One month after bus franchising began, Transport for Greater Manchester is reporting passenger growth, increased revenue and improved punctuality

Andy Burnham: ‘I have no doubt the Bee Network will be transformational’

A month on from the launch of the Bee Network, Transport for Greater Manchester has revealed that the newly franchised bus services are operating at a level at least the same or better than deregulated services – and passenger numbers are up 8%.

On September 24, Greater Manchester became the first area to start taking control of bus services since deregulation in 1986. The transition – literally overnight – in Bolton, Wigan and parts of Salford and Bury, saw new ticket machines and software installed on hundreds of buses, as well as the transfer of around 1,000 drivers. It also ushered in earlier and later, more frequent and better integrated bus services, cheaper multi-modal fares and 50 new electric buses.

Given the scale of change, the first few days brought operational challenges as the new arrangements bedded in, but TfGM has worked closely with the operators to resolve issues.

Patronage has grown steadily, with the number of passengers being carried on Bee Network buses up by 8% each weekday.

Money generated from fares is also above forecast by between 10% and 15%. Bus punctuality has risen from 70.7% to 74.4%.

There are already so many benefits to franchising

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “There are already so many benefits to franchising. We brought in the £2 cap; we have earlier, later and more frequent bus services; the quality of our buses has improved; they are now integrated through multi-modal, cheaper ticketing with our Metrolink tram system; and passengers have a voice that will be listened to.”

“We didn’t expect everything to be perfect, but everyone involved has rolled up their sleeves and has been working hard to make things better.


Burnham continued: “Pleasingly, we have already seen an increase in passenger numbers on franchised services too.

“I’m pleased to say we are seeing improvements day-by-day; performance and reliability is up with [Leigh-Manchester] busway services operating at a higher-level year on year, and I’m confident this will soon be mirrored across other services.

This is just the start, and there is much more to come and much to be excited about

“This is just the start, and there is much more to come and much to be excited about. I have no doubt the Bee Network will be transformational for everyone living, working and visiting Greater Manchester.”

Greater Manchester is now responsible for 188 bus routes, equating to around 20% of the overall Greater Manchester bus network. The next phase of franchising will see buses in Oldham, Rochdale, and parts of Bury, Salford and north Manchester come under local control on March 24, 2024, with the remainder of Greater Manchester bus services joining the Bee Network in January 2025.

Further improvements continue to be made to the Bee Network App including additional travel information and the addition of a Metrolink Zonal Map. Apple and Google Pay functions will be coming online in November, with a journey planning feature being added in the new year.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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