OneBus: Franchising means higher fares, higher taxes and no investment

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Franchising proposals admit a ‘multitude of weaknesses’ in the system, OneBus says

Following an analysis of Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s own franchising proposal, entitled ‘Doing Buses Differently,’ bus operator partnership organisation OneBus has released its findings.

OneBus said the new system ‘would lead to inflation-busting fares rises, higher taxes, plummeting passenger numbers, and no investment to tackle the real barriers to bus use’ if introduced.

According to the organisation, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s 1,000-page proposals admit a ‘multitude of weaknesses’ in the franchising model, which are as follows:

    • Network – no specific plans outlined for a more enhanced bus network;
    • Cost – this is now revealed as being £266m, close to double the £134.5m originally suggested;
    • Fares – customers would be hit by annual, inflation-busting fares rises (inflation +1.4% pa);
    • No greener buses – zero new bus investment to help improve air quality;
    • Poor value for money – GMCA’s own analysis shows that a partnership model has a significantly better benefit-to-cost ratio than franchising;
    • Journey times – no planned or budgeted measures to tackle congestion and deliver faster or more reliable journeys;
    • Higher taxes – taxpayers will foot rising costs, even if central government provides subsidies; and
    • Fewer passengers – despite huge costs, the council forecasts that franchising will see bus use drop by almost 25%.

Gary Nolan, Chief Executive of OneBus, said: “Despite promising the world, the frightening future of buses under franchising has been revealed in this consultation, which at over 1,000 pages is close to indecipherable for most people.

“Residents are already realising that they will ultimately pay to run the service, but likely have no idea of the additional funds that will be needed for the council to acquire bus depots, deliver greener buses, or even to pay interest payments on the borrowing required. It is very concerning that these points have remained hidden until now.

“We do not believe that Greater Manchester taxpayers should be forced to pay for such a costly and unnecessary system, which promises higher fares without addressing congestion or air quality – the real crisis in our region today. What our new partnership alternative offers is millions more invested in greener buses, improved ticketing and live journey information, far quicker than any franchised system can deliver. The franchise documentation shows that partnership has a better benefit-cost ratio, clearly showing that taxpayers get better value for money from our plans. Our vision is investing in a network fit for the future, delivering regular improvements for the travelling public.”