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Andy Burnham blasts bus companies for 'putting profits before what the public voted for' following landmark court win

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 10/03/2022 Damon Wilkinson

Andy Burnham has hit out at the bus firms who fought a legal battle to try prevent Greater Manchester's buses being brought back under public control.

Speaking on his BBC Radio Manchester phone-in on Thursday, the Mayor said Stagecoach and Rotala were trying to 'protect their own profits'

He said: "Obviously we've been a bit delayed, frustrated, because there was a big mandate for this and two bus companies, basically just protecting their own profits in my view, delaying what the people here had voted for, what parliament had given us the power to do.

"They lost on all counts yesterday and it's a very big vindication of Transport for Greater Manchester and my team at the Combined Authority, particularly my legal team."

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The two firms brought a judicial review into Burnham's bid to move to a franchising system where operators have to bid to run services under public control, claiming it was 'irrational' and 'unlawful'. But on Wednesday at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Julian Knowles ruled that the mayor's decision and the process followed were lawful.

Speaking on the phone-in Mr Burnham said the ruling was 'the right result for Greater Manchester'.

He added: "No longer will the bus companies say we'll decide what we charge, we'll decide where we go, we'll decide what buses are on the road. No more.

The franchise will be introduced in Bolton and Wigan first in January 2023 © Mark Waugh Manchester Press Photography Ltd The franchise will be introduced in Bolton and Wigan first in January 2023

Video: Drivers still incurring bus lane fines (Birmingham Mail)

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"We're going to do that from next year. We'll decide the fares, we'll decide where the buses go. We'll make sure hospitals are better served, we'll make sure no estates can just be cut off. As in London I think, in time, here, everyone will use the bus. It won't just be people who can't afford a car. In London, everyone uses the bus and I want a Greater Manchester where everyone feels they can use the bus."

Asked how the move will benefit the public Mr Burnham replied: "Cheaper travel, straight forward. The price of bus travel is coming down."

The franchise will be introduced in Bolton and Wigan first in January 2023, before being rolled out across the remaining boroughs from January 2025. It is a key part of the Bee Network, which will connect buses, trams and bikes, scheduled to be running by 2024.

Let us know your thoughts on the buses announcement in the comments section.

The proposals are part of a bid to the government’s 'Bus Services Improvement Plan' fund, with calculations showing the need for a rising government subsidy of between £10m and £60m by 2030. An increase in council tax will also be needed to fund the plans.

In a statement yesterday Stagecoach said it believed the Greater Manchester Combined Authority's process had 'failed to meet the standards on proper evidence and analysis required by law'.

A spokesman added: "We are disappointed at the decision of the Court. This case was never about the principle of mayoral combined authorities being able to decide to introduce bus franchising.

"We absolutely respect that democratic right. However, the Bus Services Act 2017 makes very clear that authorities must meet specified standards on proper evidence and analysis in pursuing this process. It was our view that the process followed by Greater Manchester Combined Authority in assessing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its bus franchising plans did not meet those legal requirements."

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