Manchester Bus Priority Oxford Road TfGM
At present, private bus companies operate services across the city-region

Manchester revisits bus franchise model  

Sarah Townsend

Transport for Greater Manchester is conducting a further consultation following one last year on plans to franchise the city’s bus network, to assess whether the pandemic has changed people’s minds.

The franchising proposals are part of Greater Manchester’s 10-year Our Network plan to improve and integrate the city’s public transport network and make journeys easier and more affordable.

Currently in the city-region, the private bus companies decide the routes, frequencies, fares and standards and there is no coordination or links between the different services.

Under franchising, bus services would be brought under local control, with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority responsible for the network. It would coordinate and invest in the network based on the services passengers need, with bus operators contracted to run the service.

Although the GMCA would take on greater financial risk under the franchise model, it would also have the freedom to run the network in the most cost-efficient way possible, based on demand.

The last consultation on the proposals, conducted between October 2019 and January this year, received 8,500 responses, with four-out-of-five respondents supporting the franchising scheme.

Launching another round of public consultation this week, TfGM noted that, depending on the impacts of Covid-19, the authorities might have to make “difficult choices” about the network in future to manage the risks.

However, it added: “Despite the additional financial risks, the net benefits of franchising for Greater Manchester are still likely to be higher and more deliverable than other options – such as entering into a partnership with bus operators, or making no change to the bus market – and so will provide value for money.”

TfGM Bus Reform

The GMCA wants to provide better and more affordable services

Both before and during the pandemic, 75% of public transport journeys in the city-region have been made by bus, and the network provides a crucial link to work, education and essential services, especially for some of the city-region’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, TfGM added.

The new consultation, accessible through gmconsult.org, seeks the public’s updated views on the proposals, in light of the pandemic and following a ‘Covid impact’ report produced by TfGM. The consultation runs until midnight on Friday 29 January 2021.

Sir Richard Leese, deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Buses are at the heart of our public transport network. They are an essential part of people’s lives and during the pandemic they ensured key workers could get to their jobs and others could travel to work and education or help those in need.

“However, our buses could be better. We want them to be part of an integrated transport network, so getting around Greater Manchester is easy, accessible and affordable, with simple fares and customer information and a better experience for customers.

“Covid-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty over how people will travel in future. So, TfGM has looked at the impact of Covid-19 on both the bus market and our proposed franchising scheme, and we’re now consulting on our proposals in light of this report.”

Should a franchised bus network be introduced, it would be rolled out in several phases, TfGM said.

Your Comments

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Consultation after consultation. Please just get on with it

By Anonymous

In light of Covid we shouldn’t be encouraging people to use public transport, we need to ensure that people have cars and can afford petrol. It’s better for safety, mental wellbeing and crime.

By PDM

Back in the 1970s, all of the Greater Manchester buses were run by one bus company called Selnec – light orange and white buses. Then in the early 1980s it was changed to Greater Manchester buses and then in about 1986 it was changed again to GM buses still serving all of Greater Manchester as one big bus company. Then in about 1996 it was split in two companies north and south, Stagecoach bought out the South and First bus bought out the north. Now in 2020 we have six bus different bus companies in Greater Manchester, all charging different fare prices, different day saver prices, choosing what bus routes etc. In London it’s all one big bus company – all of Greater Manchester should be one bus company like it was back in the day.

By Darren born bred Salford

Smells like consultation fatigue to me. Why would the pandemic dampen the clear public desire to have access to convenient, affordable public transport? Just get on with it.

By Active Travel Trev

Consultation, consultation, consultation. For goodness sake get on with it – we need one company serving the whole of Greater Manchester.

By Lenny68

Unfortunately, politically motivated ideological reasons for re-nationalising GM buses are going to hit the financial buffers of economic reality in short order; this is simply financial madness, particularly at this time when even the busiest routes are running with so few passengers.
That said, there clearly need to be improvements, but this is not the answer.
Is there a Plan B?

By AltPoV

PDM – what happens when all those extra cars cause enormous amounts of congestion? We need proper public transport and cycling infrastructure to take pressure off our road network.

By Anonymous

In light of Covid, we should be complementing the use of public transport: we need to ensure that people have access to safe routes to walk and cycle. It’s better for safety, mental wellbeing, crime, congestion and the environment we depend on.

By Anonymous

London Buses aren’t operated by one big bus company, the franchises are actually operated by 12 different companies so twice as many as Manchester!

By Anonymous

Just get on with it! Hopefully the vaccine will be rolled out to all and we’re back to normal! So we need a public transport system fit for purpose and not for for profit by private companies!

By Harry Enfield