Stagecoach slams Burnham bus franchising go-ahead

Perth-based transport company Stagecoach group said on Thursday it was “disappointed and surprised” that Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham chose “to push ahead” with bus franchising proposals “and not wait a short time for the outcome of the judicial review process before making any final decisions.”

Stagecoach said it believes Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s consultation process “has failed to meet the standards on proper process, evidence and analysis required by law.”

It said the planned franchising scheme in Greater Manchester “would incur £135m of transition costs that would not deliver any new buses or new services and, under GMCA plans, would see above-inflation fares increases for customers.”

Stagecoach said a better approach “in line with the government’s bus strategy” would be to work together and “focus precious taxpayer funding on practical improvements” for customers and local communities.

Stagecoach said in a stock exchange statement: “Stagecoach Group plc notes the decision by the Mayor of Greater Manchester today (25 March 2021) to proceed with plans for a bus franchising scheme in the region.

“Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) undertook a public consultation in December 2020 and January 2021 after re-evaluating its previously announced franchising plans in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Earlier this week, GMCA recommended by a majority that the Mayor should proceed with the scheme.

“The proposed scheme would be introduced in three phases in January 2023, January 2024 and January 2025.

“The majority of Stagecoach Manchester operations are in the final phase area.

“Stagecoach believes that GMCA’s consultation process has failed to meet the standards on proper process, evidence and analysis required by law.

“In February 2021, Stagecoach submitted an application for a judicial review on that basis and that application is now scheduled to be considered by the court on 27 and 28 May 2021.

“We are disappointed and surprised that the Mayor has chosen to push ahead with these proposals and not wait a short time for the outcome of the judicial review process before making any final decisions.

“The UK Government’s recently announced National Bus Strategy for England has outlined a routemap and funding for regions across England to secure the immediate future of local bus networks.

“The strategy also encourages bus operators and authorities to work together to plan a package of improvements for customers and local communities.

“The planned franchising scheme in Greater Manchester would incur £135m of transition costs that would not deliver any new buses or new services and, under GMCA plans, would see above-inflation fares increases for customers.

“We believe a better approach in line with the government’s bus strategy would be to work together and focus precious taxpayer funding on practical improvements for customers and local communities.

“While we await the decision of the court, we remain ready to work collaboratively with the Mayor and the Combined Authority to get through the pandemic and ensure the region has a sustainable, high quality bus network for the long term.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.