Smoke and Mirrors on the Mersey

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Has franchising been properly thought-through in Liverpool, asks Robert Montgomery. ALEXANDER DENNIS

At a time when the franchising and funding of bus networks is increasingly under discussion, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s bus franchising assessment is significantly flawed, says Robert Montgomery

The Mayor of Liverpool City Region is about to consider responses to his Consultation on bringing the bus network fully under public control based upon a 558 page assessment and a 149 page audit. My detailed analysis has shown it is simply not fit for purpose, containing 19 clear and fundamental errors, and any decision based upon it to proceed would be reckless rather than rational. It is simply not financially sustainable without the ongoing injection of substantial, unquantified amounts of public subsidy. It will inevitably become an operation limping from funding crisis to funding crisis threatening service cuts and fares increases.

If the Mayor truly believes that the franchising option is the best way forward (and he may very well be right), he first needs to level with the electorate on what the bill will be and what they will get for their money.

The most significant flaws and weaknesses are around affordability, financial sustainability and certainty. There are three ‘big ticket’ items in the proposal: Conversion of the city bus fleet to zero-emission; lower fares; and more services.


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