Manchester welcomes new powers with passing of Bus Services Act

Transport for Greater Manchester and CPT both welcomed the introduction of the Bus Services Act following royal assent last week, although the two bodies may have different ideas on what they would like to see happen as a result. 

Transport leaders in Greater Manchester welcomed royal assent, pointing out that the new legislation will give the elected mayor of Greater Manchester powers to make significant changes to the way bus services are managed, including the right to franchise bus services should they choose to do so and following consultation with the public.

Indeed, the original agreement to establish an elected mayor for Greater Manchester that was brokered by the then chancellor George Osborne, was predicated on the passing of new legislation containing franchising powers.

CPT re-iterated its support for the new enhanced partnership measures in the Act which it says will enable operators “to continue to operate in a commercial market thereby providing the best possible service to passengers”.

TfGM says that buses account for 79 per cent of all public transport journeys in Greater Manchester, around 210 million a year, but that despite a growing population and increased demand on the transport network, bus patronage in Greater Manchester has fallen by more than 140 million passenger journeys in the last 30 years.

“The Bus Services Act 2017 is a key milestone in the devolution of transport powers to Greater Manchester,” says Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester committee. “This legislation will provide an elected mayor of Greater Manchester with options to improve bus services, ensuring that the needs of the passengers are placed at the heart of our transport network.

“The powers in this Act could help to deliver a consistent and joined-up transport network with coordinated routes, simpler fares, integrated ticketing and consistent quality standards. We want bus to play a full role as part of an integrated, reliable, safe, clean and affordable transport network.”

Tony Lloyd, interim mayor of Greater Manchester adds: “This law means that decisions over transport in Greater Manchester will be made in Greater Manchester. Ultimately, this law will help us to realise our long-term vision of creating a world class transport network. Greater Manchester can now move a step closer to becoming one of the best places in the world to live, work and learn.”

Meanwhile CPT chief executive Simon Posner says: “Passengers and taxpayers outside London are well served by the commercial market. It has stemmed the decline in patronage and given bus operators the flexibility to respond to passenger needs and aspirations. The Act offers exciting opportunities for operators and local authorities to take decisive steps that make buses the obvious way to get around.

“The industry remains concerned about the powers for local authorities, in certain circumstances, to introduce local bus franchising but we welcome the very robust and transparent assessment process specified by the Act.”