Manchester franchise details are unveiled in GMCA consultation

Up to 10 large and 25 small franchises will be awarded if the scheme gains approval

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) detailed its proposed bus franchising scheme, which will require £122m of funding over a five-year transitionary period.

The details were revealed in a consultation into bus reform in Greater Manchester, which runs until 8 January 2020.

£122m transition

Transitional funds will come from several sources, including ‘earn back’ money from central government as part of a Devolution Agreement, the Mayor’s bus budget, council tax, local authority contributions and business rates.

While modelling shows that franchising would deliver a short-term patronage boost, long-term forecasts predict decline at the same rate as non-franchising options.

“Further investment to improve the quality of the system is [thus] likely to be required,” the consultation says. That second phase has no committed funding, but the need for it is shared across other means of reform.

A decision on whether franchising will go ahead is due on 6 March 2020.

Details of the franchising make-up have also been revealed. Introduction would be in three tranches between 2 April 2021 and 10 March 2023.

Up to 10 large franchises will be awarded for a combined peak vehicle requirement (PVR) of 1,250. 25 small franchises – with individual PVRs of up to 14 – will also be issued, with a restriction on the number that a single operator could hold.

‘Taking control’

GMCA would seek to take control of “strategic depots” and “provide them to operators of large franchises for the delivery of franchises operations”. That, it says, is to avoid bidders that already own suitable premises from gaining a competitive advantage.

Doing that may involve the provision of temporary depot facilities by GMCA or the building of new ones. Compulsory Purchase Orders could be used for existing garages. Responsibility for depots for small franchises would be with the franchisee.

Operators would continue to provide buses, but GMCA would introduce a residual value mechanism to guarantee the future worth of those fleets when the franchise ends

Read the consultation at bit.ly/31l6ZXP