Transport chiefs hail Mayor bus franchising powers

TRANSPORT leaders in Greater Manchester have welcomed the publication of the Bus Services Bill, a new piece of legislation which will enable an elected Mayor to franchise bus services.

The Bill, which proposes powers to allow combined authorities with an elected Mayor to franchise bus services, will enable Greater Manchester to create an integrated, London-style transport network with a simple fares and ticketing system and consistent quality standards.

Bus franchising, a model used in other global cities, including London, Sydney and Amsterdam, would enable Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to take control of bus service planning with private operators contracted to run routes under a franchise agreement.

Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of The Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, said: “Under a franchised system the elected Mayor for Greater Manchester will have the ability to decide the routes, frequencies, timetables, fares and quality standards for bus services in the city-region.

“This will help deliver a consistent, integrated transport network and make it possible for every passenger to use their tickets on any bus in Greater Manchester, as well as other forms of public transport.

“It will place the customer at the heart of Greater Manchester’s transport network and enable the reinvestment of funds back into transport.”

Greater Manchester currently has a deregulated bus system, where 80% of services are provided on a commercial basis by bus companies. For these services the routes, fares, frequencies and quality standards are decided by the bus operators.

Neither GMCA nor TfGM have any control over commercial bus services.

Bus services play a significant role in Greater Manchester’s transport network with more than 210 million journeys in 2015. That accounts for 79% of all public transport journeys compared to 9% by train and 12% by tram. Despite a growing population and increased demand on the transport network, overall bus use in Greater Manchester has flat-lined in recent years.

The option to implement bus franchising powers was requested by GMCA as part of the Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement signed with the Government in November 2014. The power for an elected Mayor to choose to implement bus franchising has benefited from cross-party political support amongst Greater Manchester’s Leaders.

Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, said: “It is absolutely right that Greater Manchester should have the ability to decide what transport network it wants and needs to help support our city-region and its growing economy.

“Alongside other devolved powers over health, housing and skills, the powers outlined in the Bus Services Bill would allow our region to plan strategically for the future and ensure that transport links people with jobs, skills and education.

“The ability to strategically manage the transport network means a better deal for passengers and ensures that bus plays a full role as part of an integrated, reliable, safe, clean and affordable transport network. The Bus Services Bill is an important step in making this possible.”