Institute of Transport Administration

Educating Transport Management since 1944


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Bus franchising momentum grows after mayoral election results

10 May 2024

Momentum for further franchising of bus services in England has grown with the election of several Labour mayors at existing and newly created Combined Authorities on 2 May.

Potentially the most significant among those is Richard Parker in the West Midlands. He edged out incumbent Andy Street. Mr Parker’s manifesto says that under his leadership, buses in the conurbation will be returned to public control as “an immediate priority” and that work with a Labour government will see such a change implemented quickly.

Bus franchising momentum grows after local election results

Mr Parker says that existing bus services in the West Midlands are unreliable and that more zero-emission vehicles will be introduced. In a scarcely credible claim, the new mayor adds that public transport in the conurbation at present “is barely 9-5.” He will ensure more services operate as a result.

In the North East, Kim McGuiness has been elected Mayor. She advocates bus reform to the same urgency as Mr Parker and says via her manifesto that delivery of public control of services will “start on day one.” Completion is set for the highly ambitious target of before 2028, or sooner under a Labour government.

Key to Ms McGuinness’s plans for public transport in the North East is the integrated Angel Network, which “will rival that of London or Greater Manchester.” In further claim that stretches credibility, she says that on her watch, the North East will have “the most environmentally friendly buses” of any region in the UK.

While work on public control of bus services in the North East is underway, Ms McGuinness says she will work with local authorities “to support and maximise existing bus routes, making the economic case for subsidising services now rather than waiting until they disappear.”

In the East Midlands, election for the newly created post of Mayor saw Claire Ward returned, and while she takes a more restrained on the future of bus services in the region, franchising is not ruled out.

A plan published by Ms Ward ahead of the contest states that she will “get a grip” of buses among other transport items via work with operators to improve services. “If no progress is made, we will take [bus services] back into public control,” adds Ms Ward.

David Skaith has been elected Mayor of York and North Yorkshire. He says he will deliver “a new transport system” in the region with affordable fares and new bus routes. On 11 April, Mr Skaith backed Labour’s plans for greater public control of bus services, saying that it is “exactly what we need to get buses working right across our region.”

Oliver Coppard retains his position as Mayor of South Yorkshire. He has already pledged to franchise buses there and underlined that policy in his manifesto. In the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen continues as Mayor. He has nothing obvious to say about any plans for buses.

Of other mayoral elections, Tracy Brabin, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram each retained their positions in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region, respectively. Bus franchising delivery is either underway or agreed in those regions.