On the 24th of September, the long-awaited Bee Network will launch in Greater Manchester.
Integrating Greater Manchester’s new bus and existing tram services in one place, this system will be nothing short of revolutionary for local residents.
Those of you who know me will appreciate that it takes very little to get me on a rant about the lack of integrated transport in regions across the UK. It just isn’t on that in London, I can tap my Oyster or contactless card on the ticket barriers and seamlessly travel via tube, rail and bus, but when in Greater Manchester I’m faced with a confusing patchwork transport system that also costs a fortune.
The Bee Network will change all that. It’ll drive down prices for passengers and make Greater Manchester easier to get around. You’ll be able to use a single multi-modal ticket which you can use to travel on tram, busses and even hop on a bicycle.
With bus and tram liveries coloured yellow and black, and the Worker Bee emblazoned on all official Bee Network vehicles, the network will also celebrate the proud industrial history of Greater Manchester. The worker bee appears on a number of Greater Manchester coats of arms and in recent years has become the whole city-region’s informal symbol, representing the city’s resilience and work ethic.
Launching this network has been no easy task. The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has faced multiple legal challenges from private bus operators in his efforts to bring local busses back under public control. In last year, the Court of Appeal finally rejected the last challenge against the franchising system, meaning the Bee Network would be buzzing sooner rather than later.
So, on the 24th of September, the first fleet of electric busses will be rolled out across Bolton, Wigan and parts of Bury and Salford. By March of next year, Oldham and Rochdale will get in on the act, and by January 2025 the whole of Greater Manchester will have access to the Bee Network.
It’s been a long process, but the network is a brilliant example of what hard-working local politicians can do if given the chance. I hope that in generations to come, we’ll be able to look at the Bee Network in the same way Londoners look at the Tube system and wonder how on earth we got around before it.