Manchester's postcode lottery.

Why are bad buses especially impacting some of us? How will bus franchising benefit our local economy?

Research by the Joseph Rowntree foundation found that people in low paid neighbourhoods across Greater Manchester specifically say that transport currently constrains them from, rather than helps them in getting jobs. 37% of Greater Manchester’s job seekers said that lack of access to transport is a key barrier to getting work. This is in one of the UK’s biggest and best cities.

People from the poorest fifth of households catch nearly 10 times as many buses as trains. For lots of us, without a bus we’re stuck. In Manchester, many reported that cars and trains are simply out the question in terms of price. However, with buses their last option, they highlighted how expensive fares and unreliable services prevent them from taking up positions, and how the un-joined network can mean commutes of over three hours a day (over Jobcentre Plus’ limit for reasonable travel).

“I’ve been offered a job and it was on the other side of Manchester and I did the bus journey to see how long it would take and it was too inadequate … it was the opposite side of Manchester, like hour and a half, two hours on a bus, it wasn’t just one bus, it was two or three.”

Female aged 35, Harpurhey, Manchester.

Our bus network is not serving us. Instead people are being locked out of opportunities for work. With franchising, a fully integrated and planned network across Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities, could connect us to our work places, our loved ones and the services we need at affordable fares, as you see in London.

 Ed Ferrari, Director of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University said:

"Buses are the backbone of local public transport in Britain and the key to employment and training opportunities for many. But problems with high fares, poor coordination between different providers and services, and lack of reliability seriously hamper the ability of low-income groups to commute to more distant jobs."

Right now, we have a postcode lottery, with richer areas often getting the better routes and cheaper fares that bus companies provide conversely, at least during commuter hours. Public money is used wherever it can, to plug gaps where there is need, however this is an inefficient use of public money. Better Buses for Greater Manchester found that on average £18 million a year is going to shareholder pay outs in the North West region alone.

Re-regulating our bus network, or franchising as it’s known, would mean that Greater Manchester could have publicly controlled buses which connect communities to where they need to be.

Photo credit to Jamie-Max Calderwell