Bus Operation in the United Kingdom/Printable version

Bus Operation in the United Kingdom

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Operator Licensing

To operate a bus with more than nine seats, where fares are taken for the carriage of passengers, an operator's license is required.[1]

License TypesEdit

There are four types of license available, Standard International, Standard National, Restricted, and Special Restricted.[1]

Standard LicensesEdit

There are two types of Standard License, National and International. The International license allows the use of vehicles outside the United Kingdom, whilst the national does not.[1]

Restricted LicensesEdit

A restricted licence authorises the use of PSVs with eight passenger seats or less, or the use of PSVs with up to 16 passenger seats where the vehicles are used other than in the course of a passenger-carrying business or when the licence holder’s main occupation is not the operation of public services with vehicles of more than eight passenger seats.[1] A restricted license cannot be issued for more than two vehicles, or for vehicles with more than 16 seats, where a standard license would be required.

As an example, a hotel running a minibus to collect customers could apply for a restricted license, as the vehicle is not used in the course of a passenger-carrying business.

Special restricted licencesEdit

Special restricted licenses allow holders of a taxi licence, a PHV licence or PHC licence, to operate a licensed taxi, PHV, or PHC on a registered bus service.

Applying for a LicenseEdit

PSV operator licenses are issued by the Traffic Commissioner for the area containing the operator's operating centre.[2] Operators with multiple operating centres in different traffic areas will require a license for each traffic area they operate in. However, operators can have multiple operating centres in each traffic area, on the same license.


Operating a local bus service

Outside of LondonEdit

Once an operator has a license, they can begin to register and operate local bus services. To do this, they must register with both their local council, and the Traffic Commissioner.

Have you planned for the impact of congestion on your timetable?

Before registering a route, operators should carry out several checks. Once a service is registered, operators are obliged to operate the route as registered, for at least 56 days following registration. The route should be checked to ensure that route is suitable for use by the intended vehicles, and that it is possible to keep to the planned timetable. The operator should also ensure they have sufficient vehicles and drivers, with allowances for vehicles faults or staff absences.[1]


A non TfL tendered London bus service, operating under a permit

Unlike the rest of Great Britain, buses in London were never deregulated. Most London bus services are tendered by TfL, with buses operated by private companies. TfL sets timetables, specifications, and fares, whilst the operators provide buses and staff. To operate a bus outside of this tendering regime, a London Service Permit is required, issued by Transport for London (TfL).[2][3] These are only issued for services not part of the "London Bus Network", such as sightseeing tours, or buses operating into London from outside of the capital.







  • Discs - the physical paper disks, one of which is issued per vehicle authorised to be used by an operator. These must be carried on the vehicle when in use.[1]





  • Hire or Reward - any payment which gives a passenger a right to be carried, even if a passenger does not subsequently travel. The payment may not always necessarily be cash.[2] Indirect payment is also included, such as payments to a hotel that include travel to the hotel.[1]





  • Local bus services - A bus service where passengers pay separate fares, and can alight within 15 miles (24 kilometres) (as the crow flies) of their boarding point.[3]





  • Public Service Vehicle (PSV) - a motor vehicle (other than a tram), that fits within either of the following two criteria: a vehicle adapted to carry more than eight passengers, that is used for carrying passengers for hire or reward; or a vehicle not so adapted, but is used for carrying passengers for hire or reward at separate fares in the course of a business of carrying passengers.[4]












  1. a b "Public Service Vehicle Operator Licensing: Guide for Operators". Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20191221135806/https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/194259/PSV_Operator_Licensing_Guide.pdf. Retrieved 21 December 2019. 
  2. Albert v Motor Insurers Bureau. 1971 3 WLR 291
  3. "Run a local bus service: overview". Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20191221200207/https://www.gov.uk/run-local-bus-service. Retrieved 21 December 2019. 
  4. "Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981". 15 April 1981. pp. Chapter 14, P1. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20191221184333/http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/14/pdfs/ukpga_19810014_en.pdf. Retrieved 21 December 2019. 
  5. "Transport manager responsibilities". 30 June 2014. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20191221193837/https://movingon.blog.gov.uk/2014/06/30/transport-manager-responsibilities/. Retrieved 21 December 2019.