'Coming of age' for devolution as Bee Network launches in Greater Manchester

The publicly owned Bee Network has launched in Greater Manchester.

Parts of Greater Manchester now has publicly-controlled bus services for the first time since the 1980s when services were deregulated everywhere outside London.

Since then, the number of bus journeys made in the capital, where bus services remained under local control, has doubled, but fallen by millions in other English cities.

Andy Burnham has called the launch a "coming of age" moment for English devolution. Credit: PA Images

Mayor Andy Burnham said: “You could say it represents devolution in England coming of age, because this is a major decision about how critical services run and it’s a decision been taken by the city region, and will have a significant bearing on people’s lives.

“Deregulation does not work, and I would say not just on buses, but on many other things as well.

“The mantra that the market is the answer to everything has been disproved by bus deregulation.”

Passengers will begin to notice Bee Network branded buses across Greater Manchester. Credit: PA Images

50 new electric buses have launched in Bolton, Wigan and parts of Salford and Bury, and will roll out across the region until 2025.

What is the Bee network?

The Bee network is a long term plan to join up bus, tram and train services within Greater Manchester.

The plan is for the region to have on joined up transport network, like London, where one ticket can be used on multiple modes of transport.

What are the benefits of public ownership?

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority will now have more control over fares, timetables and routes by issuing franchises to private firms to operate services.

The public will have the power to pass comment and rate journeys, which will affect the financial contracts.

The aim is to create one integrated ticket for all forms of public transport in Greater Manchester. Credit: TfGM

It is something that will happen slowly, with rail services joining the network in 2030.

There are also ideas for an underground and tram-train services, where Metrolink can run on the same lines as trains.

When will it roll out?

So far the first step has been a reworking of the bus network.

Here's a timeline for the roll out of the new bus franchises:

  • Regulated buses first introduced in Bolton and Wigan as well as parts of Salford and west Manchester from 24 September

  • Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and areas of north Manchester to follow in Spring 2024.

  • Stockport, Trafford, Tameside, south Manchester and remaining parts of Salford to run by end of 2024.

The Bee Network is rolling out across Greater Manchester Credit: PA

What are the fare prices?

In 2022, Andy Burnham capped single bus fares to £2 for adults and £1 for children.

Unlimited bus travel over a day is set at £5 and a weekly ticket at £21 for adults and £10.50 for children.

What are the long term plans of the Bee Network?

Transport bosses are aiming for a 30 per cent increase in passenger numbers by 2030.

There are plans for 90 per cent of the Greater Manchester population to be within 400 metres of a 30-minute frequency bus or Metrolink service on weekdays.

There are also plans for buses to run at least every 12 minutes on key route across Greater Manchester.

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