TfGM responds to Manchester bus franchising criticism

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I read with interest Mr Tim Gibson’s letter, published in routeone last year. I would, however, like to make a few corrections.

Mr Gibson compares the projected £19.2m subsidy for socially necessary services in Greater Manchester in 2023/24 against Transport for London’s overall revenue subsidy of £670m. This is comparing apples and oranges.

Alongside the subsidy for socially necessary services, the public sector funds concessionary fares and the bus service operators’ grant (BSOG). In 2018/19, total public revenue support for the bus network in Greater Manchester, relative to the size, was comparable to and, in fact, somewhat higher than London’s.

Continued public funding for the bus network will be required whichever option is chosen and the assessment assumes the same level for partnerships, franchising or leaving the market as it is. To reassure Mr Gibson that Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) can do its sums, I should point out that the franchising assessment was subject to a rigorous independent audit.

Mr Gibson also refers to TfGM’s “unfunded second phase”. As required by the Bus Services Act, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has identified credible sources of funding for the transition and this is detailed in the consultation document. It does not require GMCA to commit to how it would fund the proposed scheme after transition, however the government announced in October its intention to provide long-term sustainable funding for areas which seek to introduce franchising.

The assessment also found franchising offers the best platform to deliver and maximise the benefits of this potential investment.

It should also be pointed out that the 1.4% above inflation increase in fares is projected under all the options in the assessment – including partnerships and leaving the market as it is – and is based on past trends. While the cost-benefit ratio of the partnership option is slightly higher than franchising, the latter delivers three times the benefits of the operator’s partnership proposals: £234m, compared with £81m.

Mr Gibson also points out the length and complexity of the assessment and supporting documents. This is a necessary result of GMCA following the law as set out in the Transport Act 2000 and associated guidance.

The consultation runs until (8 January). We have encouraged everyone to share their views, based on the correct information, at www.gmconsult.org

Michael Renshaw
Executive Director
TfGM