Buses are being brought back under local authority control in Greater Manchester for the first time since deregulation in the 1980s.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, announced the decision that Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) would now control local bus services on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Local control will mean simple fares and tickets with price capping, integration between trams and buses, and a “one-stop-shop” for travel information and customer support, it is claimed.

It is the biggest change to local public transport in the region in more than 30 years after bus services were effectively privatised in 1986.

Mr Burnham said: “In Greater Manchester, we’ve always done things differently and been trailblazers especially in the field of transport; we had the first passenger railway; the first ‘bus’ route with a horse-drawn carriage and now I’ve decided that we will be the first outside London to run our buses differently – under local control, so that decisions are made at a local level for the benefit of our passengers.”

City Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, called it a “momentous decision”.

Buses in Greater Manchester are going to be run under a franchising system from 2023 onwards, whereby the GMCA will co-ordinate the bus network and contract bus companies to run the services.

Nine of the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester backed the move, though some local bus companies – privately run firms – are not supportive.

Private company Stagecoach – responsible for many routes through and around Salford – have been dead against the process:

“Stagecoach believes that GMCA’s consultation process has failed to meet the standards on proper process, evidence and analysis required by law.

Stagecoach bus. Image credit: Stagecoach

“In February 2021, Stagecoach submitted an application for a judicial review on that basis and that application is now scheduled to be considered by the court on 27 and 28 May 2021.

“We are disappointed and surprised that the Mayor has chosen to push ahead with these proposals and not wait a short time for the outcome of the judicial review process before making any final decisions.”

Greater Manchester is the first region outside of London to end the deregulation of the bus network.

“We are disappointed and surprised that the Mayor has chosen to push ahead with these proposals” – Stagecoach Spokesperson

TfGM will control the bus services in the region as Transport for London manages the fares, routes and standards of bus services in the capital.

Pascale Robinson, from campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester, said: “Bringing our buses into public control will transform our bus network so that it can work for passengers, rather than for private profit.

“For too long private bus operators have used our buses as a cash cow, sucking juicy profits out of the network while cutting routes and undermining the rights and conditions of workers.

“With Andy Burnham making the right call today, it’s now time for the mayors of England’s other city-regions to follow suit, and deliver a proper bus service, run for the benefit of our communities up and down the country.”

Image credit: Robert Wade via Flickr. Licensed for use via creative commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/. No changes made.

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