New yellow buses will be taking to the roads in Bolton.
The first bus to form part of Manchester’s Bee Network was unveiled to the public at Bolton Interchange at special launch with the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Leader of Bolton Council, Martyn Cox.
The bright bus could not be missed as leaders celebrated buses being brought back under public control, with Bolton buses being among the first to come under local autority control.
The idea is to create a London style public transport system.
It means that fares, routes and standards will be controlled by local leaders rather than bus companies who will have to bid for contracts to run services.
Operators will also be penalised if buses are regularly late or don’t show up.
Fares will continue to be capped at the same price across Greater Manchester, but could increase above the £2 adult single ticket agreed last September.
And a daily cap on buses, trams and rental bikes will be introduced which means passengers can tap-in and tap-out on all three for a fixed price each day.
Last year, Go North West won the first two main franchises which means the company will be running most routes in Bolton and Wigan later this year, while Diamond won seven smaller contracts to operate some services in this first phase of the Bee Network. Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has also ordered hundreds of new electric buses which will be rolled out in these areas.
Eventually, all buses are set to be of the same standard with audio-visual announcements and a more accessible layout for disabled passengers. But until then, all of the buses will be covered in the yellow Bee Network branding.
The bus is painted in a yellow and black livery, similar to Metrolink trams seen in other boroughs of Greater Manchester.
Bee Network franchised buses will be rolled out across Bolton, Salford, Wigan and parts of Bury on September 17 this year.
Mr Burnham said: “Ater 30 years where the private operators have decided what type of buses they put on the road, what colour they are, what they charge and where they go, we’re going to decide.
“When I say ‘we’, I’m not saying politicians are deciding, in the end it’s the public who will be in control of this system, because they will be able to hold me to account, and others, to make sure they get the bus service that is right for them.”
He added: “If a bus doesn’t turn up in the morning, or it’s late, if you complain then that can affect how the operator gets paid. At the moment, there is literally nothing you can do, there is no comeback.
“In the Bee Network, the average passenger will have much more power over the system. I’ve used that line before, ‘the people will be the bosses of the buses’, which is the way it should be, and the way it should always have been, and we’re now going back to that.”
When asked which accent the audio announcer would have, the Mayor said: “It would be great wouldn’t it, here (Bolton) I think Peter Kay would be a good shout.
“I don’t know whether we could persuade Peter to do that, but certainly it would create some amusement, travelling around Bolton and hearing Peter getting his tongue round some of the Bolton names.”
Leader of Bolton Council, Martyn Cox, said: “I think many of us have believed for a long time that the public transport system in Greater Manchester has been sub-standard.
“If Manchester and Greater Manchester wants to compete with the big cities of Europe, it needs a much better public transport system.
“I think this is just one of the pieces in the jigsaw. We need a more extensive metro system, we need more frequent buses, and I think this will lead to that.”
He continued: “And we can plan a network which is really what this is about, so that you can buy a ticket and get on a bus, you can get on a tram, and eventually regional trains.
“You go to most European cities, that’s how they operate their public transport systems and Greater Manchester is miles behind, but this is a step in the right direction.”
Cllr Cox added: “The fleet that is coming in, we’ve bought 50 electric buses and that will help with our decarbonisation strategy, so they should be clean.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure that the whole of the fleet is electric, and that’s a huge financial commitment.”
The change comes in the week that Greater Manchester signed a deal with the government which will allows local train services to be integrated into the Bee Network. This means that from 2030, passengers will be able to tap-in and tap-out when using some rail services, as well as on buses and trams.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he wishes the change could come quicker, but explained, “everything takes long in transport”. He said: “We’re moving from a very different system – the old system that we’ve got now – which has got multiple buses, colours, you name it, on the streets.
“To move from that to a standardised public transport system can’t be done in a matter of weeks, months, it does take a few years to get there. But we’re really motoring there now.
“There are hundreds of buses on orders for Greater Manchester, many of them zero emission buses. So the change is going to come thick and fast.
“When we get to September, the majority of the buses on the road serving Wigan and Bolton will be either new buses or modern buses that are being rebranded. The majority of the fleet will look to the right standard on day one.”
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