Burnham’s Half-Baked Bus Regulation Means London Fares for Manchester

Andy Burnham’s bus regulation plans have come under fire from industry operators, accusing the Mayor of putting forward a flawed proposal to the detriment of passengers.

The barmy inflation rate of 1.4% annually will see Manchester’s £19 weekly ticket rise to more than London’s £21 by 2023.

  • Cost of franchising scheme now revealed at close to double the level originally suggested
  • Ticket prices to rise 1.4% above inflation every year, with multi-operator tickets in Manchester costing more than London
  • One in four passengers would desert buses under franchise system, with 45m fewer customers by 2040
  • No agreed plan or funding to tackle congestion puts clean air targets at risk

Franchise plans would see ticket fares rise 1.4% above inflation each year, with higher taxes, and no investment in barriers to bus use, according to public consultation documents.

The scheme will cost nearly double of the original figure when announced, and proposals admit a number of weaknesses, which the GMCA were obliged to make public.

Analysis of the GMCA’s Doing Buses Differently proposed franchising scheme for Greater Manchester reveals:

  • Network – no specific plans outlined for a more enhanced bus network
  • Cost – this is now revealed as being £266m, close to double the £134.5m originally suggested
  • Fares – customers would be hit by annual, inflation-busting fares rises (inflation +1.4% pa)
  • No greener buses – zero new bus investment to help improve air quality
  • Poor value for money – GMCA’s own analysis shows that a partnership model has a significantly better benefit-to-cost ratio than franchising
  • Journey times – no planned or budgeted measures to tackle congestion and deliver faster or more reliable journeys
  • Higher taxes – taxpayers will foot rising costs, even if central government provides subsidies 
  • Fewer passengers – despite huge costs, the council forecasts that franchising will see bus use drop by almost 25%

Gary Nolan, Chief Executive of OneBus, which represents the majority of bus operators in Greater Manchester, says, “Despite promising the world, the frightening future of buses under franchising has been revealed in this consultation, which at over 1,000 pages is close to indecipherable for most people.”

“Residents are already realising that they will ultimately pay to run the service, but likely have no idea of the additional funds that will be needed for the council to acquire bus depots, deliver greener buses, or even to pay interest payments on the borrowing required. It is very concerning that these points have remained hidden until now.”

Nolan concludes: “We do not believe that Greater Manchester taxpayers should be forced to pay for such a costly and unnecessary system, which promises higher fares without addressing congestion or air quality – the real crisis in our region today. What our new partnership alternative offers is millions more invested in greener buses, improved ticketing and live journey information, far quicker than any franchised system can deliver. The franchise documentation shows that partnership has a better benefit-cost ratio, clearly showing that taxpayers get better value for money from our plans. Our vision is investing in a network fit for the future, delivering regular improvements for the travelling public.”

The council’s consultation survey is available at https://www.gmconsult.org/

Or comments can be emailed to [email protected]

The consultation closing date is Wednesday 8 January 2020.