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New partnership plan for Greater Manchester bus network

25 Feb 2020

Bus company profits to be  shared with region's Transport Authority under new £142M 10-year partnership plan for Greater Manchester Bus Network

·     New proposals developed through extensive engagement with senior TfGM officials

·     Innovative Partnership Investment Fund to be ring-fenced for bus service improvements

·     Up to £25m in potential taxpayer savings by bus operators operating socially necessary services without subsidy

·     Radical proposals will deliver cleaner air and London-style price-capped fares

·     Investment will deliver around 500 new cleaner low emission buses

·     Integrated public transport network, "talking bus" audio-visual systems, and single bus brand

·     Fast delivery of improvements planned from June 2020 as part of 10-year partnership agreement

·     Greater public influence over bus network, with operators more accountable for performance

·     One seamlessly integrated, high quality bus network across whole of Greater Manchester

Radical new alternative proposals for Greater Manchester's bus network published today (25 February 2020) would see company profits shared with the region's transport authority to further improve services.

In addition, a total of £142m would be invested by Stagecoach in a package of improvements to deliver a step-change in the region's bus network, providing improved connectivity, cleaner air, better value for taxpayers and a stronger economy.

Under the new plans proposed by Stagecoach, bus company profits above an agreed benchmark would be shared equally between Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the bus operator and a new Partnership Investment Fund.

The new Partnership Investment Fund would see a third of money ring-fenced for Transport for Greater Manchester to spend on improvements across the whole of the region, and the remaining two-thirds allocated to initiatives specifically in South Manchester, such as new routes or bus priority schemes.

Local taxpayers would benefit from up to £25m in savings by Stagecoach and potentially other bus operators no longer being paid to run uneconomic socially-necessary bus routes and instead operating them commercially without any subsidy.

Stagecoach's proposals would also deliver London-style price-capped fares, guaranteeing customers the cheapest travel for the journeys they make.

A simpler and more integrated public transport network would be delivered through a unified brand for all bus services in the region. Accessibility would also be enhanced with "talking bus" next stop audio-visual systems fitted to all vehicles.

A new joint Board, chaired by the Mayor and including executives from the Combined Authority and bus operators, would ensure greater public influence over the bus network and accountability of bus companies for their performance. It will also provide greater transparency over decisions affecting bus services.

More than £130m would be invested in around 500 new cleaner low emission buses to boost air quality in Greater Manchester. It would add to the £16.5m fleet of more than 30 electric buses which are already being introduced by Stagecoach on two key high frequency services connecting Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport, five hospitals and two universities from March 2020.

The new proposals have been developed following extensive consultation with senior officials at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). Stagecoach, the main operator in South Manchester, is already committed to the pledges in the new partnership proposals if they are accepted. Other operators in the area would also be invited to enter into the partnership.


How would the new agreement work?

The new way forward for the region's buses would be delivered under a new contractual agreement with Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It would see a partnership approach in the south of Manchester seamlessly integrated with any franchised or partnership system that may be adopted in the north, delivering one easy-to-use network.

Bus users in south Manchester have benefitted for many years from significant investment, punctual and reliable services, and low fares. Customer satisfaction in the south of Manchester is currently 89%*.

The new proposals, which would deliver the key objectives in the Combined Authority's 2040 transport strategy, have been put forward as part of the consultation on the way forward for buses in the region. They are also designed to reduce the cost and future financial risk of the bus network to the Combined Authority and local taxpayers.

Stagecoach's proposals would be open to participation by other small and large bus companies in south Manchester. The plan would see the introduction of a 10-year long-term partnership agreement between bus operators and GMCA, with the benefits flowing quickly from June 2020.


What else is included in the new plan?

The multi-million-pound bus operator-funded package of improvements in the south of Manchester also includes:

·       a better integrated bus, tram and rail network, with enhanced consultation

·       one main customer contact point for all bus services in Greater Manchester

·       a new performance regime and congestion-busting measures to deliver quicker journeys

·       open data on operational and financial performance and customer complaints

·       commitment to Real Living Wage for staff, plus investment in training and apprenticeships

·       recycling and other environmental commitments

·       community benefit initiatives, including breakfast clubs for children


What is Stagecoach saying about the proposals?

Elisabeth Tasker, Managing Director of Stagecoach Manchester, said: "Our region deserves the best bus network operators and the Combined Authority can deliver. By working in partnership with local people and politicians, we are determined to make sure customers, communities and taxpayers in Greater Manchester get just that.

"We will deliver better air quality for our communities with huge investment in greener buses. We will save people money by introducing London-style price-capped fares. More accessible and integrated services will make buses easier to use, and we will cut the council and taxpayer bill to run socially necessary bus routes.

"Our plans will mean that the region shares in our financial success, there is greater public influence over the bus network, bus operators are even more accountable for their performance and there is more transparency around decisions. Crucially, our plan will build on the best of what we have now and deliver one seamless overall bus network for customers.

"We are ready to start introducing these improvements in a matter of months, working constructively with politicians across Greater Manchester to deliver on our promises and give the region the high quality bus network it deserves.”


What happens next?

The current GMCA bus consultation ended on 8 January 2020. Responses to the consultation are now being evaluated and in due course Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham will make a decision on the way forward.



South Manchester Partnership


The proposed South Manchester Partnership would deliver:


Savings for councils and taxpayer

  • Bus company profits in excess of an agreed benchmark to be shared equally between Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the bus operator and a new Partnership Investment Fund
  • New Partnership Investment Fund to enhance bus services
  • Taxpayer-funded tendered services paid for by Stagecoach and potentially other bus operators

Cleaner air

  • more than £130m investment in around 500 new greener buses
  • all new vehicles to be ultra-low or zero emission by September 2021
  • 100% of fleet Euro VI compliant by September 2021
  • reduce average age of buses to seven years by December 2023
  • targets to improve fleet environmental performance

Better journeys

  • all buses to be fitted with audio-visual systems within three years
  • operator-funded initiatives to tackle congestion and improve journey times
  • measures to improve traffic signal management
  • funding of extra staff for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Piccadilly control centre
  • improved mid-journey cleaning on all main corridor bus services
  • free WiFi on all buses

Improved customer service

  • single first point of contact for bus customers across Greater Manchester
  • real time customer information strategy delivered in partnership with TfGM
  • network-wide Customer Commitments Pledge

Unified branding

  • one single brand identity covering both franchised and partnership networks
  • common identity covering buses, website, app and other customer channels

Employee training, apprenticeships, recruitment and reward

  • continued partnership working with trade unions
  • most Stagecoach employees are already paid above the Real Living Wage and a new commitment will extend this to all permanent, trained employees from the start of the partnership
  • further investment by Stagecoach in best-in-class training, with focus on customer experience
  • more bus driver and engineering apprenticeships, as well as improved pathway to employment for marginalised groups
  • access for smaller operators to Stagecoach training to raise standards across region
  • new health and wellbeing champions and counselling services, with initiatives to boost employee physical and mental health

Fares and ticketing

  • single suite of daily, weekly and monthly tickets regardless of geography or corridor
  • reduced number of fare bands
  • fare capping on Stagecoach services in south Manchester by summer 2021
  • further support to extend fare-capping to all services across Greater Manchester, including facilitating capped ticketing on trams
  • flat single fare after 7pm every evening to offer simplicity and value for money
  • work with TfGM and other partners to extend multi-operator ticketing to tram and trains and promote multi-modal tickets
  • support TfGM to offer concessionary and discounted travel for disadvantaged social groups

Bus network planning and performance

  • new bus performance regime with full accountability for operators
  • publication of bus network data, including passenger trends, punctuality, as well as financial and complaints information
  • quarterly bus network review meetings to focus on continuous improvement
  • continued use of on-the-ground inspectors to drive performance
  • enhanced consultation with TfGM on bus network changes
  • work with TfGM to align bus network with developing economy and infrastructure

Community, environmental and safety benefits

  • work with TfGM to help deliver its offer of free bus travel for unemployed or recently employed people
  • community benefit initiatives, including breakfast clubs for local children and support for charities
  • recycle 100% of waste from buses to reduce landfill
  • continued Stagecoach investment in the TravelSafe scheme to help patrol Greater Manchester’s bus and tram services