Dozens of bus routes to be saved from the axe

  • Bus operators to cancel and reduce dozens of services as coronavirus funding support ends
  • Move would significantly impact access to jobs, education, and key services
  • City leaders agree to fund replacements for withdrawn and reduced services

Greater Manchester’s leaders have agreed to save dozens of bus routes and services that were set to be withdrawn or reduced by operators when Covid-19 funding ends in October.

Throughout the pandemic, government funding helped to maintain bus, train, and tram service levels across the country, as the significant reductions in patronage threatened their commercial viability. 

While bus ridership has already reached 75 – 80% cent of pre-pandemic levels, with emergency government funding due to end on 4 October, operators have identified dozens of unprofitable services that they are unable to maintain at current levels, including 33 to be withdrawn completely and a further 32 to be reduced in frequency, in areas across the whole of Greater Manchester. 

As a growing city-region, clean, frequent, and reliable public transport is critical to enable access to opportunity for all, and the move would have left some communities with a much reduced – and in some cases complete lack of – bus services.

To ensure transport links are maintained as Greater Manchester works towards reforming bus services and delivering the Bee Network – the city-region’s vision for a more integrated and accessible ‘London-style’ transport system – plans have been developed to replace services identified for withdrawal and to maintain frequencies where reductions were proposed, up to four services an hour, subject to tender responses from operators.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Buses are integral to our transformational Bee Network vision for a more integrated, accessible, and cheaper public transport network.

“That is why we are leading the way in bringing bus services back under local control, why we are introducing lower fares in just a few weeks’ times – helping ease transport costs at a time when household bills are spiralling – and why we will, over the next few years, deliver new quality bus routes, with integrated fares and better customer information.

“The proposed withdrawal and reduction of dozens of bus services – that will be relied upon by our residents to access jobs and key services – is not in keeping with our vision and why we will intervene to save them and ensure our communities are not cut off.

"However, Government need to recognise the ongoing impact of the pandemic as we will not be able to sustain these services forever without financial support."

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is currently working to re-tender the contracts, with funding to come from existing budgets and funding that Greater Manchester secured from the government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.

Chair of the GMTC, Councillor Andrew Western, said: “There is still a lot of uncertainty, but we are resolutely committed to delivering the Bee Network and will continue to work closely with operators and other partners to ensure we have a stable network to build from.

“Tangible benefits will start being delivered in a month’s time when new and lower bus fares are introduced and, in little over a year, with the first franchised bus routes in operation, we will begin to integrate our value for money fares offer across Metrolink and buses to make everything simpler to use.

“We will only reach our end destination if our communities join us on this journey, and I’d encourage everyone to make the most of the reduced fares and help us build the transport system you want and deserve.”

TfGM has been working with operators to understand the impacts of coronavirus – and other factors, such as increased energy and other operating costs – on the future sustainability of public transport services and is continuing to make the case to government for continued funding as an integrated plan is developed to promote growth of public transport across Greater Manchester through to 2025 and beyond.

Article Published: 05/08/2022 11:00 AM