Greater Manchester will be the first city-region in the UK to hold a public consultation on the introduction of a bus franchising scheme, using powers available under the Bus Services Act 2017.
At an extraordinary meeting on Monday 7 October, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) gave the go-ahead for a major public consultation into how the buses should be run in Greater Manchester.
A wide range of people will be invited to have their say on the proposed franchising scheme for Greater Manchester from Monday 14 October through to Wednesday 8 January 2020.
Bus franchising is currently in place in London and other major global cities, and means bus services – including routes, timetables, fares and standards – would be brought under local control.
Greater Manchester would coordinate the bus network and contract bus companies to run the services, with any profit being reinvested in the buses.
GMCA Vice Chair, Councillor Brenda Warrington said: “Buses play a crucial role in our society, helping people make millions of trips every year to work, shops and education, to see friends and family, enjoy the many cultural and leisure opportunities Greater Manchester has to offer, and to access essential healthcare.
“But we need better bus services. Buses are an important part of the ‘Our Network’ ambition to create a modern and accessible public transport system for Greater Manchester. One which brings together different modes of transport into a joined-up, easy-to-use system with seamless connections, simple ticketing and an aspiration for capped fares.
“We want to give people the real choice to leave their cars at home, reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and their harmful emissions, so we have cleaner, greener neighbourhoods.”
An assessment prepared by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has compared the proposed franchising scheme with other realistic options – including new partnerships with the bus companies or leaving bus services as they are now.
It claimed that the proposed franchising scheme would be the best way to meet Greater Manchester’s objectives and future vision for buses. That includes a joined-up integrated bus and public transport network, simple fares and ticketing, an improved customer experience, and better value for money.
Following the public consultation, GMCA will give its response in a published report. The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, would then make a decision on whether to implement the proposed franchising scheme.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach Manchester commented: “After months of being kept in the dark, the people of Greater Manchester are finally being given an opportunity to see specific franchising proposals. Like everyone else, we will be keen to understand whether it delivers anything that can’t be delivered right now through bus operators’ alternative partnership plans.
“Taxpayers will be interested to see what value they’re getting as they face paying a multi-million-pound franchising bill when partnership can deliver improvements at zero cost. Alternatively, under the bus partnership proposals, we can deliver investment worth many millions of pounds in integrated ticketing, better value fares, electric buses and a simpler network the region needs at no cost to the public purse.
“For those who would prefer not having the financial burden of bus franchising on their shoulders, we’d encourage them to make their feelings known via the consultation or local councillor.”
Responses can be made online at gmconsult.org (online survey or downloadable questionnaire).
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