D&G Bus Director Julian Peddle has renewed his attack on Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) for what he says is a failure on its part to make concessionary fare reimbursements and Our Pass payments in line with government guidance.
TfGM Chief Executive Eamonn Boylan wrote to operators in Greater Manchester on 24 April. Included with Mr Boylan’s letter was a list of eight conditions that TfGM required them to meet before the concessionary reimbursement for May was made.
D&G Bus and TfGM remain at odds over reimbursement
The communication followed an earlier letter from TfGM that contained 11 conditions for operators to agree to before concessionary reimbursement for April would be transferred.
TfGM did not follow through on that earlier list of conditions. However, Mr Peddle says that two within the letter of 24 April are “unacceptable”, and that TfGM still intends to pay operators “below the full amounts mandated” by the government.
He adds: “Yet again, TfGM has put a gun to operators’ heads, rather than working with them. What amazes me is that having failed once, and having been forced to back down, one month later it tries the same tactics again.”
Mr Peddle says that while the eight conditions are within a document entitled Aims and principal objectives for collaborative working between TfGM and local bus operators during the COVID-19 pandemic (lockdown phase), TfGM did not consult with operators before it was issued.
It is understood that while operators unanimously rejected the earlier list of 11 demands, at least one quickly accepted the eight conditions issued on 24 April.
Our Pass gives passengers aged 16-18 free travel on local buses across Greater Manchester. TfGM says the reason that Our Pass payments continue to be made at actual levels is because the product is within a two-year pilot period.
BSOG payments have been made by TfGM in full and on time. Mr Peddle also accepts that TfGM has engaged with operators regarding the Coronavirus Bus Services Support Grant, with every indication being that it will be paid as expected.
TfGM: ‘Making every effort to engage with operators’
In response to Mr Peddle’s comments, TfGM says it developed an interim funding package for April that allowed operators to be paid early. Following that, it worked on the same for May, with “circa 85%” of normal payments made. That “is in line with guidance from DfT and reflects the significant reduction in patronage across Greater Manchester,” a spokesperson says.
TfGM additionally states that concessionary fare reimbursement for May will be paid at pre-coronavirus COVID-19 levels if agreement is reached to formalise the collaborative working protocol.
Cllr Mark Aldred, Chair of the Transport Committee, says: “We are making every effort to engage with and support the bus market. I am grateful to those operators that continue to work collaboratively with TfGM at this most challenging time.
“With local authorities in Greater Manchester facing substantial financial challenges, it is more important than ever that public funds are spent prudently and in a way that ensures value for money, something I am certain our residents recognise and would expect.”
Mr Aldred adds that the most recent letter to operators encouraged those with concerns to speak to TfGM.
While D&G Bus is based in Stoke-on-Trent, it operates a small number of services into the TfGM area from an outstation near Northwich.