Putting private companies in charge of bus services “has not worked”, according to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (Lab) who is now threatening to intervene.
In a major speech on transport, Mr Burnham yesterday outlined plans to improve services for bus, rail, and road users.
While there were 350 million bus journeys a year in the mid-1980s in Greater Manchester there are now just under 200 million, said Mr Burnham.
“Leaving bus services to the free market has not worked,” he said. “It has brought fragmentation and confusion.”
Mr Burnham said he is “calling time on the failed, free market experiment” and will use devolved powers under the Bus Services Act which allow metro-mayors to re-franchise bus services. He will use regulations, which come into effect on Tuesday, to request data from bus operators. Under the legislation this is the first step in the process of re-franchising.
“Subject to TfGM [Transport for Greater Manchester] receiving the information it needs, I expect public consultation on our plans for bus reform to be announced in the summer, with the aim of making a decision by the end of the 2018,” said Mr Burnham.
The mayor has also written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to notify him of the region’s intention to establish a strategic transport board which Mr Burnham and Sir Richard Leese (Lab), deputy mayor for business and economic growth and Manchester City Council leader, will both chair. The board “will hold the whole system to account” by monitoring performance, said Mr Burnham.
The region’s transport problems were “not just about money” but “failed ideology, policy incoherence and lack of public accountability”, said Mr Burnham. He said the mayoral model now provided the region with someone “who has the ability to bring some accountability to a fragmented system”.