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How is Manchester Building a Sustainable Future for Public Transport?

5 min

Image Credit: Greater Manchester Combined Authority
It has been announced that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has placed a multi-million-pound order for 50 new double-deck electric buses with manufacturer Alexander Dennis. Quadrant Transport investigates how this will help Greater Manchester build a sustainable future for public transport.

Due to operate across Greater Manchester in Wigan and Bolton from September 2023, the electric buses will be the first to use the black and yellow branding of the new Bee Network.

The Bee Network is the region’s ambition for a fully integrated London-style transport system which comprises buses, trams, walking, cycling and eventually trains.

Building A Network That Has The Future In Mind Is The Aim

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has confirmed the receipt of 33 bids from operators vying to run the first locally controlled bus services in 36 years. These bids have come from nine different operators and relate to 11 different franchises.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “The countdown to bringing buses back under local control for the first time in 36 years is well and truly on.”

With the order placed for our first 50 new electric buses and strong interest from operators who want to run the first franchised services a year from now, the Bee Network is gathering real momentum.

He continued: “We’ve already seen a positive response to our call for people to get back on board, helped by the successful introduction of cheaper bus fares across Greater Manchester to help residents cope with the cost-of-living crisis and I’m pleased to announce that we have commenced engagement with operators about the potential to cap weekly bus tickets from early next year.

“I am also delighted to unveil a sneak peek of what the Bee Network is going to look like. We’re building on Manchester’s symbolic bee and Metrolink colours – both of which are synonymous with our city-region – to deliver something modern and iconic that reflects the first-class transport network it will become.

“Our vision for the Bee Network is bold and our case compelling; but is nothing more than our people deserve. In Greater Manchester we are leading the way when it comes to improving intra-city transport and connectivity between our villages, towns and cities.

“The previous government bought into what we are trying to do, and I underlined the importance of this partnership approach continuing during my meeting with the new Transport Secretary yesterday.”

By working together, we will realise our ambitions and deliver a network that will transform how people get around our city region – not just in the years ahead but for future generations.

Ensuring That People Feel Safe Travelling Via Public Transport Is Essential

Bus franchising will be rolled out in phases, starting in Bolton and Wigan as well as parts of Salford and West Manchester on 17 September 2023, followed by Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and parts of North Manchester from the end of March 2024.

Stockport, Trafford, Tameside and South Manchester as well as the remaining parts of Salford will see the rollout from 5 January 2025.

Alongside the better infrastructure and services, GMCA has said that ensuring that people feel safe to travel on public transport and to use cycling and walking routes is equally crucial in delivering the Bee Network and critical to the future of the city-region.

That is why the TravelSafe Partnership (TSP) has agreed that it will become, in effect, an ‘11th district’ of Greater Manchester, with significant resources committed to current and future enforcement, engagement and education activity.

With its own dedicated policing unit and supported by transport staff, it will also now feature as part of Operation Avro – Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) force-wide initiative which runs monthly to tackle criminal activity.

TfGM Has Launched Its Biggest Campaign To Encourage Active Travel

Currently, around 60 per cent of trips are made by car and 40 per cent through more sustainable travel, such as public transport, cycling, and walking.

To support Greater Manchester’s ambition to make the split 50/50 by 2040 and with public transport use still some way below pre-pandemic levels, TfGM has launched its biggest ever campaign to get more people back on board their local bus and tram service or consider a move to active travel.

Funded by the UK Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS), around 300 more electric buses are set to be delivered from 2024 to 2027.

A further 170 electric buses, funded by the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Buses Regional Area (ZEBRA) scheme, will run in Stockport from 2024. The move is said to singlehandedly reduce carbon emissions by 1.1 million tonnes.

By 2040, TfGM Want Half Of All Journeys To Be Sustainable

Councillor Andrew Western, Chair of Greater Manchester Transport Committee (GMTC) and clean air lead for the city-region, said: “The transformational Bee Network will be integrated and accessible, easy to understand and offer great value with capped daily fares and tickets.

“Not only will this be a significant step in improving bus services for passengers in Greater Manchester, with cleaner vehicles and better cycling and walking infrastructure it will accelerate our ambition to deliver a sustainable public transport system and become carbon neutral by 2038.”

By 2040 we want half of all journeys to be sustainable, and the Bee Network will be the game-changer we need to get thousands more people out of their car, while also helping us make this city-region a greener and healthier place.

To ensure that transport links are maintained as Greater Manchester works towards reforming bus services and delivering the Bee Network, TfGM recently confirmed that contracts have been awarded to save more than 60 bus routes earmarked for withdrawal, a reduction in frequency or route change.

Without the intervention, it has been revealed that some communities would have been left with much reduced and in some cases a complete lack of bus services. It would have impacted their ability to reach a range of critical services, including employment and education opportunities, and to family and friends.