The 65 under-threat bus services being saved in Greater Manchester

New plans have been put in to save services at risk of the axe and others which were facing reduced frequencies.

Greater Manchester’s leaders have agreed to save dozens of bus routes and services that were set to be withdrawn or reduced by operators when Covid-19 funding ends in October.

A number of services have been propped up by Government funding after passenger numbers dropped off during the pandemic, but that funding is due to come to an end on 4 October.

However, Greater Manchester leaders say they have developed plans to replace services earmarked for withdrawal and keep up the level of service on others which were going to see journey numbers cut - subject to tender responses from bus operators. Thirty-three were at risk of being axed and a further 32 faced being reduced in frequency, they say.

TFGM says passenger numbers are also back at 75-80% of pre-pandemic levels.

GM Mayor Andy Burnham

Mayor Andy Burnham has already pledged he wants to bring city-region buses back under public control as part of an integrated public transport system - though operators have yet to commit to the scheme.

He said today: “Buses are integral to our transformational Bee Network vision for a more integrated, accessible, and cheaper public transport network.

“That is why we are leading the way in bringing bus services back under local control, why we are introducing lower fares in just a few weeks’ times – helping ease transport costs at a time when household bills are spiralling – and why we will, over the next few years, deliver new quality bus routes, with integrated fares and better customer information.

“The proposed withdrawal and reduction of dozens of bus services – that will be relied upon by our residents to access jobs and key services – is not in keeping with our vision and why we will intervene to save them and ensure our communities are not cut off.

“However, Government need to recognise the ongoing impact of the pandemic as we will not be able to sustain these services forever without financial support.”

TFGM says funding will come from ‘existing budgets’ and from the government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.

Chair of the Greater Manchester Transport Committee, Councillor Andrew Western, said: “There is still a lot of uncertainty, but we are resolutely committed to delivering the Bee Network and will continue to work closely with operators and other partners to ensure we have a stable network to build from.

“Tangible benefits will start being delivered in a month’s time when new and lower bus fares are introduced and, in little over a year, with the first franchised bus routes in operation, we will begin to integrate our value for money fares offer across Metrolink and buses to make everything simpler to use.

“We will only reach our end destination if our communities join us on this journey, and I’d encourage everyone to make the most of the reduced fares and help us build the transport system you want and deserve.”