All aboard! Liberal Democrats welcome Greater Manchester bus franchising

An end to deregulation and the introduction of franchising means good news for Greater Manchester’s bus passengers, say Oldham’s Liberal Democrats.  They have welcomed the decision to end the chaos of bus privatisation and reintroduce publicly controlled bus services.

Greater Manchester’s buses were privatised by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government in 1986, and for the last thirty-five years buses in the city region have been run by private companies focused on making a profit for shareholders.  For Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, bus privatisation has been a disaster. 

Councillor Sykes, who also serves as one of Oldham’s representatives on the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, said:  “Privatisation has meant increased fares, a disjointed ticketing system and worsening services. Bus companies can largely operate as they wish.  They can pull and change commercial services and raise fares as suits them. Over the years, the fares have steadily gone up whilst the services have gotten worse. That’s why bus services are so poor in Oldham; take for example the old 59, now 57 bus in my own ward of Shaw which is now a shadow of what was once a reliable and frequent service.”

For Councillor Sykes, franchising represents a new opportunity for transformation: “In London, bus companies were not privatised.  Instead bus companies compete for franchises where fares, timetables and routes are set by Transport for London. That is why in Oldham you can pay up to £5 for a ticket for a single journey with one bus company, whilst in London it costs only £1.55 for a Hopper fare to make multiple journeys by bus and tram within an hour of activation.”

Howard Sykes

The decision followed a public consultation in which respondents clearly indicated their support for bus franchising.  Councillor Sykes can see why:  “Franchising is common sense.  It means lower fares and a simpler ticketing system.  It will allow us to introduce a daily price cap for bus and tram travel across Greater Manchester.  It will allow us to introduce complementary timetables that allow passengers to better transfer between buses and trams.  Franchising means finally twenty-first century bus travel for Greater Manchester and we just need to get on with it.  I urge the Mayor and Transport for Greater Manchester to do so, we have waited long enough.”

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