Manchester executives today released a plan to improve bus services. Once approved, the plan will be presented to the national government and will represent “a major step forward towards our vision of a modern, affordable and fully integrated urban-area bus service”.
The comprehensive plans, based on customer research, will make bus travel faster, cheaper, greener, more reliable, more accessible and more attractive, with the aim of improving the overall travel experience – including pre-journey information, information during the journey, customer care, ticket integration with others public transport and an improved waiting environment.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “We are in the process of deploying the Bee Network – our plan for a London-style transport network with London-level tariffs. This submission is a great step forward towards our vision of a modern, affordable, fully integrated and barrier-free bus transport for the urban region. We have made good progress developing local plans – now we need the national government to support us in our common pursuit of better buses, similar to what Londoners are enjoying right now.
“Here we only have expensive tariffs, longer waiting times and basic audiovisual announcements for a tiny percentage of our buses. Decisions about which services are performed are made by individual operators. The capital enjoys an integrated network, top prices of £ 1.55, more modern buses and shorter waiting times. All of this is inextricably linked to compensation – without better buses we cannot fully exploit the economic potential and equal opportunities of Greater Manchester.
“As the only place outside London to bring buses back under public control, we are also in a unique position to guarantee tangible returns on government investments and to do so quickly within the spending review period.”
Transport Commissioner Chris Boardman added: “Bus travel is much more confusing and frustrating here than in the capital and urgently needs to be corrected. Only when we have a fully integrated, seamless Bee Network will we truly be able to make the changes we need here to meet our net zero carbon goals. Buses have to be affordable, easy to operate, frequent and modern so that millions of residents can get from A to B here and leave their car at home for their daily journeys. “
The average age of a bus in Greater Manchester is almost nine years compared to six years in London. Only 5% of buses have full audiovisual announcements on board, compared to 100% of buses in the capital. There are more than 100 types of bus tickets here compared to five in London.
The metropolitan area bus service improvement plan includes other proposals such as a road works charter and the use of traffic offense relocation powers to clear congestion and improve travel time and reliability of bus travelers across the network.
The plan also confirms that Greater Manchester bus franchising in Wigan and Bolton (subject to the outcome of the ongoing judicial review) will be rolled out across the metropolitan area in 2023 and then by 2025.
Greater Manchester has already allocated significant local funding to bus initiatives, with £ 16 million a year earmarked to maintain Our Pass – the city’s free bus travel program for 16-18 year olds. Subsidized bus services and other local concessions cost over £ 30 million annually. By 2025/26 £ 134.5 million has been allocated to build a franchise bus network.
Greater Manchester is soliciting approximately £ 630 million combined capital and revenue funding from the national government to implement its plans to improve bus service by the end of 2024-25. The metropolitan region is also applying for £ 322 million in capital funding for the bus infrastructure as part of its tender for sustainable transport in the metropolitan region published last month