TfGM ‘blackmailing’ operators, claims D&G
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Director of D&G Buses, Julian Peddle, says that Travel for Greater Manchester is ‘holding a gun to operators’ heads’ and withholding contract payments to force through bus franchising.
Julian says TfGM is ‘paralysed’ with indecision, and is failing to keep key workers informed of bus services, and refusing to co-operate with bus companies. Instead, he says, TfGM is ignoring DfT guidelines and blackmailing operators by withholding payment so that it can take control of bus services tomorrow, 1 April. This appears to be contrary to the advice of government.
“TfGM has put a gun to operator’s heads by saying it will withhold this money, which would have been paid on 1 April, unless operators agree to an 11-point list of demands,” said Julian. DOWNLOAD TfGM LETTER HERE
“The effect of these would see TfGM seek control of the bus route network and bus operators employees, whilst leaving the ongoing cost risks with the bus operators.
“Any director agreeing to such proposals would be breaching his or her responsibility under the Companies Act, as they could be trading whilst insolvent.”
Julian Peddle, also a Director of High Peak Buses said: “The situation in Manchester is different to anywhere else that we operate, every other Local Authority has agreed to pass on the aid from Central Government to help us keep these vital bus services running, but in Manchester they are refusing point blank to help us. I have written to Michael Renshaw, Executive Director at TfGM, but had no reply.” Julian said that other operators also report no communication.
He says that buses are now running around completely empty under instructions from TfGM. One operator is being ordered to run 27 school buses every day without carrying a single child, another reported that a bus was running for five hours yesterday [24 March] evening and carried only one passenger in the whole evening, the driver threatened by roving gangs of youths in the Wythenshawe area.
“I understand Bus Companies have sought, without success, a discussion with Senior Officers of TfGM. As 1 April is this coming Wednesday, there is a real possibility that unless there is a compromise, many services will cease to operate, leaving NHS and Key workers without bus services,” said Julian.
“…because they are not working with operators, they are still running hundreds of nearly empty tendered services, carrying no one and wasting money. Unless this money is made available in the next day or so bus cuts will have to be made that are far more severe than would be otherwise needed as operators have insufficient money to pay drivers and buy fuel. At a time of National Crisis TfGM are making the situation ten times worse in Manchester.”
In response to the allegations, TfGM sent Bus and Coach Buyer the following statement: “Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Our first priority is to keep a core transport network running for key workers, so people can make absolutely essential journeys – for basic supplies, to care for others, or for medical reasons.
“Buses are a vital part of this core transport network and TfGM has been working closely with bus operators and other partners to map out what Greater Manchester needs both now and in the coming weeks.
“I know that nationally, all transport operators are facing significant challenges around staff availability, funding and patronage – and it’s not just buses, Metrolink is also facing significant challenges. We really need to work together to find ways of sustaining our vital transport services through this difficult time.
“Greater Manchester Councils are also facing significant financial pressures as they provide essential services to our residents. That is why I have agreed an interim funding package for April, so that operators get funding to keep services running for our key workers.
“I will be liaising with the Secretary of State over the coming weeks to agree a sustainable funding arrangement for the coming weeks and months.”
Bus and Coach Buyer is pressing TfGM for further clarity.