Steve Rotheram says Liverpool’s year-long ‘Big Bus Debate’ has influenced his thinking on franchising and ‘doing nothing is simply not an option’

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Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool City Region, says that he now considers a London-style franchised bus service as the “leading option” for the future of the city region’s bus network.

Combined authority papers, published this week recommend that bus franchising is supported, amongst other options, for the future of the city region’s bus network. It follows the completion of a detailed and independently audited assessment of the options.

The recommendation is based on two years of intensive work, including a year-long ‘Big Bus Debate’, in which local people shared their current experiences of bus travel and what they’d like to see in the future.

Rotheram said that communities across the Liverpool City Region relied on buses to get them to work, education and training, but too often he had heard of examples where the current deregulated system had
let them down.

He continued: “People have told me through our Big Bus Debate, that buses don’t run at the times they need them, especially early in the morning, late at night and at weekends, and that too many people find the current system to be confusing, unreliable and expensive. This has to change.

I am determined to deliver a London-style integrated transport system for the Liverpool City Region

“I am determined to deliver a London-style integrated transport system for the Liverpool City Region. There are a number of ways we can achieve that through the powers in the Bus Services Act, but I am clear that whichever model we choose the outcome must be the same: a bus service that is simple, punctual, reliable and affordable. A system that is designed around what we know our communities and our local economy need, provides people with a genuine quality alternative to the car and helps to tackle the climate emergency.”

Rotheram added that doing nothing was simply not an option for him and this was why he will ask the combined authority to support the completion of the work required to fully assess the emerging option of bus franchising against the alternatives.

Should the combined authority approve the recommendations, officers from Merseytravel, the combined authority’s transport and infrastructure executive, will complete a detailed and independently audited assessment of bus franchising, alongside continuing existing partnerships and an Enhanced Partnership model using those powers from the Bus Services Act. It is planned that the public and other statutory consultees would be consulted later this year.

This work will identify the potential costs of bus franchising, however the combined authority claims that it anticipates that significant investment will be required either to maintain or improve services no matter what model is chosen.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport

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