Liverpool follows Manchester with move to franchising

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St Helens will be the first area to adopt a franchised system, with other areas of the city following over a two year period. JONATHAN WELCH

The North West city region looks likely to become the second outside London to adopt a franchise model for its bus services

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has announced that he will be following in the footsteps of nearby Manchester and introducing franchising to the region’s buses, a move he says will herald a ‘new era’ for public transport in the region.

The decision was made following the recommendation of local authority leaders at a Combined Authority meeting. Mayor Rotheram, said after the meeting: “Today marks the start of a new era for public transport in our area – we’re taking back control of our buses. Hundreds of thousands of people in our area rely on buses to get about every day, with 82% of all public transport journeys taken by bus. Yet, for far too long, our residents have been forced to contend with a second-class service that places profit before passengers and leaves behind the very people who need it most.

“Today we have chosen a completely new course for the future of our buses. Under franchising, we will have greater control over fares, tickets and routes to ensure that bus services are run in the best interests of passengers – not shareholders. Whilst it will take a few years to re-regulate the whole network, and the change will be transformational – it is not one that will happen overnight. There are several stages that we still need to go through before we can expect to see franchised buses on our roads.

“By turning back the clock on nearly 40 years of failed deregulation, we’re putting our buses back where they belong: under public control. It is another massive step forward on our journey to building an integrated London-style transport network that will make getting around our region faster, cheaper, greener, simpler and more reliable.”

Cllr Liam Robinson, leader of Liverpool City Council and Portfolio Holder for Transport, added: “This is a landmark decision and the culmination of many years of hard work and careful consideration. The shared vision of Mayor Rotheram, myself and other leaders in the city region is of a bus service that works for everyone – and we believe that means taking greater local public control of the network so we can do things like set fares, routes and timetables.

“And people overwhelmingly agree with us – almost 70% of respondents to the consultation held this summer said they backed plans for bus franchising in the Liverpool City Region. This important step forward means we can now start planning for how we improve bus services in the future, whether that’s by simplifying ticketing to ensure passengers always pay the lowest fares for their journeys or making sure services are better connected with rail, active travel routes and our Mersey Ferries.”

The decision follows a 12-week consultation which found that 69% of respondents supported franchising, and all six of the region’s local authority leaders recommended that a franchised system would provide the best value to the taxpayer.

It is planned that franchising will be introduced in phases, with the first franchised buses starting to run in St Helens by late 2026 and the move to a fully franchised system across the whole of the Liverpool City Region completed by the end of 2028.

The city region is to move to a fully franchised system between 2026 and 2028. LIVERPOOL CITY REGION