Transport leaders in Greater Manchester have welcomed Royal Assent of the Bus Services Bill, legislation which will allow the elected Mayor to make significant changes to the way bus services are managed.
The Bus Services Act, which received Royal Assent yesterday, grants Combined Authorities, with an elected Mayor, the powers to franchise bus services, should they choose to do so and following consultation with the public.
This could enable Greater Manchester to create an integrated transport network with a simple fares and ticketing system. It also means that service quality, branding and customer information could be standardised across Greater Manchester.
Currently Greater Manchester has a deregulated bus market. This means that private bus operators set their own routes, frequencies, timetables, fares and quality standards for most services. Under a franchised system, such as that used in London, Greater Manchester authorities would take control of bus service planning, with services run under contract by private operators.
Bus accounts for 79% of all public transport journeys in Greater Manchester, around 210 million a year. However, despite a growing population and increased demand on the transport network, bus patronage in Greater Manchester has fallen by 140 million passenger journeys in the last 30 years.
Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, said: “The Bus Services Act 2017 is a key milestone in the devolution of transport powers to Greater Manchester. This legislation will provide an elected Mayor of Greater Manchester with options to improve bus services, ensuring that the needs of the passengers are placed at the heart of our transport network.
“Bus travel accounts for four in every five public transport journeys in our region and with a growing population; we need a transport system which keeps our city moving, helping people to access jobs, education and services and connecting communities.
“The powers in this Act could help to deliver a consistent and joined-up transport network with coordinated routes, simpler fares, integrated ticketing and consistent quality standards. We want bus to play a full role as part of an integrated, reliable, safe, clean and affordable transport network.”
The Bus Services Act 2017 is a result of the Greater Manchester devolution agreement signed with Government in November 2014. Changes to the way the bus market in Greater Manchester is managed would be subject to a public consultation before any decision was made.