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Bus Reforms were part of the Agenda for leaders across the City-region

Friday, June 28th, 2019 6:51pm

By James Illingworth - Local Democracy Reporter

A proposed overhaul of the city-region’s transport network plus a planning framework that could deliver thousands of affordable homes were among the topics up for discussion at the latest meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Here is a round-up of what was decided at Friday’s meeting in Rochdale.

Buses

The mayor and transport bosses unveiled their plans for ‘Our Network’ earlier this week, a vision aiming for a ‘London-style’ integrated system. 

It included an intention for the city-region to become the first to use new powers to re-regulate bus services,  with more local control for timetables, ticket costs and vehicle standards.

The move towards franchising was, unsurprisingly, not very popular with bus operators who favour a partnership working arrangement, with some saying the mayor had failed to show how much it would cost the taxpayer.

And one bus chief also suggested this week operators would be prepared to challenge any such move through the courts.

Council bosses on Friday voted in favour of appointing an independent auditor for the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) franchising preferred plan, adhering to the strict legal process required under the Bus Services Act.

If it passes that stage, the reforms could go out to consultation later this year.

Our Pass

A main sponsor for Mr Burnham’s flagship youth bus pass scheme is set to be announced on Monday, the meeting was told.

A £9.3m budget to deliver the ‘Our Pass’ two-year pilot was approved by council leaders in March, but the figure has risen by around £1m. 

This includes operating costs for developing a new website, marketing, promotion and administration. 

The mayor said an underspend on a pot of cash from central government that can be used to subsidise bus routes will be used to bolster the budget. 

Although it was also revealed that those applying for the pass will be charged £10 to cover administration costs.

Mr Burnham said: “I believe this pass will be life changing for a lot of young people across Greater Manchester.”

Cycling and walking

Extra walking and cycling routes across the city-region were signed off by the authority leaders – including huge investment in Stockport, Salford and Wigan.

The latest links – a fifth group of schemes for the vast ‘beeline’ network – are funded in part by a £160m mayoral fund along with cash from individual councils and government grants.

Further submissions are being sought for a sixth group later in the year, the mayor said. 

The 13 schemes  approved in principle on Friday are spread across Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan. 

A total of 42 schemes have previously been agreed during the last 12 months.

Mr Burnham: “This is not just about delivering safe, segregated cycling provision; it is about enhancing the environment for pedestrians.

“This is about streets for all, so that everyone has the opportunity to get out and about in their community however they choose to do so.”

Housing strategy

GM’s housing strategy, a major framework that includes the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes by 2037, was unveiled earlier in June. 

Council bosses approved the plans on Friday with Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett receiving praise from colleagues for being the driving force behind the initiative. 

It aims to tackle the city-region’s housing crisis and provide ‘safe, decent and affordable housing for all’.

Mayor Dennett had previously said he was looking forward to ‘rolling his sleeves up and getting stuck in’ to implement the strategy. 

He reiterated the intention to develop a GM-specific definition of ‘affordable’, in terms of housing costs, and said the plans can be used as a lobbying tool to central government to get national reforms.

“The (housing) environment in which we find ourselves in is certainly challenging, what I would say is we have a vision, we have a strategy that has been co-produced and has people at the heart of it and government now needs to listen and work with us on what is an ambitious strategy for GM.” 

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