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May 01 2018
By Mel Holley

A former routeone editor, Mel has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.

Burnham’s franchising plan for
Manchester gathers pace

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has started a “wide-ranging” market engagement exercise to “test a potential approach” to a proposed franchising scheme for the region.

It is part of TfGM’s work to prepare an assessment of a proposed franchising scheme for Greater Manchester, as called for by Labour Mayor Andy Burnham.

Labour Mayor Andy Burnham is calling for bus franchising

TfGM is undertaking the assessment on behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), but “no final decision has yet been taken on how to reform the local bus market.”

While preparing the assessment, TfGM has been in “ongoing dialogue with bus operators to explore other ‘realistic options’ for improving local bus services, such as partnership proposals.”

While partnership talks continue, TfGM is now inviting bus operators’ feedback on an initial suggested commercial approach to the current proposed franchising scheme.

A total of 35 local, national and international bus operators are being invited to give their views through a detailed questionnaire, issued last week.

One-to-one meetings have been held with Greater Manchester’s major bus operators to outline the approach, while smaller operators have been invited to group sessions.

The questionnaire issued this week covers such areas as the proposed design and structure of franchises, commercial parameters, and the procurement process.

It is hoped that this engagement will help further refine TfGM’s assessment by obtaining operator feedback on a potential commercial model for franchising.

In considering a commercial model for franchising TfGM has followed several guiding principles, including how the model would: generate competition and reduce barriers to entry; create an enduring market; manage risk and drive value for money; give enough flexibility to respond to changing demands; and consider how small operators would have access to the market.

Michael Renshaw, Executive Director at TfGM, said: “Our work to prepare the assessment of a franchising scheme is underpinned by Greater Manchester’s ambitions for bus to play a fuller role as part of an integrated transport system.

“This market engagement is an important stage in the ongoing dialogue we’ve kept with bus operators throughout the process.

“We’ve considered global best practice and we hope that testing our commercial approach and assumptions with the bus market will help to ensure that the final assessment is as robust as possible.

“We want to make sure that, if the proposed scheme is implemented, it would deliver tangible and enduring outcomes for passengers and the local economy.”

 Once the assessment of a proposed franchising scheme for Greater Manchester is complete, the GMCA will need to arrange for it to be independently audited in accordance with the Bus Services Act 2017.

After obtaining the audit report, if a decision is made to proceed with the proposed franchising scheme, GMCA will then make a decision on whether to hold a public consultation on the assessment of a proposed bus franchising scheme. This would give the public an opportunity to have their say and allow GMCA to consider and respond.

Following public consultation and after GMCA publishing a report (in accordance with section 123G of the Act), the Mayor would then make a decision as to whether to use the powers made available to him under the Bus Services Act 2017 to reform Greater Manchester’s bus market by implementing any proposed scheme or not.

Greater Manchester’s ‘Vision for Bus’ was outlined in its 2040 Transport Strategy: “To develop a modern low-emission accessible bus system, fully integrated with the wider Greater Manchester transport network on which everyone will be happy to travel regardless of their background or mobility level.” 

The four pillars central to these objectives are:

- One Network – an integrated multi-modal public transport system

- Simple Fares and Ticketing – a simplified and integrated fares system across all modes

- Customer First – a great passenger experience

- Value For Money – efficiency to enable further investment

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is the transport delivery arm for Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and its Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC).

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