Greater Manchester unveils ambitious Bus Strategy for a greener, inclusive future

Posted: 21 July 2023 | | No comments yet

Greater Manchester sets out an ambitious Bus Strategy to increase patronage, focusing on affordability, improved infrastructure, as well as inclusivity for a greener, fairer and more prosperous transit future.

Greater Manchester unveils ambitious Bus Strategy for a greener, inclusive future

Credit: Transport for Greater Manchester

A new Bus Strategy is set to be presented to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) with the aim of achieving a 30% increase in bus patronage by 2030. The strategy intends to achieve this by focusing on affordable fares, a more user-friendly network and improved infrastructure, such as additional bus lanes, to ensure more reliable bus journeys.

Currently, buses are not fully utilised, and car usage is rising, leading to congestion, environmental issues and economic challenges. To address this, the Bus Strategy proposes local planning and fare setting for routes, integrating buses into the flagship ‘Bee Network’ transport system, as Greater Manchester regains local control of buses from September 2023.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “In 1824, the UK’s first bus service took to the streets of Greater Manchester, sparking a public transport revolution. Two hundred years later, our city region is again leading the way outside London, as we use the vision set out in this plan to build a bus system for everyone, of which Greater Manchester can be proud.”

The strategy emphasises accessibility and inclusion, ensuring the bus system is open to everyone, regardless of background or location. Electric buses will be introduced, equipped with wheelchair bays, hearing induction loops, audio and visual announcements, as well as anti-slip flooring. Accessibility improvements will also include creating more accessible stops and installing Real Time Customer Information displays at 300 stops.

Greater Manchester introduces cheaper and integrated Bee Network fares

The plan recognises the importance of affordable fares for deprived communities, promoting inclusivity and access to opportunities. Lower fares have already contributed to a 12% increase in bus patronage. The strategy aims to make bus travel more attractive by increasing service frequency and providing more travel options at night.

The proposed infrastructure improvements include enhancing 70km of high-frequency, strategic bus routes by 2030, which will result in improved reliability and quicker journeys. Customer feedback will be vital in holding bus operators accountable for their services, and the Bee Network app and Customer Contact Centre will provide avenues for rating their experiences.

An environmentally friendly and cleaner bus network is another key focus of the strategy, supporting Greater Manchester’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2038. Encouraging more people to use buses will also help reduce congestion and enhance conditions for all road users.

The Bus Strategy will be considered by the Bee Network Committee and GMCA at the end of July 2023. However, securing funding will be crucial for realising Greater Manchester’s transport ambitions. Proposals for a new, longer-term funding method are being developed to provide stability and deliver the necessary improvements, and these will be presented to the government and opposition parties during the upcoming party conferences in the autumn.