“I hope it signals the start of a public transport revolution across the whole of England,” says Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.
Greater Manchester has retaken control of its buses after almost 40 years of deregulation.
As bus services were deregulated across the UK in 1986 – except in London where services remained under local control – the move represents the biggest change to public transport in a generation.
The privatisation of Britain’s bus sector was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government. At the time, the government predicted that the move would lead to “lower fares, new services, and more passengers,” while removing “any potential liability on the taxpayer.”
Instead, bus use has been in decline ever since, and today, much of the sector is in crisis, with taxpayers subsidising corporate profits. In Greater Manchester, the number of passengers using buses has fallen from 355m in 1986/87, to just over 182m at the end of 2019, just before Covid.
From September 24, a fleet of 50 zero-emission Bee Network-branded buses (ZEBs) will be in service. The buses offer a range of improved features for passengers, including two bays for wheelchair users, anti-slip flooring, audio and visual announcement systems, and hearing induction loops. Over the next two years, existing buses in Greater Manchester will be gradually upgraded to Bee Network buses.
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