Cllr Andrew Fender hits out as cuts bite

Bus passengers in Greater Manchester are falling victim to the ‘worst cuts in living memory’, according to the council’s transport chief.

Labour Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), says the only way to save supported bus services is to take back control of bus services.

His comments come as 18m is cut from TfGM’s staffing and operations budget over the two years to March 2016 – with many cutbacks due to hit supported bus services in April.

The cuts include 7.1m from the general bus network – including weekend night buses from the city centre – 700,000 from Ring and Ride, and 8.2m from transport operations. There will be some job losses.

The remaining 2.5m has been saved by making fixed-price deals with operators over concessionary travel reimbursement.

Says Cllr Fender: “The cuts we are having to make this year are the worst that I can ever remember. For those of us like myself who were around during the years of Thatcher cuts and thought that was horrendous – this is turning out to be a lot worse.

“We simply can’t afford to run all the supported services we have in the past. As contracts come up for renewal we are looking very closely at which services can be retained on a less frequent basis or if we can find other alternatives.”

He said it was hard to quantify the impact on passengers, adding: “It’s difficult to put a number on it because there are literally hundreds of contracts. We are trying to achieve economies by grouping together some routes and reduction to frequencies.”

He says the 1986 deregulation has been an “unmitigated disaster” and is confident that devolution – with an elected mayor having powers over transport, housing, planning and policing – will allow councils to spend their transport budget as they see fit.

It would lead to TfGM controlling franchises, routes and frequencies and fares.

“There is a lot of money in the system which could be more rationally used if we had control of routes and the frequency of timetables. We could keep the services we currently provide and restore some of the lost routes and frequencies.”