Stagecoach proposal looks to re-design Greater Manchester’s bus network
Posted: 26 February 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
The proposals include company profits being shared with the region’s transport authority to further improve services and connectivity.
New alternative proposals for Greater Manchester’s bus network have been published by Stagecoach.
Under the proposals, a total of £142 million would be invested by Stagecoach in a package of improvements to deliver a step-change in the region’s bus network, providing improved connectivity, cleaner air, better value for taxpayers and a stronger economy.
The bus company profits above an agreed benchmark would be shared equally between Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the bus operator and a new Partnership Investment Fund.
The new Partnership Investment Fund would see a third of money ring-fenced for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to spend on improvements across the whole of the region, and the remaining two-thirds allocated to initiatives specifically in South Manchester, such as new routes or bus priority schemes.
Local taxpayers would reportedly benefit from up to £25 million in savings by Stagecoach and potentially other bus operators no longer being paid to run uneconomic socially-necessary bus routes and instead operating them commercially without any subsidy.
Stagecoach’s proposals would also reportedly deliver London-style price-capped fares, guaranteeing customers the cheapest travel for the journeys they make. Accessibility would also be enhanced under the plan, with ‘talking bus’ next stop audio-visual systems fitted to all vehicles.
A new joint Board, chaired by the Mayor and including executives from the Combined Authority and bus operators, would ensure greater public influence over the bus network and accountability of bus companies for their performance, according to the proposal.
More than £130 million would be invested in around 500 new cleaner low emission buses to boost air quality in Greater Manchester.
How would the new agreement work?
The new way forward for the region’s buses would reportedly be delivered under a new contractual agreement with GMCA. It would see a partnership approach in the south of Manchester seamlessly integrated with any franchised or partnership system that may be adopted in the north, delivering one easy-to-use network.
The new proposals, which would deliver the key objectives in the Combined Authority’s 2040 transport strategy, have been put forward as part of the consultation on the way forward for buses in the region. They are also designed to reduce the cost and future financial risk of the bus network to the Combined Authority and local taxpayers.
Stagecoach’s proposals would be open to participation by other small and large bus companies in south Manchester. The plan would see the introduction of a 10-year long-term partnership agreement between bus operators and GMCA, with the benefits flowing quickly from June 2020.
What else is included in the new plan?
The multi-million-pound bus operator-funded package of improvements in the south of Manchester also includes:
- A better integrated bus, tram and rail network, with enhanced consultation
- One main customer contact point for all bus services in Greater Manchester
- A new performance regime and congestion-busting measures to deliver quicker journeys
- Open data on operational and financial performance and customer complaints
- Commitment to Real Living Wage for staff, plus investment in training and apprenticeships
- Recycling and other environmental commitments
- Community benefit initiatives, including breakfast clubs for children.