Arriva, Stagecoach and Merseytravel have signed a partnership agreement to govern bus services in Liverpool city region.
The partners said the agreement will deliver more than £25m of investment in bus services in the first year of the five-year budget.
The Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance sees a commitment from operators to provide modern bus fleets with an average age of no more than seven years. Passengers will benefit from improved smart ticketing, wireless internet access and USB mobile device charging points on all new buses.
The formal signing of the Bus Alliance agreement also releases Government funding for low emissions vehicles of £4.7m, the single biggest award out of the last round of funding in July, for 72 new, greener buses across the City Region.
The two operators will partner on marketing campaigns, cleaning and customer service training. The agreement promises improved links to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and a new night bus service will continue to be piloted.
Both operators will also sign up to clearly defined targets around punctuality and passenger satisfaction.
The bus partnership could be followed by a new locally controlled franchising regime of the Buses Bill, currently envisaged to pass into law in advance of the Liverpool City Region Mayoral election in 2017.
Every day buses in the city region take 100,000 people to their place of work, 60,000 to their place of education and around 30% of shoppers into Liverpool city centre, according to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
However, the “long term trend in bus patronage for the city region is one of decline”, the combined authority said.
This new partnership is part of the plan to turn that situation around.