Greater Manchester will become the first city-region in the UK to hold a public consultation on the introduction of a bus franchising scheme, using powers available under the Bus Services Act 2017.
At a meeting on Monday 7 October, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) will be asked to give the go ahead for a major public consultation into how the buses should be run in Greater Manchester, launching on Monday 14 October.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has carried out an assessment of a proposed franchising scheme for Greater Manchester, comparing it with other realistic options – including new partnerships with the bus companies or leaving bus services as they are now.
The assessment found that the proposed franchising scheme would be the best way to meet Greater Manchester’s objectives and future vision for buses – which include a joined-up integrated bus and public transport network, simple fares and ticketing, an improved customer experience, and better value for money.
Bus franchising is currently in place in London and other major global cities, and means bus services – including routes, timetables, fares and standards – would be brought under local control.
The scheme is estimated to cost £134.5 million, £122 million for moving to a franchised bus market in Greater Manchester by 2024/2025, and a £12.5 million forecast rise in current budgets over the same period relating primarily to travel concessions and supported bus services.
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Sir Richard Leese, said: “Buses are the backbone of our public transport system, carrying people on 75 per cent of journeys across the city-region, taking people to work, the shops and the hospital and playing a crucial role in helping people go about their daily lives.
“But in Greater Manchester and other UK regions bus use is falling. We need a new model for running our buses to arrest this decline, so that the bus network can play the same key role it does in supporting other major global cities.
“The assessment recommends franchising as the best way to achieve Greater Manchester’s ‘vision for bus’, as part of a joined-up transport network that’s easy and enjoyable for customers to use and pay for, and value for public money.
“The franchising scheme has been developed alongside ongoing engagement with bus operators to consider any realistic partnership options. No partnership has been put forward that can offer the same long-term positive benefits for Greater Manchester and its public transport users, however further partnership proposals would, of course, be considered as part of a consultation process.
“A decision to proceed to a major public consultation would be another key step towards reforming how the buses are run.”
If a franchised bus network was introduced, it would take place in several phases through to 2023. Greater Manchester would coordinate the bus network and contract bus companies to run the services, with any profit being reinvested in the buses.
This would enable the city-region to develop a more integrated, multimodal public transport network that can meet the demands of both passengers and the city-region’s economy says GMCA