Buses go into public control in biggest transport shake-up in 30 years in Greater Manchester

Credit: PA Images

Buses in Greater Manchester are to be brought into public control in the region's biggest transport shake-up for more than 30 years. Bus services were effectively privatised in 1986.

Mayor Andy Burnham announced the changes at a press conference at Ashton Under-Lyne Bus Station on Thursday afternoon.

There have been criticisms of the cost of the new system. It's likely to cost around £135 million pounds. Mr Burnham said that while there will be one-off costs, he believes that it will benefit people in Greater Manchester in the long run.

There are costs of doing nothing. If I leave the system in place that we've currently got that means the public will carry on paying more in higher fares. It means we'll all pay with more congestion, more pollution. So the costs of sticking with what we've got are higher than the costs of moving to a cheaper, more integrated, cleaner public transport system.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

However, the Mayor would not be drawn when asked whether council tax rises are on the way to pay for the new system.


So how exactly will it work?

  • Tickets will be able to used on all buses and trams

  • Passengers can tap in/tap off on every journey (London style)

  • There'll be a single source of information for all public transport

  • Buses will still be operated by private companies, but the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will be in charge of fares, timetables and routes

  • Buses will all look the same

  • The changes will take place in three phases

Jan 2023

Bus services come into public control in Wigan and Bolton

Jan 2024

Bus services come into public control in Bury, Rochdale & Oldham

Jan 2025

Bus services come into public control in Trafford, Stockport, Tameside and Manchester

Changes will take place over a three year period based on different areas of the city region Credit: GMCA promotional video

Meanwhile the Stagecoach Group, who operate bus routes within the city region say the Mayor's consultation process "has FAILED to meet the standards of proper process, evidence and analysis required by law."

Earlier this year the company submitted an application for a judicial review, which is due to be considered in court at the end of May.

We are disappointed and surprised that the Mayor has chosen to push ahead with these proposals and not wait a short time for the outcome of the judicial review process. The planned franchising scheme in Greater Manchester would incur £135m of transition costs that would not deliver any new buses or new services and, under GMCA plans, would see above-inflation fares increases for customers.

Stagecoach statement
Credit: PA Images

In response Mr Burnham claimed an un-named operator had taken him to court earlier this week in an effort to stop today's announcement.


We were in court yesterday with one of the operators trying to stop me making this announcement today. I'm just not having it, that private bus companies are going to put their interests ahead of the travelling public of Greater Manchester

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

There were also questions to the Mayor from bus drivers at Ashton Under-Lyne bus station. as to whether the changes could lead to pay-cuts for staff. Mr Burnham said that wouldn't happen.

Reaction to the news has been mixed.

Pascale Robinson, from campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester, said: "Bringing our buses into public control will transform our bus network so that it can work for passengers, rather than for private profit."

Gary Nolan, from One Bus, which represents the majority of commercial bus operators in Greater Manchester, said the money should be spent on buying new bus fleets and improving bus lanes.