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City region signs bus deal ahead of new franchising powers

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has signed a partnership agreement with bus companies, despite powers to franchise services due to be devolved to the region’s new elected mayor next year.

Merseytravel, the region’s strategic transport body, say the deal struck with operators Arriva and Stagecoach will deliver £25m of investment in the first year of the five-year of the arrangement to create improved joined up services.

As part of the region’s devolution deal, agreed with government in November 2015, the mayor elected in May next year is due to be granted powers to franchise services through measures in the Bus Services Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords.

Merseytravel committee chair Liam Robinson (Lab) said business cases were being developed for an “enhanced partnership” through the new Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance as well as future franchised services.

He added: “Due to the important role that bus plays in the Liverpool City Region it is right that we seek to make improvements for customers and grow patronage now and in the immediate future through the Bus Alliance.

“Any future significant change… in relation to the scope of the Bus Services Bill is likely take up to five years to implement and, irrespective of any possible future direction, we want to continue to deliver customer improvements now.”

Cllr Robinson said buses were vital to the economic success and “social fabric” of the region as many services were relied upon by the most vulnerable.

A similar partnership was agreed between councils in the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority and bus companies in September last year.

The Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance includes a commitment by operators to provide new fleets, smart ticketing and Wi-Fi on buses, as well as meet targets for punctuality and customer satisfaction.

Merseytravel said the agreement also releases government low emissions funding of £4.7m.

Mayor of Liverpool and chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined authority Joe Anderson said the partnership was part of efforts to give the region “one of the best transport networks in the world”.

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