Process to put buses under public control formally begins

GREATER Manchester is taking the next step towards becoming the first city-region outside London to bring buses back under public control – with the launch of a business exercise to recruit bus operators to run services in Bolton and Wigan.

The landmark decision to change to the way bus services operate was made by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham earlier this year and represents the biggest shake-up to the public transport network in Greater Manchester for more than 30 years.

The Bee Network will deliver seamless end-to-end journeys uniting buses, trams and Bee Network hire bikes by 2024. It will make public transport more accessible, affordable and easy to use, with a daily fare cap and a single multi-modal ticket.

Franchised bus services are a critical element of the Bee Network and will enable better joined-up planning between buses and trams, walking, cycling and eventually heavy rail, so passengers will be able to quickly and easily change between modes.

It will also deliver a ‘one-stop shop’ for travel information and customer support, as well as consistent standards for a high-quality passenger experience across the network. And passengers will also benefit from a transport system that has one unified look and feel which is easy to spot and binds the system together.

Franchising will also support GMCA’s objectives as set out in the Greater Manchester Strategy to become the best place in the world to grow up, get on and grow old. Franchised bus services under local control mean Greater Manchester’s leaders will be able to connect people by public transport to work, home, education, culture and leisure. 

Bus franchising will be rolled out in three phases across Greater Manchester. The first phase – which is scheduled to become operational in summer 2023 – will be delivered in the north west of Greater Manchester. Expressions of interest are now being sought to run services in this area.

The procurement process will be run in line with Greater Manchester’s Social Value Framework, at the heart of the Social Value Framework are six key objectives:

  • Providing the best employment possible – in recognition of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter making sure there are good jobs and opportunities for local residents
  • Keeping the clean air in Greater Manchester - by supporting delivery of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan
  • Creating the employment and skills opportunities that we need to Build Back Better - opportunities for young people and people looking to retrain and gain new skills e.g. apprenticeships
  • Being part of a strong local community – working with and on behalf of Greater Manchester, taking part in organised volunteering and giving something back 
  • Making your organisation greener – supporting Greater Manchester to become net zero by 2038
  • Develop a local, Greater Manchester-based and resilient supply chain - investing in Greater Manchester based organisations

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Good public transport is essential for any successful city-region, and buses form the backbone of Greater Manchester’s transport network.

“In order to get the best from our bus services, and support not only passengers but also the wider communities they serve, I took the decision to franchise services and bring them back under public control.

“That means Greater Manchester will be the only area outside London to have that level of local control and the passenger benefits are substantial. It means integrated services as part of a joined up network, simpler fares and ticketing, a price cap so no one pays more than they need to, a better customer service offer and a single look for the whole network.     

“The Bee Network will provide access to jobs, education and skills, help us level up communities, cut air pollution and reduce congestion as well as attracting investment to Greater Manchester.

“It will be game changing for Greater Manchester and that is why I am so keen to get the next stage of this procurement process underway and why I have asked TfGM to work with Government to explore options to accelerate the delivery of franchising across Greater Manchester to 2024.

“The people of Greater Manchester deserve better bus services and I look forward to hearing from partners in the bus industry who share our vision of delivering the joined-up transport network we need.”

Once franchising is in place TfGM and GMCA will be responsible for the design of the bus network and will specify the frequency of bus services.

To find out more on franchising and what it means for passengers and for Greater Manchester visit

Article Published: 08/12/2021 17:32 PM