A major bus company has pledged to work with Liverpool City Region to implement moves to bring services back into public control.
In a landmark move, the region’s combined authority has formally adopted a franchising model that will give it the power to set fares and routes across the six council areas. Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram confirmed the decision in a historic meeting at Mann Island last Friday.
In a statement following the historic vote, Arriva UK has confirmed it wants to continue its “longstanding commitment” to Merseyside and work with Mr Rotheram moving forward.
In embracing the franchise model, Liverpool City Region becomes only the second area outside London to run a publicly operated bus network. It is thought the first service owned by the people could be on the road within three years.
More than 6,000 people had their say on the plans in a wide-ranging public consultation this summer.
Under a franchise system, the combined authority will take control of setting fares and routes in a move to make buses work in the interests of passengers and not for private companies, according to members of the authority.
Last month, neighbouring Greater Manchester’s Bee Network bus fleet rolled onto the roads for the first time with Mayor Andy Burnham taking part in the first journey. During the city region’s 12-week consultation, bus users, operators and stakeholders had their say.
Analysis of the results showed almost 70% of respondents backed the introduction of the franchise model. The combined authority will now be able to coordinate the bus network based on what passengers need and would have the power to reinvest any profit made back into improving services.
The bus operators would be commissioned by the combined authority to run the services, as is currently the case in London and as is being implemented in Greater Manchester. It would also allow the combined authority to integrate buses with the rest of the transport network, such as the new Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby.
Richard Hoare, Arriva UK bus regional commercial director North West and Wales, said, “Arriva welcomes the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s vision for the region’s bus network. We know from our experience in London and across Mainland Europe that franchised operating models can deliver successful, high-performing and integrated public transport networks.
“We are proud of our longstanding commitment to Merseyside and look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Steve Rotheram and his team to achieve their ambitions and create a London-style integrated transport system that’s faster, cheaper and cleaner.”
A three-year transition period will be implemented to allow network improvement measures – such as bus prioritisation infrastructure and the reintroduction of bus lanes in Liverpool – to be introduced before the first franchised services begin in St Helens as soon as 2026 as part of a phased introduction across the wider Liverpool City Region.