Bus Services Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Dr Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive, Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (BSB 08)

1 Introduction

1.1 Greater Manchester’s vision for residents, business and visitors is to create a world class transport network that supports long-term sustainable economic growth and enables access to opportunity for all. Key to delivering this vision is creating a fully integrated, high capacity transport system with passengers at its heart.

1.2 TfGM welcomes the intention of the Bus Services Bill to provide Transport Authorities, such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) with a set of tools to address and remedy the range of structural and delivery constraints that are evident in the Greater Manchester (GM) bus market.

1.3 The creation of a GM elected Mayoralty in 2017 is contingent on the devolution of powers as outlined in the 2014 GM Agreement. This includes powers to grant our city region the option to franchise bus services. This principle continues to receive consistent and cross-party support from all of the ten Council Leaders on the GMCA, the Interim Mayor and the Local Enterprise Partnership. [1]

1.4 GM’s 2040 Transport Strategy [2] emphasises the need to develop a high-quality and integrated public transport system to support the city region’s ambitious plans for economic growth. With a growing population tipped to exceed 3 million by 2040, comes an increasing demand on the transport network which will need to cater for a predicted 800,000 additional journeys every day.

1.5 To meet this demand, GM needs an attractive, efficient and integrated public transport network. Our passengers supported this ambition during the public consultation on the 2040 Transport Strategy where 70% of the 1,800 respondents said they agreed that the Strategy helps to achieve long-term, sustainable economic growth for all.

2 The need for the Bill

2.1 Like all areas outside of London, GM has a deregulated bus market where bus services are run by commercial operators who make decisions on the routes, fares, frequencies, timetables and quality standards.

2.2 In GM, the current market structure is not delivering the best deal for passengers or the city region. Since 1986, bus patronage across GM has declined, from 355 million passenger journeys per year (mPJY) to around 209mPJY, with latest figures showing continuing decline. However in London, where bus services were also privatised but crucially not deregulated, patronage has doubled since 1986. More bus trips are now made in London than in the rest of England combined. [3]

2.3 Deregulation has given bus operators free scope to deliver services and naturally, an operator’s commercial interests primarily influence decisions. However, these commercial decisions have a direct impact on passengers, travel patterns, on the wider public transport market and on bus patronage. The needs of the passenger are not put first under the existing system.

2.4 Deregulation also creates a confusing landscape of provision. The current bus market offers a disorganised and fragmented system of services and tickets, which prevents the delivery of an integrated public transport system for GM.

2.5 Bus represents 78% of public transport journeys in GM, with Metrolink and local rail at 13% and 9% respectively. Getting bus provision right is central to making public transport more attractive, viable and efficient, providing fully integrated, high capacity transport system with passengers at its heart.

2.6 The Competition Commission inquiry into bus services in 2011 concluded that there are significant adverse effects on competition in deregulated bus markets. They estimated the costs borne by passengers and taxpayers as ranging between £115 to £305 million each year. These costs are likely to bear most heavily on areas where bus patronage is higher, such as metropolitan areas [4] . The Competition Commission also noted that franchising can be an appropriate model of delivery in specific circumstances. [5]

TfGM assessment of the Bus Services Bill

The following provides a short summary of each section of the Bill

3 Advanced quality partnership schemes and enhanced partnership plans and schemes

3.1 Our experience to date has shown that in a complex polycentric city region like GM and given our need to integrate the wider public transport market (including Metrolink and local rail), partnerships look to be a distinctly limited mechanism. Further, they can only go so far in delivering the desired benefits for passengers.

3.2 However, we acknowledge the need for Government to offer a variety of tools that can be explored by different localities across the country, something which the Bill addresses in the new advanced quality partnership schemes and enhanced partnership proposals.

4 Franchising schemes

4.1 With regard to GM, the ability to co-ordinate routes and timetables and simplify fares for the benefit of passengers is an essential requirement for us to deliver an integrated transport network.

4.2 The franchising model looks to facilitate this, through a competitive tendering process. In doing so, it helps create a mixed market of suppliers to deliver services to a consistent specification. It provides an effective mechanism for delivering a truly integrated, financially sustainable and multi-modal transport network for the benefit of passengers.

4.3 Indeed, franchising could be said to already prevail over 20% of the GM bus market to the benefit of passengers. As a consequence of commercial decisions by operators, TfGM are obliged to buy additional bus services to provide or maintain essential routes and services that otherwise would simply not be provided, typically early morning, early evening and weekend services.

4.4 In this distinct market, across GM, TfGM have effectively managed to create much more diverse market of suppliers than in the commercial deregulated market. Small operators account for 36% of the financially supported market, compared to less than 8% of the commercial network. It is in both passengers’ and TfGM’s interests to have a diverse operator sector. Consequently, we welcome the provision in the Bill that seek to protect Small and Medium sized operators.

4.5 The assessment criteria, as set out in the Bill for a proposed franchising scheme, are appropriate and very rigorous. There is a clear procedure for implementation that involves an audit and consultation process, meaning the final decision on whether to franchise bus services will rightly reflect the views of GM residents and businesses.

4.6 However, we are concerned at elements of the draft Guidance relating to franchising that appear in part to go beyond what clauses in the Bill require, and look to place on Franchising Authorities unnecessary burdens in developing their case and assessment for franchising. Previous legislation intended to improve bus services for passengers has, in effect, been impossible to utilise in part as a result of guidance and regulations that were not fit for purpose. We will continue to work closely with DfT officials to ensure all aspects of the Bus Services Bill legislation are appropriate and workable in practice.

5 Advanced ticketing schemes

5.1 The needs of passengers are central when considering ticketing schemes and the implementation of new technologies. However, the deregulation of bus services has engendered enormous complexity in fares and ticketing as operators have developed an array of fares and products. This complexity creates a confusing picture for passengers and it can tend to reduce the demand for multi-operator travel, as tickets are typically priced much higher than ‘own operator’ products. This limits the travel horizons of residents, inhibits integration and it fails to make travel easy for people who are not used to using public transport.

5.2 Evidence has shown that a simple, integrated and smart ticketing system can result in increased patronage and improved levels of passenger experience. Bus franchising looks to provide the optimum means to enable TfGM to achieve this, to facilitates a clear, transparent and attractive fare and retail offer across all public transport modes.

5.3 However, for areas where franchising is not appropriate, the use of Advanced Ticketing schemes provided for by the Bill may be beneficial and are welcomed.

6 Enhanced Partnership Plans and Schemes

6.1 As noted, the Bill looks to provides all transport authorities with a more robust set of tools that may be applied in the context of each area’s unique geography, requirements and local circumstances. And in this context, Enhanced Partnership may provide some transport authorities with appropriate tools to help improve some aspects of bus provision.

7 Information for bus passengers

7.1 TfGM supports the need for bus services to become more accessible on a consistent basis. We welcome further information about local services being made available to passengers. This will improve the passenger experience for all, and will be of particular benefit to those with disabilities.

7.2 Our commitment to accessible transport can be seen in our Metrolink network, which is one of the most accessible examples of its kind in the UK. As well as audio-visual announcements on stops and on trams, each tram has a designated disabled and pushchair area with its own emergency information call points. Similarly, TfGM’s low carbon fleet of free city-centre Metroshuttle buses was recently retrofitted with audio-visual technology to support passengers with disabilities as well as visitors to the city.

8 Information about English bus services

8.1 TfGM is actively exploring how new and emerging technologies can improving transport performance, reduce costs and resource consumption, and better provide tailored information and pricing to passengers to improve the passenger experience.

8.2 By creating an open data environment, software developers will be able to utilise data feeds to create new applications to make travel easier for passengers. Open data could also enable the wider integration of transport services with other sectors, offering an integrated package for passengers accessing healthcare, education and employment opportunities. It could enable developers to discover and exploit new economic opportunities in the digital and creative industries; a sector which is currently flourishing in GM.

8.3 TfGM support the Bill in mandating the release of open data relating to fares, punctuality and bus real-time information for the benefit of improving the passenger experience.

9 Registration of bus services

9.1 In the deregulated bus market, operators of commercial services are free to vary or cancel services in light of their assessment of the commerciality of that service. In cases where incumbent operators decide to cancel a service, they have access to vital patronage and revenue information that will be of enormous benefit in helping a transport authority

9.2 One key recommendation of the Competition Commission inquiry was for local transport authorities to be given powers to obtain, and where appropriate disclose, information about revenue and patronage of services being deregistered. This will enhance their ability to specify and manage the tenders to promote competitive outcomes and reduce the risk of competition being restricted by incumbency advantages.

9.3 There is a strong argument that such information should be provided to transport authorities as a matter of course, as this would equip transport authorities with the necessary data to determine whether alternative service provision is required so as to cater for existing passenger and community transport needs.

10 Accompanying regulations and guidance to support the Bill

10.1 TfGM is grateful for the positive and constructive relationship with the Department of Transport (DfT) during the development of draft regulations and guidance. The publication of much of this in recent weeks is welcomed.

10.2 We are mindful that because the Bill is an enabling Bill, there may be additional work required to ensure that any final regulations and guidance are fit for purpose and help ensure that the provisions in the Bill are practicable for local transport authorities.

10.3 It is in this context that we accept that there can be delays in releasing all regulations and guidance; however we are keen to see the release of the remaining elements in the near future. This will allow transport authorities to use the legislation in a timely and efficient manner, which in turn allows us to deliver a wide set of benefits for passenger, residents and the wider city region.


Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is the transport authority for Greater Manchester. Supported by the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, a joint committee of the GMCA and the ten constituent district authorities, its transport policies are delivered by Transport for Greater Manchester. TfGM oversees transport and travel across GM, home of the UK’s largest city region economy outside London. It:

· is responsible for delivering the GM Transport Fund, a £1.5bn transport investment package comprising Metrolink expansion, new interchanges at Altrincham, Bolton, Rochdale and Wythenshawe and additional bus priority schemes

· has delivered a network of Quality Bus Corridors comprising bus lanes and high quality bus infrastructure and is now completing a further package of bus priority to improve bus links between Leigh, Atherton, Salford, Middleton, Parrs Wood and the Regional Centre

· builds, maintains and staffs bus stations, Travelshops and interchanges, and installs and maintains 12,000 bus stops and 4,400 shelters

· works closely with over 20 bus operators

· owns and manages the Metrolink network, which currently covers 58 miles with 93 stops across seven lines – hosting 35.5 million passenger journeys every year

· has recently delivered the Metrolink Second City Crossing, on time and on budget, and is working on preparations for a new line through to Trafford Park

· is overseeing an investment of more than £40m into cycle routes and facilities, alongside a programme of cycling information, education and training

· works with Job Centres, job-seekers and local businesses to encourage sustainable commuting

· is a key partner in Rail North

· manages the Key Route Network in partnership with all ten district highway authorities and Highways England

· has developed GM’s innovative and ambitious Transport Strategy 2040, now agreed by GMCA and GM LEP, alongside district authorities and other key stakeholders Partnership http://www.tfgm.com/2040/Pages/strategy/index.html

[1] ‘Economy and infrastructure’, 2016. http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/manchester-mayor-deal-would-collapse-without-bus-franchising-powers-says-tfgm-chair

[2] TfGM 2040 Transport Strategy, 2017, http://www.tfgm.com/2040/Pages/strategy/index.html

[3] Table BUS0103, Bus statistics, 2016, DfT https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bus-statistics

[4] ‘Local bus services market investigation’, Competition Commission, 2011. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.competition-commission.org.uk/inquiries/ref2010/localbus/pdf/00_sections_1_15.pdf

[5] ‘CMA recommendations to Ministers’, CMA, 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bus-services-bill-cma-recommendations-to-ministers


Prepared 15th March 2017