Government funding boosts city-region’s transformational transport vision

  • Greater Manchester to get £1.07bn from City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) to help deliver Bee Network
  • £438m worth of investment to improve buses, routes and services – including 50 new zero emission buses for Bolton and Wigan when first tranche of franchising starts on 17 September 2023
  • Almost £100m to support lower bus fares and more frequent services
  • However, lack of clarity on recovery funding and revenue shortfall means full ambition for buses may not be realised straight away

The Government has today confirmed a package of capital and revenue funding, paving the way for the Bee Network: a transformational, London-style transport system for Greater Manchester. 

The CRSTS funding allocation of £1.07bn was initially announced ahead of last year’s autumn Comprehensive Spending Review. It will be supported by £170m in local contributions, meaning around £1.2bn worth of investment in local roads, bus, train and tram services over the next five years, with new quality bus corridors, cycling and walking routes and improved transport infrastructure and connectivity for towns and high streets in the region.

In a boost to the city-region’s plans to improve air quality, the funding will also support a move to a fully electrified bus fleet, with 50 new zero emission buses expected to serve Bolton and Wigan when the first phase of bus franchising is introduced on 17 September 2023.

Cheaper fares will also be rolled out alongside bus franchising, with adult and children single journey fares capped at £2 and £1 respectively.

As part of today’s announcement, it was confirmed that Greater Manchester would receive £94.8m from the government’s Bus Back Better strategy – around half of the original bid submission.

It was also confirmed that Metrolink would receive £20.5m recovery funding to support the continued operation of services for the next six months. A funding allocation for the city-region’s bus operators is yet to be confirmed.

With around £70m needed to keep tram and bus services operating at the current level throughout this financial year and with a stable and reliable public transport network being central to the delivery of the Bee Network, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has called for more certainty over recovery funding. 

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, said: “Today’s announcements are a major vote of confidence in Greater Manchester’s plans for a London-style public transport system.

“This funding will allow us to bring forward an improved bus service, starting next autumn in Wigan and Bolton – with new buses, lower fares and more frequent services.

“However, as welcome as today’s announcement is, the revenue funding is about half of what we bid for, and we still don’t know how much recovery funding bus operators will get to keep services running.

“We have been working closely with government on a funding model that will enable us to stabilise, rebuild and ultimately transform public transport, and can only deliver the Bee Network if we have a sound foundation to build upon.

“Without a longer-term recovery settlement, the threat of cuts to services still looms large. This is the final piece of the puzzle that will really enable us to get on and deliver the Bee Network and this is the case I will make to government as we continue to work together to unlock Greater Manchester’s full potential.”

Two new commissioners have been brought in to support and drive forward the delivery of the Bee Network.

Dame Sarah Storey takes up the role of Active Travel Commissioner, having worked most recently in a similar role in South Yorkshire, where she led the transformation of the region’s cycling and walking network.

Dame Sarah will start her work in May and will work alongside the newly appointed Transport Commissioner Vernon Everitt, a former Transport for London (TfL) Managing Director of Customers, Communication and Technology.

Today’s announcement comes just days after Greater Manchester secured £35.8million to enhance its green bus fleet with the introduction of 170 zero emission buses – equal to 10 per cent of the whole bus fleet in Greater Manchester – running from Stockport by 2024.  

Article Published: 04/04/2022 18:48 PM