings in existence at the date of the passing of the Bill, the operators can continue to fix their own fares unless and until fare tables for those services have been approved and have come into effect.
Not only may the undertakings running tram ortrolleybus services at any time apply for a variation in all or any of the fares charged on all or any of those services on any route or part of
any -route, but the Licensing Authority
may serve notice on them directing such variations as he thinks fit. Both the applications and notices must be published and after considering objections the Authority may fix the fares.
No increase in fares may be either authorized or directed unless an at 0 advance in that particular fare was proposed in the application or notice, nor may it be of more than whatever was proposed.
On the first consideration of any fares on any regular service, complete faretables must be submitted of the whole of the undertaking's services within the area, and on any subsequent consideration such fare-tables may be required to be supplied. The Minister of Transport is empowered to make regulations governing all necessary procedural matters in connection with applications and notices under the First Schedule.
Clause 9 gives the Ministry power to make regulations for public service vehicles, tramcar § and trolleybuses providing for the total permissible seating and standing accommodation to be determined and regulated.
This is, at present, an untidy corner of the law, for under the Public Service Vehicles (Equipment and Use) Regula
tions. 1941, Regulation 15 provides for the seating capacity of vehicles to be calculated in accordance with Regulation 3 of the Hackney Motor Vehicles (Seating Capacity) Regulations, 1927. The 1927 Regulations were—as their name implies—intended to apply to taxicabs, but they eventually became incorporated in the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 1951.
It is high time that a little order was introduced into this chaotic jungle of regulations which affect so greatly both the makers and users of commercial vehicles. To make matters worse, the present rules about standing passengers are also contained in three separate sets of regulations. It will be a great relief if one comprehensive and intelligible set of regulations can now be framed.
As in the Equipment and Use Regulations. 1941, the maximum penalty for infringement of any of the regulations yet to be made under Clause 9 will be £20 for each offence. The Minister is under a duty before making the new regulations to consult with "such representative organizations as he thinks fit."' Whether the Bill will become law in its present form or not one cannot, of course, tell, but doubtless its main provisions will emerge unscathed with the immediate result of increased importance and power for the Licensing Authorities.