It won’t be news to any of you that bus services in Greater Manchester aren’t good enough. Journeys are too expensive, buses are too infrequent and routes keep getting cut. This leaves most of those who don’t need to use the bus, avoiding it and those with no choice paying over the odds for a poor service.
The reason for all of this is actually very simple and it goes back to the Thatcher Government in the 1980s. As part of their ideological drive to sell off anything that wasn’t nailed to the floor (and even some of that) and to “let the market decide”, they deregulated bus services across the country.
But not quite all of the country. London was spared from these reforms, which gives us a useful insight into what might have been in Greater Manchester, had deregulation not been pushed through. London buses are more frequent, cheaper and fully integrated with other methods of public transport across the city. For just £1.50, you can swap buses as many times as needed within 90 minutes, all on the same ticket. Similar services would be an absolute game-changer for Greater Manchester.
Obviously, that could never happen overnight. There is something of a vicious cycle whereby poor bus services mean fewer people taking the bus which leads to even poorer bus services and so on. It’s vital that we break that cycle and build our bus services back up to something that people choose to use rather than use because they have no choice.
For me that means ending this failed model of deregulation once and for all and move towards a new system, which is run for the public good, rather than to maximise private profit at all costs.
There has been a lot of campaigning on this issue, largely led by the fantastic Better Buses for Greater Manchester, and a widespread acknowledgement that what we’ve got at the moment just isn’t working.
9 out of the 10 councils in Greater Manchester are (please forgive the pun) on board, with only Tory Bolton looking to stick with the current broken system, and our Metro Mayor Andy Burnham is due to make an announcement this Thursday, so watch this space! We may finally be heading towards the kind of bus system that we deserve.