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Andy Burnham has announced a £2 cap on bus fares in Manchester - and urged other areas to follow suit

Andy Burnham said Greater Manchester was “developing a blueprint” for other city-regions to follow in creating a publicly-run transport system that connects villages, towns and cities.

An out of service bus arrives in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens where passenger numbers have returned to those recorded pre-pandemic. Image: Unsplash / Shishir Pandey

Manchester’s bus network has been brought under public control with the local authority’s first announcement being to cap fares at £2 for adults and £1 for children.

In a ruling that could pave the way for local authorities across the UK to take public services back into public ownership, the High Court last week dismissed a legal challenge brought by bus operators Stagecoach and Rotala against the reforms put forward by Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The franchise model decided by the local authority means that private companies may continue running services, but the local authority will regulate the services. Greater Manchester will become the first area outside London since the 1980s to have a regulated bus system.

“People need to be able to get to where they want to go without having to spend as much as £4 on a single trip,” said Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. 

“We will make travelling by public transport more appealing, easier and, significantly, put our people before profits.

Burnham had made it a priority to reform Greater Manchester’s fragmented bus network which allows separate companies to run disjointed and expensive services. He is seeking to create a system more similar to Transport for London which gives local leaders control over timetables, fares and ticketing. 

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, called the moved a “great first step” saying it is “staggering how expensive bus fares have become in Manchester, even for children travelling to school.”

We Own It, a campaigning group calling for public ownership of services said “The bus company fat cats tried to stop Greater Manchester’s buses being taken into public control – but they failed.”

“This is a huge victory, but it doesn’t stop here. The whole country needs buses that put people before profit.”

Unite said that the union had been working with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to ensure that the introduction of franchising will not negatively impact on the working conditions or employment contracts of bus workers.

“This is a significant step forward. The introduction of bus franchising will benefit passengers, local communities and bus workers alike,” said Unite regional officer Dave Roberts.

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