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Greater Manchester set to become first city region to pursue bus franchising

Greater Manchester is set to become the first city-region to pursue the franchising of bus services under the Bus Services Act 2017 as part of Mayor Andy Burnham’s 10-year plan for public transport.

The Mayor said his Our Network scheme would be “an integrated, simple and convenient London-style transport system; allowing people to change easily between different modes of transport; with simple affordable ticketing and an aspiration to have a London-style cap across all modes; with orbital routes that allow people to travel around the city region, as well as in and out of the city centre.”

Burnham said the scheme would also be built on the principles already governing Metrolink: convenient; affordable; sustainable; accessible and accountable:

  • Convenient: Reliable and regular services.
  • Affordable: Integrated fares and ticketing across bus, rail, tram and bike hire.
  • Sustainable: Zero emissions and powered by renewable energy.
  • Accessible: Fully accessible to all residents both at stops and on transport modes.
  • Accountable: Run for the people of GM and locally accountable.

An assessment into the future of the city-region’s bus market has just been completed and recommended franchising as its preferred option. The assessment will be considered by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on 28 June.

The GMCA will decide whether to proceed with the scheme and approve the assessment for independent audit. If this is approved, an independent auditor will be appointed. Once the audit has been completed, the GMCA would then decide whether to proceed with a statutory public consultation on the assessment.

Burnham also announced that as a part of the integrated transport system, contactless payment will launch shortly on Metrolink, a new bike hire scheme including electric bikes will be launched in 2020, expanded Park and Ride schemes at transport hubs and innovative partnerships with Google that will improve travel information and advice.

The Mayor also called on the government to devolve the required funding and powers, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission, to deliver the projects and close the gap in transport funding between the north and the south.

Burnham said: “Our current public transport system is fragmented and unreliable, with often confusing ticketing and passenger information. A truly integrated transport network has the potential to transform Greater Manchester. By allowing people to easily and quickly move around our city-region we can unlock growth, cut congestion and air pollution and enable our residents to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

“That is why today I have launched Our Network, a vision for a cohesive and seamless single system that brings together all the different ways people travel in our city-region.”

The Mayor continued: “An important part of this is reforming our bus market. We’ve reached a key milestone with the completion of the assessment into the future of Greater Manchester’s bus market, which recommends franchising as its preferred option and to be considered further by the GMCA. We’re the first city-region seeking to make use of the new powers under the Bus Services Act and the first to test this legislation – so are leading the way nationally in this regard.”