Wigan trade unionists back plans for bus reform

A bus pulling into the station in Wigan
A bus pulling into the station in Wigan

Plans to introduce a London-style system of ownership for buses across the region have been warmly welcomed by Wigan trade unionists.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham recently recommended bringing the bus system back into public control.

Other news: Shock figures reveal scale of leasehold sales of homes in the borough

It is hoped re-regulating the buses and having them under a single umbrella will reverse declining bus use and address passengers’ complaints about public transport.

Wigan trade unions have backed the recommendation and offered support to campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester, which has led the call for reform.

Shirley Skinley, chairwoman of Wigan Unison’s retired members section, said: “This is great news. We know from a recent survey of our retired Unison members just how important a decent reliable bus service is.

“But our members also described significant difficulties in the current services, including inadequate or non-existing services to more remote areas of the borough and previous helpful services being cut.

“So, re-regulation is definitely the way forward. This would give our combined authorities control over fares, routes and timetables and the ability to use profits from busy routes to pay for more socially-necessary routes which have previously been cut and to expand the bus network. This would all support our members.’’

Trade union members described a complete lack of bus services between Kitt Green and any of the remaining large supermarkets in the borough and having to take a taxi from Astley to a job in Leigh every morning because that is where the bus to Atherton departs from.

Better Buses for Greater Manchester says £18.4m has been paid out to shareholders of bus companies annually for the past decade while eight million miles of routes across Greater Manchester have been cut since 2010.

A recent meeting of council leaders with Mr Burnham agreed to move on to the next stage of the re-regulation process.

However, since then a war of words has broken out, with some bus companies heavily criticising the idea in public statements and campaigners hitting back, accusing them of putting profit before people and making misleading or incorrect statements about costs to taxpayers.