Ashton MP Angela Rayner, Salford Mayor Paul Dennett and Manchester City leader Richard Leese support Better Buses passenger action (Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign)
Better Buses Action Week (4th-11th March) – initiated by campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester – is a week of creative action to get local leaders and Andy Burnham’s attention, supported by Ashton MP Angela Rayner and Manchester City leader Richard Leese.
The week of action will comprise of meetings with local leaders at bus stops and on buses. The aim is to get the support of Greater Manchester Combined Authority leaders and the Council leads for transport, in passengers’ calls to GM Mayor Andy Burnham to decide on better, publicly controlled buses over the next year.
New polling by Survation for Better Buses for Greater Manchester shows that re-regulation is popular, with 76% of participants supporting re-regulation of buses in Greater Manchester, bolstering campaigners’ calls for publicly controlled bus services. (1)
Now, passengers across Greater Manchester are asking their Greater Manchester Combined Authority representatives to take their message to the Mayor.
Currently, local authorities have no control over the fares and routes of around 80% of bus services in Greater Manchester, despite the fact that some 40% of bus companies revenue is public money.(2)
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett noted:
“Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid… the best bus services in Europe, and each one is publicly managed. However the Bus Services Act of 2017 doesn’t enable us to bring Greater Manchester buses into full public ownership.
“We want an integrated transport system, with single, contactless ticketing, price harmonisation and fare caps… as well as fleets that are environmentally friendly. We are looking at the best way of achieving these objectives, and TfGM is completing an assessment of both partnership working and franchising.”
It is understood that Andy Burnham will choose between regulation vs. partnerships in the next year, which could set a precedent for the other combined authorities to follow. London’s buses were never deregulated in the 1980s and London bus used has doubled since the time of deregulation, while in Greater Manchester, it has declined by 40%. (3)
Regulation gives local combined authorities control over fares, routes and timetables, the ability to cross-subsidise (using funds from busy routes to pay for socially necessary routes, meaning cut routes could be reinstated and the bus network can be expanded) as well the ability to introduce a simple smart card, as London’s Oyster card offers to passengers. A simple travel card is impossible without regulation. (4)
Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council added: “Manchester Labour is determined to make public transport serve the public by extending democratic control over bus services with straightforward smart ticketing covering bus, train, and tram. This fully completely aligns with the aims of the Better Buses campaign and we fully support the Better Buses Action Week.”
Pascale Robinson of Better Buses for Greater Manchester noted: ‘When Andy Burnham makes the decision on bus reform, we need him to listen to what people in Greater Manchester are saying loud and clear: we want and deserve a much better, publicly controlled bus network, as they have in London. The deregulated system has left us with an expensive, stripped-back, fragmented bus network. A regulated network will mean a bus network run for communities after years of it only working for shareholders’.
Ashton MP Angela Rayner added: “I’ve seen how the withdrawal of vital bus services in my constituency – often without proper consultation – has affected passengers. I understand that there are times when difficult decisions have to be made and I know that some services become financially unviable. But it is vital that all options are explored before key services are cut. Anything less is unacceptable.”
In the North West, £18.4 million has been paid to shareholders every year over the last ten years on average, while 8 million miles of routes have been cut. (5) Bus company consortium OneBus have released their proposal for partnerships (an alternative to franchising where bus companies volunteer certain improvements).
When Tyne and Wear considered re-regulating their bus network, private bus companies used legal action to prevent this going ahead. (6) Stagecoach and First bus have been accused of holding the public to ransom over the decision in Greater Manchester, by threatening to withhold funding and investment. (7)
Pascale Robinson said the proposals were full of “short term sweeteners, as well as some misleading claims, showing how scared bus companies are of the reduced profit margins they make under regulation. Regulation forces bus companies to deliver more, meaning more can be invested into a good service. Bus company fat cats would instead prefer to carry on giving out £1.49 billion to their shareholders over ten years”.(8)
Phone: 07709 039 563
Notes for editors:
1) Polling conducted by Survation. Survation interviewed a representative sample of 1019 adults living in Greater Manchester, online between the 10th and 22nd of January 2019.