Manchester bus franchising decision nears

Greater Manchester leaders will meet later this month to consider the introduction of bus franchising across the city-region.

Greater Manchester is the first ever city-region in the UK to use the Bus Services Act 2017 to reach the stage of deciding whether to franchise its bus network as part of an integrated transport system. If the decision is made to proceed with the proposed bus franchising scheme it would be one of the biggest changes to the area’s bus network since deregulation in 1986 and would make Greater Manchester the only city-region outside London to operate a fully franchised and locally accountable bus network.

More than 12,500 consultation responses were received in total on Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA’s) proposals to change how buses are run. Of those who answered the question ‘To what extent do you support or oppose the introduction of the proposed franchising scheme’ or submitted a response via an organised campaign, 86% of responses to the first consultation period supported the franchising scheme. This was 82% for the second consultation period. All consultation responses were independently managed and analysed by Ipsos MORI.

A GMCA report on bus franchising has raised caution over whether now is an appropriate time to make a decision on franchising, taking into account various other factors, such as the impact of the coronavirus. However, the report concludes that making a decision on franchising now is appropriate and would enable GMCA to support the long-term recovery of the bus market and the wider society and economy of Greater Manchester.

The report and a suite of supporting documents will first be considered by the Housing, Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Friday 19 March, and then GMCA at a special meeting on Tuesday 23 March, where leaders will be asked to consider and decide whether to recommend the franchising scheme to the Mayor. The Mayor will then decide whether or not to proceed with the scheme at a later date, no earlier than 25 March.

If the decision is made to proceed with the proposed bus franchising scheme; to make the transition to franchising as smooth as possible the proposed franchising scheme will be introduced in three phases, with one sub-area introduced each year between 2023 and 2025.

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