Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has announced plans for the introduction of a new free bus travel scheme for all 16 to 18-year olds in the region.
In what is understood to be a first in the UK, the initiative will be paid for by an increase in the Council Tax bill for residents in Greater Manchester. It will see the mayoral precept increase by £9 per year for Band D properties, with a £7 increase for the Greater Manchester average Band B household.
Announcing the proposals last week, Burnham said that bus use was declining in Greater Manchester with 32 million fewer journeys by bus than 10 years ago.
However, with the population of the city region expected to grow by more than three million by 2040, Burnham believes that an effective bus network is more important than ever.
The new free travel scheme, called the Opportunity Pass, aims to help end the decline in bus use and stimulate passenger growth by creating a bus-using habit amongst young people.
If the 63,000 young people eligible for the Opportunity Pass each made two extra journeys a week that would mean an increase of 6.5 million journeys in total on the Greater Manchester bus network.
Burnham believes the economy of the region will benefit from the scheme by allowing young people greater access to education, health, work and leisure opportunities.
“More than a quarter of young people aged between 16 and 18 use buses as their primary means of transport – but these numbers are declining more quickly than the rest of Greater Manchester’s bus users,” he said. “We want to reverse this – the Opportunity Pass will encourage more young people than ever before to use the bus.
“Surveys show that the costs of travel can be prohibitive for young people travelling to college, to apprenticeships or training so this pass will help us reduce the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training. This benefits not just young people themselves, but also wider society.
“By getting young people into the good habit of using the bus, we’re demonstrating to the next generation of workers that the best way to get around Greater Manchester is by public transport, which will ultimately reduce congestion on our roads.”
£100m bid to see off GM franchising plans
Greater Manchester’s bus operators this week launched a £100m partnership blueprint to revolutionise the bus network and deliver on the region’s ambitions.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, is keen to use new franchising powers in the Bus Services Act 2017 to take back control of the region’s buses.
However, the OneBus group of private operators claim that its blueprint (see below) can deliver better connectivity for local communities, ease the cost of travel and tackle the region’s growing congestion and air pollution crisis – without requiring taxpayers to take on extra risk.
“Franchising is being presented as a zero cost guaranteed route to better buses services, but this is a myth,” said Gary Nolan, chief executive of OneBus. “The major investments we are proposing can be delivered far quicker through a partnership approach and without the risk and extra cost under any alternative model.
“Only by bus operators, the mayor and the region’s local authorities working together, can we give Greater Manchester, its economy and its communities the dynamic bus network to shape our world-class city region.”
The Onebus blueprint:
- 450 new low emission buses over the next three years;
- More flexible and simplified tickets, recommendation of two-year price freeze on multi-operator bus fares, and more affordable travel for all ages;
- An action plan for TfGM and others to tackle congestion hotspots;
- A single unified brand identity for all bus services;
- Improved integration of bus, tram and rail services;
- Joint bus network review to maximise connectivity, including evaluation of the potential for off-peak, limited stop, night time or 24-hour services;
- A fully co-ordinated, central approach to traffic management, customer contact and travel information.
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.