Buses are the most used form of public transport in Manchester, but people want a greater say in local bus services, better fare structures, better routes and a better ticketing system, new research has revealed.
The ComRes research, carried out for bus operator Abellio, showed that 95% of people supported the idea of subsidising bus routes which are unprofitable but necessary for the public good – a key feature of a franchised bus network. Additionally, 88% think all bus operators should use the same fare structure and the same proportion believe local people should have a greater say on how and where bus services are provided.
The survey also revealed that 91% of respondents want to see a system similar to London’s Oyster Card, where passengers can use the same tickets and travelcards on buses, trains and trams throughout Greater Manchester.
The current bus system allows bus companies to choose which routes they will provide and set their own ticket prices. However, Mayor Andy Burnham has announced plans to take Manchester’s bus network into public control, where local leaders, accountable to Greater Manchester residents, would decide what routes are needed and what fares should be charged, then put contracts out to tender under a franchise system.
Alan Pilbeam, Deputy Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Abellio, an experienced operator in London’s franchised bus network, said: “This research clearly demonstrates the people of Greater Manchester want to see a change to the way their public transport system is delivered. People rightly believe that bus operators have a social responsibility towards the communities they serve.
“We did this research because we wanted to know what the residents of Manchester want from their public bus system. Despite 94% saying they lived within ten minutes of a bus stop, only half of respondents use a bus at least once a month and only half feel they can get to the places they need. One in two people think that current bus fares are too complicated and services are too unreliable."
"There is clearly a need for bus services to change and vastly improve. The Mayor’s proposal would put decision-making back into the hands of the public and allow them to choose a local transport system that works for them. We know a franchising model works successfully in London, and it can be a success in Greater Manchester as well.”
Henri Murison, Director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership added:
“The Mayor of Greater Manchester commissioned a review which shows the clear case for bus franchising, which will give the public sector the ability to drive use of the bus network by improving the routes served and making fares fairer, which is very much in line with the findings of this research.
“The Northern Powerhouse is not about just the North coming together – but about the city regions and wider economies of the North being free to choose what is right for their economies, with the powers to take the decisions needed. The case for having a Mayor rested on government giving our city regions the right to do this, because it is such an important opportunity to replicate the same benefits which London gets from its bus network.”
Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Buses play a vital role in connecting people, supporting the economy, and tackling loneliness. The people of Manchester clearly want simpler fares and better integration between buses, trains and trams, which would go a long way towards improving public transport across the city. "
Abellio currently operates over 750 buses and employs 2,500 staff across six depots in London. You can find out more at Abellio Londond Bus.