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The future of bus services

Bus reform

Bus reform web banner graphic

Buses are vital to the city-region’s economy and society. At least three in every four public transport journeys in Greater Manchester are made by bus.

And yet, there has been a steady decline in the number of people travelling by bus. There are now around 140 million fewer bus journeys each year than thirty years ago. That’s despite significant public funding and commercial investment by bus operators.

Greater Manchester is growing, with the population set to exceed 3 million by 2040. By 2035, our transport network will need to support an additional 600,000 journeys a day.

It’s vital that the bus network plays a fuller role in connecting people with jobs, housing, education, healthcare, shops, family and friends.

The current system

More than 40 bus operators run services in Greater Manchester. Because it’s a deregulated market, no single organisation is responsible for planning the bus network or setting fares.

As a result, the current system prevents bus services being fully joined up and coordinated with each other, as well as different types of transport.

The number and variety of bus tickets in Greater Manchester is complicated. Passengers have to pay more for a ticket that they can use on more than one bus operator’s network.

Travelling by bus needs to be easier.

Bus reform

The Greater Manchester 2040 Transport Strategy sets out our ambition for bus services.

Greater Manchester needs a joined-up transport network, with simple fares and ticketing, that puts the passenger first and guarantees the best value ticket for their journey. It should be modern, accessible, and everyone should be able to use it.

This can only be fully achieved through a change to the current bus system.

In April 2017 the Bus Services Act became law, giving Mayoral authorities like Greater Manchester powers to improve bus services by reforming the current bus market. The options available include franchising – the system used in London and other cities globally – and partnerships.

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, made a commitment in his manifesto to use these new powers to make local bus services more affordable, more reliable and more accessible.

What next?

On behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) – and in line with the Bus Services Act – TfGM is now preparing an assessment of a proposed franchising scheme for the whole of Greater Manchester.

As part of this assessment, we are also engaging with bus operators. This is allowing us to consider and assess other realistic options to improve bus services, such as partnership proposals.

Once the assessment is complete it will be independently audited, in line with the Bus Services Act 2017.

The Combined Authority would then consider the assessment and the auditor’s report and make a decision on whether to continue with the proposed scheme.

If so, the Authority would then hold a consultation to allow the public to have their say on the proposed franchising scheme.

GMCA would then publish a report on its responses to the consultation, and the Mayor would make a decision about whether to use the powers made available to him under the Bus Services Act 2017 to reform Greater Manchester’s bus market – by implementing the proposed scheme or not.

Please check back for updates.