Mayor makes bus reform a key priority

  • Bus network "must improve"
  • Opportunity Pass to reverse decline in young bus users
  • Fire and other Mayoral precept frozen

THE MAYOR of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has pledged to improve the city-region’s bus network, including free bus travel for 16 to 18-year olds. 

More than three quarters of public transport journeys in Greater Manchester are made by bus, making it the backbone of the network. But while demand for transport is going up, overall bus use is declining. In Greater Manchester, there are now more than 32 million fewer journeys by bus than 10 years ago.

With Greater Manchester’s population set to grow to more than three million by 2040, an effective bus network is more important than ever to connect people with jobs, housing, education, healthcare, shops, family and friends. Instead of a decline in bus use, we want to see millions more journeys, with lower fares and smarter, integrated ticketing.

The new Opportunity Pass for 16 to 18-year-olds is central to this ambition. It is being brought in to halt a decline in bus use by young people and stimulate an increase in patronage. Removing barriers to transport will help young people access education, employment, training and socialising which, in turn, supports the future prosperity of Greater Manchester.

The plans form part of the Mayor’s budget proposals. He is responsible for setting the budget for the fire service and other mayoral functions, which local people contribute to through a part of their council tax bills called the mayoral “precept”.

At an additional cost of £9 per year for Band D properties - and just £7 for the Greater Manchester average Band B household - the Mayor believes the contribution will make a huge difference by encouraging the next generation to use public transport.

Contributions towards the fire service and other mayoral costs will be frozen.

Andy said: “Bus reform is essential for the future success of Greater Manchester as the current system simply isn’t working. The current bus system is driven by the needs of operators rather than what the travelling public needs. 

“This must change and these plans are a vital step in our overall vision for a bus network that works for everyone.

“The average cost of this for Greater Manchester households will be £7 over the course of a year, or just 58p per month.”

Central to the proposals is a new Opportunity Pass for 16 to 18-year-olds. This pass will provide free bus travel across the network for young people, as well as access to leisure and cultural facilities across the Greater Manchester at a free or reduced rate.

The Mayor added: “More than a quarter of young people aged between 16 and 18 use buses as their primary means of transport – but these numbers are declining more quickly than the rest of Greater Manchester’s bus users. We want to reverse this - the Opportunity Pass will encourage more young people than ever before to use the bus.

“Surveys show that the costs of travel can be prohibitive for young people travelling to college, to apprenticeships or training so this pass will help us reduce the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training. This benefits not just young people themselves, but also wider society.

“And by getting young people into the good habit of using the bus, we’re demonstrating to the next generation of workers that the best way to get around Greater Manchester is by public transport, which will ultimately reduce congestion on our roads.”

The Opportunity Pass is the latest in a number of improvements, such as the Leigh Guided Busway, which carries 280,000 passengers a month, to bus services in Greater Manchester. With some 63,000 young people eligible for the Opportunity Pass, if they each made two extra journeys a week that would mean an increase of 6.5m journeys in total on the Greater Manchester bus network.

It marks an important step on the journey to greater reform of the city-region’s buses, the vision for which sets out a joined-up transport network, with simple fares and ticketing, that puts the passenger first and guarantees the best value ticket for their journey. It should be modern, accessible, and everyone should be able to use it.

The total annual contribution through council tax for spending on the fire service and other mayoral functions, excluding policing, for 2019/20 will be £76.95 for Band D properties, or £59.84 for the average Band B property. The amounts payable for each band are:





(Greater Manchester average)







Total proposed costs for Band – fire and other mayoral costs









Proposed increase to support bus reform









Percentage of households in each band










The Mayor is also responsible for setting the police precept, which is the part of council tax that partially funds policing. Details of that can be found here.

The budget was presented to a special meeting of GMCA on 15 February 2019.

This story was updated on 27 February to reflect the fact that the budget proposals have been adopted by GMCA.

Article Published: 21/01/2019 16:01 PM