Burnham's London-style network going nowhere fast


Transport bosses have announced a pilot of a contactless payment system for rail journeys in Manchester city region but passengers will have to wait until the end of the decade for the promised ‘London-style’ regional fare capping system.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority announced that combined bus and Metrolink tram tickets will be launched in September alongside the first phase of bus franchising, with savings of up to 20% on individual tickets.

It said its transport arm, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), will be working towards a touch in/touch out contactless system that will cap travel across bus and tram, to be launched in early 2025 in line with the final phase of bus franchising.

Andy Burnham (fourth from left) with his new friends at Stagecoach

In addition, mayor Andy Burnham confirmed the proposed route for the contactless pilot on rail in Greater Manchester, ‘subject to final business case approval and funding’. No date was given for the start of the pilot.

Under the pilot, which is part of the city-region’s devolution deal, TfGM has been working with Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to develop the pilot on services between Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria, and Glossop and Manchester Piccadilly.

The combined authority said that TfGM, DfT and GBRTT will then work together to use the pilot to support the wider ambition of full multi-modal integration into Manchester’s ‘Bee Network’ across bus, Metrolink, rail and cycle hire, including fares simplification and capping, by 2030.

Franchising in Greater Manchester is being delivered in three phases, starting in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Salford and Bury, with services to be operated by Go North West and Diamond from 24 September.

The second phase will take place in Rochdale, Oldham, Bury and parts of Manchester, Salford and Tameside from March next year, with Stagecoach, First and Diamond now announced as the operators appointed to run these services.

Mr Burnham, said: ‘We are working to deliver a network for our millions of residents and visitors that is every bit as good as the one Londoners have – one that has frequent, reliable services and low fares – and it starts by bringing buses back under local control in three months’ time.

‘With the potential to travel across the whole of Greater Manchester by bus for just £5 – or as little as £7.80 with the entire tram network included too, the lower fares represent great value for money, particularly compared to the cost of travelling by car.'

He added: ‘I would also like to put on record my thanks to rail minister Huw Merriman for his commitment to working with us to pilot a new way to pay on rail that will ultimately enable us to integrate certain key rail services in Greater Manchester into the Bee Network.’

Lee Wasnidge, managing director of Stagecoach Manchester, said: ‘We are extremely proud to have been chosen for these contracts and are looking forward to providing exceptional bus services to customers across North Manchester.’

Last year, national transport giant Stagecoach failed in a court bid to block bus franchising in the city region.

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