Andy Burnham has said he wants an integrated London-style transport system for Greater Manchester as he announces the award of the region’s first new bus franchises.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester said talks were underway with the government as part of a new deal on devolution, more powers transferred from Whitehall to the regions, on the integration of overland train services with buses, trams and bicycles.
This would create a ‘tap in tap out’ system for any of the 2.5million people in the Greater Manchester area using public transport.
Mr Burnham made the remarks at a press conference where he announced that contracts had been signed with the two companies which won the tender to operate the buses in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Bury and Salford, referred to as the “Bee Network” in the region. .
The mayor pushed through a franchise model for bus services in the area, after what he called a ’36-year struggle’ to bring them back under public control after deregulation under the Thatcher government in the 1980s .
Currently, the region has around 830 bus services run by 30 operators with 150 different ticket types, with some routes near universities and city centers being oversupplied and more rural areas being undersupplied.
Mr Burnham pushed through a franchise model, opposed by bus operators, where control of fares, timetables and services are taken away from transport companies and placed in the hands of the public.
“The public should control their bus system and eventually they will,” he said.
“This is a great statement of our collective ambition for our metropolitan region. When fully in place, Greater Manchester will move to another level.
From September 2023, only two bus companies Go North West and Diamond Buses will be able to provide services to Bolton, Wigan and parts of Salford and Bury.
No job loss will be involved, Mr Burnham said, and the new system will give the public control of fares, routes and frequencies, with financial penalties for poor performance written into five-year service contracts, supplied by 50 new electric buses, all with the same Bee Network, yellow livery.
The same changes will be rolled out in Greater Manchester, to Rochdale and Oldham in March 2024 and to Manchester, Trafford, Stockport and Tameside in January 2025, providing the UK’s first ‘zero carbon’ public transport system.
Mr Burnham has already introduced a cap of £2 for a single bus journey, £1 for children or £5 for an all-day travel ticket and called on the public to ‘get on board’ in support of public transport .
He added, “The more people use public transport, even now, it will help us consolidate the finances of the Bee Network.”