Greater Manchester bus fares: mayor Andy Burnham announces cheaper travel prices will begin in September

Fares are being capped as part of the high-profile overhaul of the buses in the city-region to introduce more of a London-style public transport system.

Greater Manchester residents will be able to travel on the bus for less from next month, the city-region’s mayor Andy Burnham has announced.

The new, lower fares are being brought forward and introduced in September to help people cope with the cost of living crisis, Mr Burnham told the media on Wednesday (17 August).

Fares are being capped on Greater Manchester’s buses as part of the introduction of franchising for a London-style public transport system - the biggest change to how they run since the service was deregulated in the 1980s.

Mr Burnham says that with so many households worried about their finances, it was right to help them by bringing in cheaper travel as soon as possible.

However, if prices are to be kept low, the Mayor says it is vital that people use the buses, and a campaign has been launched to encourage as many residents as possible to opt for public transport.

What are the new bus fares and when are they being introduced?

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said on Wednesday morning that the new, cheaper bus fares would be introduced from the start of the first full week in September across the city-region. That means they will be introduced on Sunday 4 September.

Prices are being capped at £2 for adults and £1 for children for a single journey, with passengers also being able to make unlimited journeys across all bus operators in Greater Manchester in a day for no more than £5 for an adult or £2.50 for a child.

Mr Burnham and Greater Manchester’s leaders say they are bringing the price reductions forward by a year due to the cost of living crisis.

The GMCA says two-thirds of people in the city-region are currently concerned about their finances and making ends meet as the price of everything from food and fuel to utilities soars.

Currently there are dozens of different ticket types for buses in Greater Manchester, with different operators able to set different prices for their routes.

As well as bringing in the new capped fares, GMCA said on Wednesday it was extending the Our Pass scheme that provides free bus travel to the region’s 16-to-18-year-olds.

And customers of Local Link, a flexible transport service for journeys in areas where public transport services are limited, will be able to travel for less.

What has Mr Burnham said about the move?

Mr Burnham spoke to the region’s media on Wednesday morning about the biggest change to public transport since the deregulation of the city-region’s buses 36 years ago.

He also urged people to take advantage of the cheaper travel and use the buses, saying the fare structures will have to be reviewed each year after they have been brought in and the more people use public transport the more likely it is that the cost of journeys can be kept low.

He said: “The introduction of lower, simpler fares across our bus network signifies the biggest shake-up of our bus system in close to 40 years and comes at a critical time.

“Hundreds of thousands of households across Greater Manchester are deeply worried about money, with fears of even higher bills just around the corner.

“As the most used form of public transport, with around 2.5million trips every week across the city-region, introducing lower fares for bus passengers is the best way we can help the most people with the cost of travel right now.

“Coupled with the extension of Our Pass, which provides free travel for 16-to-18-year-olds, we are taking steps to make an immediate and tangible difference to people’s lives by putting money back into their pockets.

“While this is the right thing to do, we cannot at this point guarantee that this new fare structure will be permanent. It will be reviewed annually. But the more that people use the buses, the more likely it is that we will be able to sustain it.”

How is the move being funded?

The GMCA says that from September Greater Manchester’s new-look bus system will be supported by a package of local and national contributions.

The move to lower fares is being supported by Government funding through the Bus Service Improvement Plan.

However, the ending of Covid-19 funding in October means that Mr Burnham and Greater Manchester’s leaders have had to step in to stabilise the city-region’s bus network by finding enough cash to save dozens of bus routes and services that were set to be withdrawn or reduced.

In addition to the money coming from the national Government some £135 million of local funding has also been allocated to support the transition to bus franchising.

What was Mr Burnham’s message to passengers?

Given the considerable uncertainty over how public transport in this country will be funded in the medium-to-long term, Mr Burnham said it was vital that people use the buses as much as possible once they have been made more affordable for people.

To encourage this, the campaign Get On Board has been launched by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to drum up public support for cheaper travel.

Mr Burnham also stressed once again that the bus system was at the heart of his vision for Greater Manchester’s future with a comprehensive, green and affordable public transport system.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham showing support for the new campaign Get On Board

He said: “Bringing our buses back under public control is an essential step towards creating the Bee Network - our vision for a London-style integrated transport system.

“When fully operational in 2025, we will extend the daily cap on fares to cover bus and tram. But we will only be able to make the Bee Network what we all want it to be if people support public transport by committing to use it as it improves.

“That’s why I’m today urging everyone in Greater Manchester to get on board with this crucial journey for our city-region to a better transport system.

“You can help us build the Bee Network, keep fares permanently low and save yourself money at this difficult time by taking up this new offer.”

What else has been said?

Coun Amanda Chadderton, Oldham Council leader and GMCA lead for equalities, inclusion and cohesion, said: “The impact the cost of living crisis is having on people’s finances can’t be underestimated. That’s why I’m thrilled to see these new lower fares being introduced to make a real difference to the cost of bus journeys across Greater Manchester.

“Coupled with the Metrolink that connects towns like Oldham to other parts of Greater Manchester we have a fantastic public transport network that I encourage people to take advantage of. These lower bus fares add even more value for money when times are tough for many.

“With energy prices set to increase even further this winter and the cost of everyday items continuing to rise our focus must be on continuing to make changes like this that will keep money in people’s pockets.”

Gary Nolan, the chief executive of OneBus, the Greater Manchester bus operators’ association, said: “Buses are relied upon by communities everywhere to get around.

“These new lower fares add to a range of value products already available from local bus companies and System One, and will not only help all those worried about household bills, they will boost bus use and help our operators that are also struggling with significantly higher running costs.

“This is good news for local bus companies and all who use them, and we are pleased to support it.”