Better buses: Franchising buses will cost the taxpayer, says operator

Franchising isn’t the magic answer to problems with buses, says the boss of one of the region’s leading operators.

Monday, 23rd September 2019, 3:55 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 4:17 am
Stagecoach bus

Campaigners and councillors have repeatedly called for buses to be franchised and point to London, where taxpayers take the financial risk of the bus network and services are procured through a system of contracts.

But Matt Davies, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, says the capital has a number of problems despite franchising.

“In London, the network is currently £700m a year in deficit, has passenger numbers falling faster than the rest of England and has lower satisfaction rates than many areas around the UK.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Independent research shows that a bus franchising system in Greater Manchester would see close to an extra £70 a year having to be paid by each household in the region through taxes just to replicate the current bus network.

“That’s ultimately a bill to be paid by bus users, car users, cyclists and those who walk. And that is on top of around £20m spent on consultants investigating bus franchising.”

Stagecoach has taken part in a public consultation on buses and has proposed a number of initiatives to improve services.

Mr Davies added: “We believe the approach we have proposed is the quickest and most cost effective way of delivering real improvements for passengers.

“Our proposals see a joint approach by operators, central and local government delivering on our shared responsibilities to create a better solution to maximise the potential of the bus as a solution to the economic, social and environmental challenges facing our country.”

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has repeatedly warned about the cost of franchising.

He said: “The 2017 Bus Services Act gives me the authority to make decisions about bus services, including options such as franchising.

“What it doesn’t give me is the money needed to invest in our bus system to improve services.

“Only when the Government takes meaningful action to address our country’s regional imbalances and give our communities their fair share of funding and resources, as well as powers, will we begin to close the gap with London.”