Return of Locally Controlled Bus Services: Greater Manchester Reverses Deregulation After 37 Years.

Regional mayor Andy Burnham heralds a new era of affordable fares and improved services.

In a historic development, Greater Manchester has welcomed back locally controlled bus services, marking the first reversal of deregulation in England since 1985. The introduction of the Bee Network is expected to usher in an era of more affordable fares and enhanced services, with a rollout across the entire region scheduled for completion by 2025.

The reinstatement of locally controlled bus services has been a top priority for regional mayor Andy Burnham since his election in 2017. Burnham firmly believes that the previous era of bus deregulation failed to deliver for the people of Greater Manchester, stating that it also fell short in “many other things as well.”

The consequences of deregulation were stark, with the number of bus journeys in Greater Manchester plummeting from 355 million in the deregulation era to 182 million in 2019. In stark contrast, London, where bus services remained under regulation, witnessed a doubling of the number of bus journeys over the same period.

To improve affordability and accessibility, significant measures have been introduced. In 2022, single bus fares were capped at £2 for adults and £1 for children. Furthermore, a daily cap of £5 for unlimited bus travel and a weekly limit of £21.20 were established. These measures aimed to make bus travel more economical for residents.

The transformation extends to the fleet as well, with approximately 50 new yellow electric buses, crafted by Scottish bus builders Alexander Dennis, set to serve in Bolton, Wigan, Salford, Bury, and other parts of Greater Manchester. The full rollout across the region is on track for completion by 2025.

For Andy Burnham, the revival of locally controlled buses signifies a pivotal moment in English devolution. It offers commuters a “much greater say” in the punctuality, reliability, and resolution of complaints, directly influencing what operators receive in return.

The return of locally controlled bus services to Greater Manchester after 37 years of deregulation represents a significant turning point for the region. The move is poised to bring about more budget-friendly fares and improved services, as the comprehensive Bee Network takes shape across Greater Manchester.





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