Thirty Manchester bus routes could be axed if new funding is not granted, warn transport bosses

The warning comes as emergency Covid funding for transport services is due to run out.

A third of bus services in Greater Manchester would be affected if government grants do not continue past March - with around 30 routes at risk of being cut.

The city-region requires around £30m to ‘stabilise’ the bus market, transport bosses say, with another £40m needed for Metrolink in the next financial year.

It comes as emergency Covid funding for transport services is due to run out.

Greater Manchester’s Transport Committee has urged the government to extend this financial support for bus and tram services as soon as possible.

Buses in Manchester Credit: TFGM

What are they asking for?

In a statement, the chair and vice chairs of the committee warned that the day-to-day lives of people would be ‘adversely impacted’ – particularly the least well-off and most vulnerable – if the support comes to an end in April.

They said: “As reflected by the report published by the Urban Transport Group this week – and following discussions with local bus operators – we expect around one third of our bus services to be affected, with a wide-scale reduction in frequencies and around 30 routes withdrawn completely.

“If this were to happen communities would be cut off.

“It would have a very significant impact on our economic recovery as a city region, and on our plans to be greener and fairer.

“Public transport would be less reliable and appealing for those with a choice in how they travel and devastating for those who rely on it – which let us not forget includes a third of the residents in Greater Manchester – who do not have access to a car.

Buses in Piccadily in Manchester. Photo: David Dixon

“We are grateful for the support government has so far provided, which has enabled operators to maintain a core level of service to keep people connected with health services, jobs and education.

“As the Transport Committee, we have been working for many years to build up and support local public transport services but there is significant risk that much of this hard work will be undone if funding is cut, or possibly removed altogether in just six weeks’ time.

“The government has said it is bought into our transformative transport agenda, but that means nothing if we can’t maintain services at the current level.

“We require around £30m to stabilise the bus market and around £40m for Metrolink for the next financial year – and are urging the government to commit to that funding as soon as possible.”

The transport committee was due to meet on Friday (18 February), but the monthly meeting was cancelled due to the Storm Eunice weather warnings.

What did the Government say?

Responding to the statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We have provided over £1.7bn to keep bus services running across the country throughout the pandemic, and are working closely with operators and local transport authorities to protect services after April.

“The Government has committed to investing £3bn into bus services by 2025, including £1.2bn to improve fares, services and infrastructure, and a further £525m for zero emission buses.”