In recent weeks there have been two significant announcements which will have a major impact on bus services in the future.
Firstly, at a Greater Manchester level, it was announced that the decision that is recommended to the Mayor is for a ‘franchised’ bus system in Greater Manchester. This decision, to be made formally by the Mayor at a later date, is being taken after about two years of consultation on the subject, alongside a campaign by some bus operators to oppose the proposals.
Essentially Greater Manchester would be the first area outside of Greater London to have a franchised bus network. What this means is:
- Bus routes and prices would be brought under the control of Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
- Private bus companies would be invited to run these routes under a franchise agreement.
- The arrangements could lead to improvements in the service – e.g. more electric buses, integrated ticketing across bus/tram/train etc.
- The new arrangements would happen in three phases, starting in 2023 with most services which operate in Bury part of the second tranche starting in 2024.
- This will cost a lot of money to introduce, about £134 million – with about £50 million coming from local council tax payers including what looks like an increased Mayor’s precept in future years.
As with all of these major proposals a lot of work will need to be put into the detail. At present Greater Manchester has a mixture of commercial services that bus companies run at a profit (e.g. the 135 up Bury Old Road/A56), and then subsidised buses (e.g. the buses to North Manchester or up to Simister). It will be interesting to see what the proposals for a franchised model will be.
The second announcement was from Government, with its National Bus Strategy, which outlines how the Government expects transport authorities throughout England to improve bus services. Interestingly the Government is very clear that it expects most areas to use a ‘partnership’ model with bus companies, rather than the ‘franchise’ model which is looks set to be used in Greater Manchester.
The Government will only give money to local transport authorities if they meet its new criteria. They say that they expect to see more bus lanes and similar measures on major bus routes.
More information on the Greater Manchester proposals here.
More information on the Government’s National Bus Strategy here.