Campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester has organised a public meeting for next week, calling for GM Mayor Andy Burnham to choose a London-style system of publicly controlled regulated buses. The meeting is on
Wednesday 6 February, 6:30pm-8:30pm, at the Manchester Art Gallery.
Last week, Salford councillor Roger Jones estimated that, even if Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, chose to regulate the region’s buses, it would take between “two to three years”.
If Burnham did re-regulate the buses it would give local authorities more control over fares, routes and timetables, as well the ability to bring in a simple smart card which automatically caps spending like London’s Oyster card.
So far, the process has been painfully slow with Burnham having to choose at some point between re-regulation and a ‘partnership’ model with the current bus operators. Both sides are intensifying their PR campaigns, with the bus companies’ One Bus launch last week pledging 450 new buses, a simplified ticket system and two year price freeze, plus a ‘review’ of the bus network in a £100million process.
The campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester has trashed this idea, arguing that an average of £18.4million is pocketed by shareholders every year, calling for Burnham to “take a stand for our buses and fight the fat cats who profit from our unreliable, expensive, disjointed bus services”.
Better Buses for Greater Manchester has called a public meeting for Wednesday 6th February at Manchester Art Gallery where “People of Greater Manchester are invited to hear what London-style, publicly controlled buses would do for Greater Manchester, and to take action in their local authorities”.
Speakers include Neil McInroy, CEO of CLES, John Hughes, Gorton and Abbey Hey Councillor, bus driver and Unite rep, Helen Rimmer from Friends of the Earth, Fatima Abid, General Secretary of the University of Manchester’s Student Union and Luke Raikes, Senior Researcher at IPPR North, in a panel chaired by MEN journalist Jennifer Williams.
“The de-regulated system we currently have means the bus companies just cherry-picking the profitable routes and charging what they like, making a killing” says Pascale Robinson, of Better Buses for Greater Manchester.
“It’s us as passengers and staff in Greater Manchester who suffer from infrequent, unreliable and expensive buses” she adds “London’s regulated network outperforms ours on almost every front. We’re calling on Mr Burnham to be bold, to give us the bus network we deserve and to regulate buses”.
There is still no Parliamentary Order in place, transferring transport powers to the GM Mayor, although this is expected during the current financial year. Last week, to finance the bus stuff, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) approved an extra £9 on everyone’s Council Tax bill “for other Mayoral General functions, specifically bus reform”.
A total of £8.3million will be given over to Bus Reform and the new 16-18 Opportunity Pass two-year pilot, which will provide free bus travel to all 16 to 18 year olds in Greater Manchester from September this year.
In the long term, some sort of bus reform is coming, either re-regulation or a ‘partnership’, and Better Buses for Greater Manchester is pressing for the former system. The public meeting next week is another salvo in that campaign…
First published in the Salford Star on 28 January 2018
Better Buses for Greater Manchester Public Meeting
Wednesday 6th February 6:30pm-8:30pm
Manchester Art Gallery
To register for a free ticket – click here
For more details see www.betterbusesgm.org.uk/
Better Buses for Greater Manchester also has an ongoing petition with over 8,000 signatures calling for Burnham to ‘regulate our buses’ – to sign it – click here
Feature image: Francesca Nottola
Pete Slater says
I was a bus driver for 40 years and saw many changes. The bus industry changed from being a public service to a profit driven leviathan. At deregulation I was one of many drivers who stood in Piccadilly Manchester handing out leaflets warning the public not to let the government unload the responsibility for their public transport system into the hands of private conglomerates. We were promised competition which would bring about better services and cheaper fares, this has not been the case, far from it. Fares are at an all time high and services are being slashed on a daily basis, all to feed the shareholders in companies like First. The competition element didn’t last long with the larger companies swallowing the smaller independent companies until at one point there were really only two major operators in G.M. ; First and Stagecoach. Having wrung all the profit that could be made out of the public, the drivers, the P.T.E and then stripping the assets (selling off various depots) it would appear that First at least are on the verge of pulling out of the Bus side of their operations. Moral among the employees at First are at their lowest levels ever. Yes, even the drivers are sick of the appalling way the travelling public are being treated, and sick of being pushed to the limits and beyond by a company which is only interested in satisfying the shareholders.