Transport bosses in Manchester are holding up millions of pounds in vital assistance to Manchester’s struggling bus operators, according to High Peak Buses.
The COVID-19 crisis has ‘decimated’ passenger numbers in Manchester and nationally, the firm says. Passenger numbers are less than 15% of a normal weekday and still falling, following the government’s instructions to stay at home.
Buses are running around completely empty under instructions from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), High Peak says: “One operator is being ordered to run 27 school buses every day without carrying a single child, while another reported that a bus was running for five hours one evening and carried only one passenger the whole time. The driver felt threatened by roving gangs of youths in the Wythenshawe area.”
Government help is available to keep vital daytime services running, carrying essential workers to hospitals and other workplaces. But, according to High Peak, TfGM is blocking this aid, and refuses to talk to operators.
“Senior officials and the Mayor have been invisible during this crisis,” the company said in a statement. “Operators understand that TfGM is holding up government aid and demanding a controlling say in what services operate, both now and after the crisis ends, in exchange for this aid.”
Julian Peddle, a Director of High Peak Buses, continued: “The situation in Manchester is different to anywhere else that we operate. Every other local authority has agreed to pass on the aid from central government to help us keep these vital bus services running, but in Manchester they are refusing point blank to help us.
“I have written to Michael Renshaw, Executive Director at TfGM, but had no reply. And because they are not working with operators, they are still running hundreds of nearly empty tendered services, carrying no one and wasting money. Unless this money is made available in the next few days, bus cuts will have to be made that are far more severe than would be otherwise needed as operators have insufficient money to pay drivers and buy fuel. At a time of National Crisis TfGM is making the situation 10 times worse in Manchester.”
CBW reached out to TfGM for comment on this story but at the time of going to press no statement was forthcoming.