Greater Manchester is launching a further public consultation to get a wide range of views on its proposals to reform the bus market in light of the findings of a new report on the impact of Covid-19.
People and organisations from Greater Manchester and beyond are being encouraged to take part in the consultation which runs until midnight on Friday 29 January 2021.
Currently in Greater Manchester the bus companies decide the routes, frequencies, fares and standards. There is no coordination and limited oversight. Where bus companies decide not to run services, where necessary, the public sector pays to fill in the gaps.
Under franchising, bus services would be brought under local control. GMCA would coordinate and invest in the bus network based on the services passengers need. The bus operators would be contracted by GMCA to run the services.
Last year, between October 2019 and January 2020, Greater Manchester held a consultation on a proposed bus franchising scheme. Over 8,500 individuals and organisations from across Greater Manchester and beyond responded to the previous consultation, with four-out-of-five respondents, who answered the relevant question, supporting the proposed franchising scheme.
In June, GMCA noted the results of the consultation and that, before a final decision was made, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) would produce a Covid-19 Impact Report considering how the pandemic had affected the bus reform process.
The outcome of both consultations would then be considered as part of the final decision by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, on whether or not to implement the proposed franchising scheme. The decision is anticipated to take place in spring 2021.
To take part in the consultation, visit the GM Consult website.
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. Last year, we consulted on a proposed bus franchising scheme to bring buses under local control and over 8,500 of you responded, with four out of five people supporting the scheme.
“Covid-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty over how people will travel in future. So TfGM have 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 for franchising in the light of this report.
“It is really important we get a wide range of views. Even if you did not respond to the first consultation or you are not a regular bus user, we want to hear from you. This is your chance to make your voice heard and have your say on the future of your buses.”
Covid-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty over how people will travel in future. So, TfGM has used four scenarios in the Report that look at potential future travel demand in Greater Manchester and what it could mean for GMCA’s proposals to change how buses are run.
Under all scenarios, franchising is still the best option to achieve Greater Manchester’s long-term ambition for a fully integrated public transport system and GMCA still has funding available to pay for the transition to franchising.
Under franchising, GMCA would be responsible for the bus network and that means it would have more of the financial responsibility and the risks. Depending on the impacts of Covid-19, GMCA might have to make difficult choices about the bus network in the future to manage these financial risks – such as providing further funding or making reductions to the network.