Transport Act 1985

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The Transport Act of 1985 was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It introduced privatised and deregulated bus services throughout Great Britain and came into effect in October of 1986.

The Transport Act of 1985 was created as a response to growing concern about the environmental effect the private transportation was having and the public's objection to an increase in road construction.[1] The Transport Act of 1985 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher and the Act committed to reduce the amount the public paid for commercial objects. This was achieved by reducing the control governments had of bus systems and reducing the subsidies to bus companies. The Conservative government also believed the removal of subsidies and local government control would lead to an increase in competition between companies. The deregulation of Buses applied throughout the United Kingdom, excluding bus services in Greater London, and was led by the Conservative government.[1][2]

Transport Act 1985
Long titleAn Act to amend the law relating to road passenger transport; to make provision for the transfer of the operations of the National Bus Company to the private sector; to provide for the reorganisation of passenger transport in the public sector; to provide for local and central government financial support for certain passenger transport services and travel concessions; to make further provision with respect to the powers of London Regional Transport; to make new provision with respect to the constitution, powers and proceedings of the Transport Tribunal; to make provision with respect to grants payable under section 92 of the Finance Act 1965; to establish a Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee; and for connected purposes.
Introduced byNicholas Ridley MP
Territorial extentEngland, Wales & Scotland
Royal assent30 October 1985
Commencement26 October 1986
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Transport Act 1985 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

Deregulation and Elimination of Barriers[edit]


In 1984 a proposal to deregulate local bus services was published in the white paper Buses and in more detailed consultation papers. The Transport Act of 1985 (part I) brought these proposals into effect.[1]

Deregulation, elimination of barriers, and the transfer to the private sector were some of the major changes the Transport Act of 1985 established.[3]  Privatization and bus deregulation came into effect on 26 October 1986.[1] Local authorities were required to transfer their municipally-owned bus services to separate companies. Although most of these companies have since been privatized, with the exception of Lothian Buses in Edinburgh; a few other municipal bus companies remain today. The Transport Act of 1985 also mandated that local governments publish statements of their own policies for bus services deemed socially vital that were not operated by commercial companies.[2]


London faced a different type of deregulation. The standard deregulation that applied to other cities in the United Kingdom was not applied to bus services in Greater London; instead, the Act brought about a system of franchised routes operated by private companies but managed by London Buses Ltd. Meaning that although the bus companies in London were privatized London's government still retained the ability to regulate the companies.[4] At the time the Transport Act of 1985 was put into place London Bus companies were governed by the London Regional Transport Act of 1984.[1]

Transport Act 1985: Deregulation (Part I)[edit]

Part I of the Transport Act of 1985 eradicated, excluding London, the need for the required road service licence throughout the United Kingdom. Part I replaced service licensing with a system of registration.[1] This caused licensing authorities losing many of their powers and made it possible for operators to register new routes. For an operator to register a new route the licensed operator had to supply the traffic commissioner with information of the proposed route, the timeline for the trip, stopping arrangements, the vehicles to be used, and the terminal points. In accordance with the Act the traffic commissioner had to received the registration at least 42 days prior to when the route is to be run. It was mandatory for the notice to go through the traffic commissioner for a licence bus operator to operate. After approval the operator was required to run the route according to the specifications provided in the registration.[1]

Deregulation also led to firms being able to charge any fares they wish, run routes, and freely enter and leave the market.[4] This was accomplished by reducing the amount of subsidies local governments could provide for services.[4]

Transport Act 1985: Privatization (Part II)[edit]

Privatization proposals were put forth to change the structure of the bus industry.[1] The bus industry was managed mainly by public sector companies in the years prior to 1985. Privatization was introduced by the Conservative government as a way to achieve better access to private capital and more committed management.[1] In order to achieve this goal the Conservative government made it so local governments could only provide subsidies for services and prohibited subsidies that would promote low fares.[4]


The Transport Act of 1985 changed how bus services were run in the United Kingdom. The Act introduced the largest change in the framework of bus services in over five decades and it replaced the prior publicly owned and highly regulated bus service with a largely competitive commercial system.[5] Additionally, the removal of subsidies made it so different firms had to bid on the right to operate with subsidized services.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Poole, Fiona. "Buses". Research Paper 99/59.
  2. ^ a b Balcombe, RJ. "Effects of the Transport Act 1985 Outside Conurbations: A comparative study". Research Report 247.
  3. ^ Simpson, B.J. "Deregulation and privatization: The British local bus industry following the transport act 1985". Transport Reviews. 16: 213–233.
  4. ^ a b c d e Savage, Ian. "Deregulation and Privatization of Britain's Local Bus Industry". Journal of Regulatory Economics: 143–158.
  5. ^ Walmsley, D.A. "The Early Effects of the 1985 Transport Act in Tyne and Wear". Research Report 226.