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The future of bus services

Bus reform

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Background

Buses are vital to the city-region’s economy and society. Three in every four public transport journeys in Greater Manchester are made by bus.

There has been a steady fall in the number of people travelling by bus. In Greater Manchester there has been a decline of 32.1million annual passenger journeys by bus since 2010.

That’s despite significant public funding and commercial investment by bus operators.
Greater Manchester is growing, with the population set to exceed 3 million by 2040. By 2035, our transport network will need to support an additional 600,000 journeys a day across all modes.

It’s vital that the bus network plays a fuller role in connecting people with jobs, housing, education, healthcare, shops, family and friends.

Current Bus Market

More than 30 bus operators run services in Greater Manchester. Because it’s a deregulated market, no single organisation is responsible for planning the bus network or setting fares.
As a result, the current system prevents bus services being fully joined up and coordinated with each other, as well as different types of transport.

On the road competition can result in ‘over-busing’ on certain routes, while other, less profitable routes are left with a minimal service, or no service at all.

The number and variety of bus tickets in Greater Manchester is complicated. Passengers have to pay more for a ticket that they can use on more than one bus operator’s services.
Travelling by bus needs to be easier.

Greater Manchester’s Vision for Bus

The Greater Manchester 2040 Transport Strategy sets out our ambition for bus services.
Greater Manchester needs a joined-up transport network, with simple fares and ticketing, that puts the passenger first and guarantees the best value ticket for their journey. It should be modern and accessible, with a consistent experience for passengers across all services, and everyone should be able to use it.

This can only be fully achieved through a change to the current bus system.
In June 2017 the Bus Services Act became law, giving Mayoral authorities like Greater Manchester powers to improve bus services by reforming the current bus market. The options available include franchising – the system used in London and other cities globally – and various forms of partnerships.

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, made a commitment in his manifesto to use these new powers to make local bus services more affordable, more reliable and more accessible.

How We Are Working To Achieve This

On behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), TfGM has prepared an assessment of a proposed franchising scheme for the whole of Greater Manchester.

The assessment also includes a consideration of other realistic options for improving bus services, such as partnerships.

The assessment’s recommended option is franchising, which is why the GMCA have decided to follow the next step in the Bus Services Act by requesting a report from an auditor in an attempt to obtain the assurance of an independent third party on the assessment.

What Next?

After the auditor’s report is complete the GMCA will review the report and the assessment and then decide whether to proceed with a public consultation.

Subject to these steps, the GMCA would then publish a report with its responses to the consultation. The Mayor, acting on behalf of the GMCA, would then make a decision about whether to implement the proposed scheme or not.

Please check back for updates.