Rotala to appeal Manchester decision

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Rotala is to take its fight over the introduction of bus franchising in Greater Manchester to the Court of Appeal

Rotala has won the right to appeal the decision which had previously opened the door for bus franchising in Greater Manchester, reports the Manchester Evening News. The new hearing is expected to take place this summer, further delaying plans by the city’s Mayor Andy Burnham for a revision to how services operate across the city.

In March, a judge ruled against both Stagecoach and Rotala, both of which had claimed the process taken to move towards the franchising system, especially in the wake of post-Covid changes, was both irrational and unlawful. Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Julian Knowles stated: “Whilst I granted the plaintiffs permission to bring the review I dismiss the claims. In my judgement the Mayor’s decision and the process by which the Greater Manchester Combined Authority came to recommend the scheme was lawful.” However, Rotala said it would appeal the decision, and that it remained unsatisfied with a number of aspects of the consultation process carried out by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. The case will now be heard at the Couurt of Appeal.

Rotala told the newspaper: “On 26 March 2021, the Company announced that the Mayor of Greater Manchester had made the formal decision to franchise the bus market in the Greater Manchester region. The Company made an immediate claim to the High Court of Manchester to judicially review a number of aspects of the consultation process carried out by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which led to the decision of the Mayor to franchise the bus network.

“As previously announced, on 9 March, Mr Justice Julian Knowles rejected these arguments, dismissed the claim and refused to give leave to appeal. The company applied to seek permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal which has now granted leave to appeal on certain aspects of the case.”

In a statement, the Mayor said: “Just a few weeks ago the court ruled in our favour on every single point, so we are disappointed that the appeal has been granted on what amounts to a very technical issue. Buses are the backbone of our transport network and integral to our plan for the Bee Network, an integrated, London-style transport system for Greater Manchester.

“Our plans have high levels of public support, and we will vigorously contest this appeal. We plan to press ahead with our plans to ensure the first franchised services are in place by the 17 September next year and across the whole of the city-region by the end of 2024.”

Diamond Bus owner Rotala is to appeal against the decision on franchising in Greater Manchester. JONATHAN WELCH