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Liverpool to follow Manchester in taking back control of the buses

The Liverpool City Region is set to become only the second area outside of London to have a franchised system since the passing of the Transport Act in 1985, following Mayor Steve Rotheram’s announcement that he will be franchising the region’s buses.

The decision, which marks the biggest shake up to the region’s bus network in almost 40 years, was taken following the recommendation of local authority leaders at a Combined Authority meeting.

Bus services outside of London have been in rapid decline with passenger journeys falling and fares rising at a rate higher than inflation.

Under the new franchise system, private operators will still be contracted to run bus services but the Combined Authority will have greater control over fares, routes and timetables and the ability to reinvest any profit back into the network to improve services for passengers.

The Mayor’s decision follows a major 12-week consultation which revealed that 69% of the public support franchising, and all six of the region’s local authority leaders recommended that a franchised system would provide the best value to the taxpayer.

Under the plans, buses would be able to better integrate with other modes of transport – including the region’s £500m fleet of new, publicly-owned trains – and ticketing would be made simpler and more convenient with the introduction of a tap-and-go system. Daily fare caps would ensure passengers would always pay the cheapest fare across the whole network. 

The first franchised buses are expected to start running in St Helens by late 2026 and a fully franchised system, across the whole of the Liverpool City Region will be achieved by the end of 2028. 

Steve Rotheram, said: ‘Today marks the start of a new era for public transport in our area – we’re taking back control of our buses!

‘Hundreds of thousands of people in our area rely on buses to get about every day, with 82% of all public transport journeys taken by bus. Yet, for far too long, our residents have been forced to contend with a second-class service that places profit before passengers and leaves behind the very people who need it most.

‘Today we have chosen a completely new course for the future of our buses. Under franchising, we will have greater control over fares, tickets and routes to ensure that bus services are run in the best interests of passengers – not shareholders.

‘Whilst it will take a few years to reregulate the whole network, and the change will be transformational – it is not one that will happen overnight. There are several stages that we still need to go through before we can expect to see franchised buses on our roads.

‘By turning back the clock on nearly 40 years of failed deregulation, we’re putting our buses back where they belong: under public control. It is another massive step forward on our journey to building an integrated London-style transport network that will make getting around our region faster, cheaper, greener, simpler and more reliable.’

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