Travel firms which operate services from Preston bus station have been invited back to the negotiating table by Lancashire County Council in an attempt to diffuse a dispute over how much they pay to use the facility.
Earlier this week, Preston Bus revealed that a planned hike in charges could see them stop running services from the interchange at quieter times of the day - and even scrap some less-profitable routes altogether.
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The warning came in response to plans to introduce a departure fee which operators would pay every time one of their vehicles left the bus station. Currently, bus companies rent the bays they use by paying a flat fee each year.
A meeting of the county council’s cabinet voted to postpone any decision so that further talks could take place.
The move was welcomed by Preston Bus as “the right decision”.
“We look forward to engaging in further discussions to agree the best way forward for all concerned,” the firm’s commercial manager, John Asquith, said.
Cabinet member for transport, Keith Iddon, told members he was “sure” that the parties could come to an agreement.
“I had negotiations with the bus companies last week, but they’re still not very happy about this and I think there is a lot more talking to do,” County Coun Iddon said.
“I propose that we defer this item so that we can come to an agreement that suits us all, keeps the buses running and keeps the bus station a place where people want to come.
“We are nearly there, but unfortunately the cabinet document was already set out, so I couldn’t agree anything [different],” he added.
Deputy leader of the Labour opposition group, John Fillis supported the decision.
“I think it’s really quite wise to defer this decision, because the risks [of what is] being considered by the bus companies are very serious and far-reaching, especially to our rural areas where bus margins are very thin.
“So I think it’s important that we get an agreement with the bus companies rather than any form of imposition,” he said.