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June 26 2019
By Jessamy Chapman

Mayor Burnham launches 10-year franchising plan

First test of Bus Services Act as Greater Manchester's mayor proposes region-wide franchising

Burnham: ‘Current public transport is fragmented and unreliable’

Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham has released a 10-year plan to introduce London-style bus franchising to the city region.

Called Our Network, his plan aims to integrate bus, rail and tram services, with local authority control.

Mr Burnham promises free bus travel for 16-18-year-olds, contactless payments across services with capped fares, and a bike hire scheme for next year.

Approval awaited

The Mayor has completed an assessment of the future of Greater Manchester's bus market, which recommends franchising as its preferred option.

It's the first city region to propose using the franchising powers granted by the Bus Services Act 2017.

The assessment will be considered by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Friday 28 June.

If the GMCA approves, an independent auditor will be appointed.

Once the audit has been completed, the next stage is for the GMCA to decide whether to proceed with a public consultation.

'Reform important'

Mr Burnham also calls on the government to devolve the required funding and powers, to “close the gap in transport funding between the north and the south.”

Mr Burnham says: “Our current public transport system is fragmented and unreliable, with often confusing ticketing and passenger information.

“A truly integrated transport network has the potential to transform Greater Manchester. By allowing people to easily and quickly move around our city region, we can unlock growth, cut congestion and air pollution and enable our residents to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.”

He says: “An important part of this is reforming our bus market. We’ve reached a key milestone with the completion of the assessment into the future of Greater Manchester’s bus market, which recommends franchising as its preferred option.

“To achieve our full transport ambition, Greater Manchester needs the infrastructure and the necessary political powers. For too long, central government has over promised and under delivered when it comes to the north.

“If the next government is serious about closing the north-south divide, a critical step forward will be empowering us with the necessary powers and funding to improve our transport. I will be making this case strongly in the next Spending Review on behalf of the people and businesses of Greater Manchester.”




Andy Burnham is right that we need more integration but completely wrong to suppose that franchising is the right way to achieve that. Operators in Greater Manchester are ready to co-operate to achieve his vision of a coherent transport strategy and are far better placed than the Mayor to know what the public want from their transport system. All they need is leadership from the Mayor to produce a shared vision based on partnership working. Franchising is bureaucratic, slow to react to changing public needs and above all eye-wateringly expensive. His chances of getting the requisite financial support from central government are nil.
Paul Sawbridge

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