Bus services could be on the verge of coming back under public control as part of a Greater Manchester vision for a ‘London-style’ transport network.
The move would see the city-region become the first to set its own timetables, ticket costs and vehicle standards using new devolved powers.
The bus reforms are a key aspect of GM’s ‘Our Network’ – an integrated transport system, including tram, train, bus, cycling and walking – unveiled by Andy Burnham on Monday.
“Our current public transport system is fragmented and unreliable, with often confusing ticketing and passenger information,” he said.
“A truly integrated network has the potential to transform GM. 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.”
New powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 have handed mayoral authorities options to reform their bus markets.
Following an assessment process, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has proposed franchising as the city-region’s preferred option, above partnership working with the conurbation’s more than 30 bus operators.
If approved by combined authority bosses on Friday, the plan would then be independently audited ahead of a public consultation.
The deregulated bus market in GM, initiated in 1986, has led to a lack of ‘oversight or coordination between bus services and other modes of transport’, TfGM has said.
Mr Burnham said: “We’ve reached a key milestone with the completion of the assessment.
“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.”
Our Network includes the mayor’s free bus travel pass scheme for 16 to 18 year olds, expansions to the Metrolink network (including the Trafford Park link and proposed airport loop), several new tram-train routes and an ambition to establish GM Rail; a more locally controlled rail network.
It outlines that a contactless payment system is on the verge of being rolled-out for Metrolink, which is a precursor for a daily-charge capping system across different modes of transport.
Expanded park and ride facilities and a bike hire scheme are also part of the transport masterplan.
Mr Burnham added: “To achieve our full transport ambitions, Greater Manchester needs the infrastructure and the necessary political powers.
“For too long, central government has over promised and under delivered when it comes to the North.
“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.”