Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plans to reform bus services in the Liverpool City Region could be about to take an important next step in the coming weeks.
In a landmark move, Mayor Rotheram and the Combined Authority voted unanimously last year to confirm franchising as the region’s preferred future model for running the bus network and services, one of only two places in the country to do so.
Now local leaders will be asked to move forward with the next stage of the process, a formal consultation asking local residents, businesses, trade unions and stakeholders for their feedback on potential plans to bring bus services back into public control.
At next Friday’s Combined Authority meeting a new report containing an assessment of bus franchising, with an independent audit and a recommendation to begin consultation on a proposed franchising scheme will be considered.
Mayor Steve Rotheram has committed to using the powers available to elected mayors through devolution to reform the region’s buses. This is a key part of his wider ambition to build a London-style transport system that puts the public back at the heart of public transport, making getting about quicker, cheaper, greener and more reliable.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said, “Hundreds of thousands of people in our area rely on buses to get about every day. For many, they are a vital lifeline that connects them to the outside world, to new opportunities, and to each other.
“Yet, for far too long, people in our communities have been forced to contend with a second-class bus service that’s too confusing, too unreliable, and too expensive. I want this to become a thing of the past – because we simply can no longer afford to accept a public transport service that leaves behind the very people who need it most.
“Using the powers that devolution has given to us, I want to build a London-style integrated transport system in Liverpool City Region that’s faster, cheaper, cleaner and more reliable – and that starts by taking back control of our buses to give us greater control over fares, routes and timetables.
“As we move a step closer to making that ambition a reality, I want our residents to have their say on our plans. Working together, I want to put the ‘public’ back into public transport that puts passengers before profit.”
More than 80% of public transport journeys – over 400,000 a day – are taken by bus in the region, providing many people with a vital lifeline that connects them with work and opportunity as well as friends and family.
Bus franchising would give the Combined Authority control over setting fares and routes, allowing the services to be operated in the interests of local bus users with bus companies operating them under a contract.
Under the plans, there would be the opportunity for buses to better integrate with other modes of transport – like the region’s £500m fleet of new, publicly-owned trains fitted with battery technology – and ticketing would be made simpler and more convenient with the introduction of a tap-and-go system with daily fare caps that will mean passengers always pay the cheapest fare across the whole network.
If agreed at next Friday’s meeting, the CA will move forward and plan a public consultation. A report into the findings will then be produced before a decision is made as to whether or not the organisation should proceed with a franchising scheme. If the reform agenda progresses, the first franchised routes in St Helens could be in operation as early as 2026.