The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has introduced the first bus franchise system in the city. This would allow the office of the mayor to set timetables and fares, reversing 30 years of deregulation.
If successful, other cities in the UK are likely to follow suit. He has been given backing from the new prime minister, Boris Johnson.
It is the first of it’s kind outside of London and the Prime Minister said “I will work with the mayor of Greater Manchester on his plans to deliver a London style bus system in the area”.
Buses are a vital link to work for low paid workers who do not drive. Mr Burnham, of the Labour party, said subsidised, centrally organised public transport systems are also key to cutting pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and congestion.
But Mr Burnham believe that transport policy in the UK has traditionally been done mode by mode. He believe that it needs to be knit into one service. His argument is that Manchester needs to have more control over it’s transportation network.
More than 30 companies operate routes in Greater Manchester. Since deregulation in 1985 — which allowed companies free rein to set routes and fares — passenger numbers, routes and frequency of services have all dropped by about a third. In London, the only city that was not forced to deregulate, passenger numbers have doubled during the same period.
The government’s 2017 Bus Services Act allowed metro mayors such as Mr Burnham to bring in franchising but did not make it easy. Transport for Greater Manchester, the regional body that is responsible for public transport, had to spend an estimated £20m — the figure has not been revealed — on a two-year market study. Its recommendations are now being examined by an independent expert. If approved, they can go to a consultation.
Greater Manchester spends £27m a year on bus subsidies to persuade operators to run unprofitable routes. Mr Burnham said he would like “tens of millions of pounds” annually from the government to implement a franchise system.
An hour’s bus journey costs £1.50 in London, with an all day pass £4.50. A single journey in Greater Manchester can cost £4, though a weekly pass for all operator’s routes is £19.
London and other international cities have invested in buses and public transport to deal with climate emergencyand Greater Manchester’s bus network can be improved and encourage the mayor to use his existing powers to cut congestion before it inflicts further damage on bus punctuality and air quality.”