Debbie Abrahams' response to GMCA's Bus Consultation
As part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s consultation on how buses in Greater Manchester should be run in the future and whether a proposed franchising scheme should be introduced, I submitted a formal response, which is as follows:
I am writing in response to the consultation on how buses should be run in Greater Manchester and whether a proposed franchising scheme should be introduced. It is clear that we need a change in the way our buses are run. The current system does not work for passengers and has done very little to increase the usage of public transport. Many Oldham and Saddleworth residents have told me fares are too high (in particular single tickets), routes don’t meet their needs and on too many occasions are late or do not turn up without any explanation as to why. This is leading to real world consequences, making people late for work, school, doctor and hospital appointments. It’s simply not good enough and my constituents deserve better. It’s time we put them first, something that has been lacking under the current de-regulated system.
In Autumn last year numerous constituents contacted me, concerned about changes to the First Bus timetable in Oldham East and Saddleworth. As a result of these changes many parts of my constituency, communities suffered significant cuts to vital services. The cut to the 81 service meant a large area of Derker was left without a First bus service during the day, losing a vital link to Oldham and beyond. Residents now have to catch either the 410 or 411 service operated by Manchester Community Transport, which is only an hourly service. Thankfully local Councillors secured a change to the route ensuring the 410 & 411 served top Derker which will only be served by the 81 in the early morning and late evening. However this happens too many times and there is little accountability for these major losses.
The frequency of the 180 service was cut in half leaving residents in Greenfield with an hourly service. This cut service no longer operates on Sundays or Bank holidays and will terminate at Oldham meaning residents lose a bus link to Manchester. The Principal of Oldham Sixth Form College wrote to me with his concerns stating the changes “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on attendance, punctuality, engagement and achievement.”
Constituents living in Sholver no longer have a direct route to Manchester during the day, the 83 will only serve Sholver after 18:30. The replacement bus for the Oldham to Sholver portion of the route, the 82, is less frequent. The replacement for the 81A, the 80, no longer allow residents from Holts direct access to Manchester either. I am also disappointed that lesser served parts of my constituency, such as Diggle which only has an hourly service, has not seen an increase in the frequency of their services. These cuts to services come at a time when we should be encouraging more people to travel by bus to cut down on carbon emissions and protect our planet. Under the current system there is a lack of accountability as services are cuts and local leaders are able to do very little to halt these changes.
Therefore I support the option to pursue the franchising option which would allow the bus network to be controlled in Greater Manchester as many buses are in other major cities around the world including London. We need to address this key regional imbalance and ensure routes, timetables, tickets and standards are set by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and not individual bus companies who cream off the profitable routes and allow too many communities to languish without a functioning bus route. A de-regulated system has not created competition instead it has allowed private monopolies to be created with 3 or 4 companies retaining the largest number of operations across Greater Manchester. There is also an urgent need to reform the current complex and expensive ticket system and ensure we have an integrated public transport system, something which I know is a key priority for the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.
The strategic case for change is now clear. I support the proposals as set out by the GMCA.
Debbie Abrahams MP
Oldham East and Saddleworth