Mayoral candidates welcome bus powers

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

Candidates from Wigan bidding to be Greater Manchester’s elected mayor have welcomed new powers for a London-style franchised bus system in the region.

Andy Burnham and Will Patterson, who are candidates for the Labour and Green Party respectively, spoke out after the Bus Services Bill was given Royal Assent following its successful passage through Parliament.

Will Patterson

Will Patterson

The legislation will allow the elected mayor to end deregulated services in Wigan and the rest of the region.

This could potentially pave the way for a fully integrated network, with simplified ticketing systems, consistently-applied standards and even the introduction in the future of cards along the lines of Oyster.

The plan, which was originally proposed by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), has been backed by the local candidates seeking voters’ support on May 4.

Mr Burnham said: “Bus services throughout Greater Manchester are too often run for the profit of the private operators and not for the benefit of the passengers.

Bus services throughout Greater Manchester are too often run for the profit of the private operators and not for the benefit of the passengers.

Andy Burnham

“Now this Labour-inspired bill to re-regulate the buses has passed through Parliament we can start the process of redressing the balance.

“If I am elected Mayor on May 4, I will use new powers to make buses more affordable, more reliable and serve our communities. I will also give all 16 to 18-year-olds a free bus pass and guarantee existing travel concessions for older people.”

Mr Patterson, meanwhile, said the legislation could have gone further but was still a step in the right direction.

He said: “I welcome the bill because it gives us a chance to actually deliver the buses that Greater Manchester deserves.

“It is not everything we would like. For instance, there’s not the power to set up our own proper publicly-owned bus company run in house by TfGM, but obviously a system run with passengers rather than private profit in mind which is more publicly accountable is an absolute godsend.

“We’ve got a chance to do something positive in Greater Manchester, especially in our communities around Wigan.”

The Bus Services Act will allow the mayor, subject to public consultation, to replace the current deregulated bus network with a franchised system in which private companies bid for contracts.

Currently around 80 per cent of the region’s bus services are provided by commercial operators who have the power to set timetables, fares and routes and monitor quality standards.

More than 210m journeys were made by bus in Greater Manchester in 2015, which means they accounted for 79 per cent of all public transport trips in the region, but journey numbers have fallen by more than 140 million in the last 30 years.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) requested the option to franchise bus services as part of the Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement signed with the Government in November 2014.

The idea also has cross-party backing in Greater Manchester’s 10 town halls.

Greater Manchester mayoral candidates: Andy Burnham (Lab), Sean Anstee (Cons), Jane Brophy (Lib Dem), Will Patterson (Green), Shneur Odze (Ukip), Stephen Morris (Eng Dem), Mohammad Aslam (Ind) and Marcus Farmer (Ind).