It is important to look for ways to improve all services, even those in the most difficult of areas, and buses play a significant part in that.
As a Greater Manchester MP, I look at the Bill in the context of the ongoing devolution of powers to the area and the commitment to economic growth fuelled by the northern powerhouse. I do not underestimate the importance of an effective public transport network that supports jobs and underpins our local communities. Bus services are a critical part of our transport network, accounting for almost 80% of public transport journeys across Greater Manchester. More frequent and better-quality services are essential for Greater Manchester’s growth and would help local residents to contribute to and benefit from future economic prosperity.
Franchising presents an opportunity to introduce simple and integrated smart ticketing across Greater Manchester. It could also alleviate some of the problems in the current system of multiple providers. Some 22 different bus operators provide services across Greater Manchester. Each has its own fares and branding, which gives rise to inconsistency. Compare that with the single, unified brand that operates successfully across London. A change to the current system will allow seamless travel through joint-ticketing and a more stable service. It could also end injustices such as passengers having to pay a 10% premium for a ticket that can be used across different operators.
Furthermore, the Bill is an opportunity to improve disability access and, importantly, disability training, so that drivers know the importance of where to pull into at bus stops and how to provide the best service for people with disabilities. The Bill will encourage a joined-up approach between local authorities, and it is important that disability access issues are properly considered, whether through audio-visual announcements or just by giving people with disabilities the time and space to access services.