Chris Ames 24 June 2019

Burnham jumps aboard franchising bus

Burnham jumps aboard franchising bus image

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has become the first in the country to recommend bus franchising, as part of a 10-year plan to create ‘an integrated, modern and accessible public transport system’.

On Monday (24 June) Mr Burnham outlined the projects and policies he intends to implement under the brand ‘Our Network’, accompanied by an animated map showing how public transport connections across the city-region will grow and develop in four phases over the next decade.

He also announced that an assessment into the future of the city-region’s bus market has now been completed and recommends franchising as its preferred option and declared an ‘ambition’ to take control of the local rail network.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) said Our Network will be ‘an integrated, simple and convenient London-style transport system; allowing people to change easily between different modes of transport’.

The system promises ‘simple affordable ticketing’ and an aspiration to have a London-style cap across all modes; with orbital routes that allow people to travel around the city region, as well as in and out of the city centre.

‘Cycling and walking and bus will be accessible and convenient for short journeys, with interchanges and transport hubs enabling people to easily transfer to tram or train for longer journeys,’ TfGM said.

Mr Burnham said: ‘Our current public transport system is fragmented and unreliable, with often confusing ticketing and passenger information. A truly integrated transport network has the potential to transform Greater Manchester. By allowing people to easily and quickly move around our city-region we can unlock growth, cut congestion and air pollution and enable our residents to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

‘An important part of this is reforming our bus market. We’ve reached a key milestone with the completion of the assessment into the future of Greater Manchester’s bus market, which recommends franchising as its preferred option and to be considered further by the GMCA.

‘We’re the first city-region seeking to make use of the new powers under the Bus Services Act and the first to test this legislation – so are leading the way nationally in this regard.’

He also called on the Government to devolve the funding and powers to close the transport funding gap between north and south.

He said: ‘If the next government is serious about closing the North-South divide, a critical step forward will be empowering us with the necessary powers and funding to improve our transport. I will be making this case strongly in the next Spending Review on behalf of the people and businesses of Greater Manchester.’

The bus market assessment will be considered by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on Friday (28 June). If agreed, it will then need to appoint an independent auditor, followed by a statutory public consultation.

Mr Burnham also announced that contactless payment will launch shortly on Metrolink trams, a new bike hire scheme including electric bikes will be launched in 2020, expanded Park and Ride schemes at transport hubs and ‘innovative partnerships’ with Google that will improve travel information and advice.

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