Following conversations between council leaders regarding bringing Greater Manchester’s bus network back under local control, Andy Burnham has confirmed that the region’s buses will, in fact, be franchised – in a historic move which will mark the biggest change in the system since the 80s. The bus system in Manchester was previously run by nationwide companies such as Stagecoach and First.
Following a Judicial Review on the bus franchising, brought on by bus operators Rotala and Stagecoach, a judge ruled in favour of Burnham’s plans which aim to develop the public transport network and make travelling around the city simpler for residents. Burnham has revealed that under current plans, the new arm of TfGM will be known as the Bee Network – and it will provide “reliable, affordable services that makes public transport an attractive alternative to the car.”
So, what does that mean?
While bus services will still be operated by private companies, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will take control of the fares we pay, timetables, routes, and the ticketing system, too, which the GMCA will integrate across trains, buses and trams by 2025. The system will work similarly to London’s, which is operated by TfL, where tickets are valid both on the London Underground and the bus network, too.
The changes will make Manchester the first city-region outside of London to run buses under local control.
The local authority plans to introduce price capping, making sure public transport users never pay more than they have to to use the services, as well as better timetable planning to ensure smoother routes for those who use both the bus and tram to make their journeys.
GMCA can set environmental standards for a cleaner, greener bus fleet, helping to meet the city-region’s targets to tackle the climate emergency, reduce harmful emissions and clean up our air.
Speaking of today’s victory, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is truly fantastic news for everyone outside London who wishes to see a return to a bus service that puts people ahead of profit. We were always confident that GMCA had followed all correct legal processes and that the decision to franchise buses and bring them under public control was lawful and right. We’re delighted that this strong legal decision, where we won on every point, validates and endorses everything we have done to date.”
Adding: “Access to reliable affordable public transport is central to the government’s commitment to levelling up and to our net zero ambitions. We want Government to join us in a partnership that uses Greater Manchester as a pilot to allow it to become the first London-style public transport system outside of London, as the Government promised in its Levelling Up White Paper, providing a package of both post-Covid and longer-term funding.
“We know that this result is important not just for Greater Manchester, but for other city-regions too; such as Liverpool City Region and South Yorkshire who have both announced that they are taking steps to introduce a franchised bus network. We hope that this judgement today will pave the way for them to progress with their ambitions to bring buses under public control. This ruling is a green light for the North to retake control of its bus and public transport system.”
The changes will be implemented in gradual phases, with the first franchised buses set to embark on their first journeys in 2023 across Bolton and Wigan.