Partnership can deliver politicians’ expectations

Partnerships have the capacity to deliver much more than they do at present, and franchising is not necessarily the answer in Manchester.

That’s the clear message from First UK Bus MD Giles Fearnley, as he digested the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that there will be a Buses Bill (routeone, News, 27 May).

He also welcomes the high profile that buses occupy in the discussion about transport, compared with their former ‘Cinderella’ status.

Commenting on the proposal for a directly-elected mayor, and possible powers for bus franchising in Manchester, Mr Fearnley tells routeone: “We’ve been watching politcial developments since George Osborne’s announcement last autumn.

“We haven’t got the detail of the Buses Bill, as that hasn’t been developed or drafted yet, and we wait to see.

“We firmly believe that partnerships have much more to deliver, and they can be formed to meet head-on – but not in a clashing sense – the objectives of the cities as they look to buses to support their growth agendas.

“There’s much more that can be done around partnership models to give authorities confidence and to give greater exposure to the bus.

“We are actively talking with a range of authorities as to how we can develop the partnership model accordingly.

“We would love to have the opportunity to do that in Manchester and we will continue our dialogue with Transport for Greater Manchester.

And, as we understand the details of their thinking, we will look to see whether their objectives can be met with a way other than franchising.”

On the role of Britain’s buses in the economy, he adds: “At the end of the day what is really good at the moment, if you put regulation to one side, is that buses are at the forefront of the political agenda.

“There is a real acceptance that buses are the driver of economic growth and social life in towns and cities around the UK.

“We are determined to play a huge part in that and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the bus.

“What we do believe though is that partnership can deliver political expectations.”