London is not a panacea

first_imgWhile local authorities are facing bus subsidy cuts, Manchester is poised to spend a massive £11.5m on working up a business case for franchisingLast week I was highly complimentary about Nusrat Ghani, the new buses minister, based on feedback from those who have met her since she took up office.Andy Burnham has ordered spending £11.5m to write a franchising business caseNow I’m getting quite complimentary reports about Matt Rodda, the new buses spokesman for the Labour Party. I’m told that, in private at least, he is keen to come up with sensible and pragmatic ideas and solutions that benefit passengers.Party lineIn public, of course, he will have to tow the party line that buses outside London must be re-regulated, but if in private he talks a more pragmatic talk, then there is some encouragement to be had.Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is budgeting a cool £11.5m to prepare a business case for bus franchising.The Authority is well within its rights to prepare such a case and these things clearly don’t come cheap. Especially, when you take into account the need to have a case audited, consulted on and all the rest.But I am startled that it would cost this much.Then I recall being told that the GMCA was busy assessing the case for franchising even while the Bus Services Act was going through parliament, so what’s happened to all of that work?To be budgeting for £11.5m on top of all that historic work makes this whole exercise even more expensive.Then I wondered how many extra buses could be bought for £11.5m; I’m told at least 60. More importantly, I wonder how many tendered bus services could be subsidised by GMCA for £11.5m?I expect there are quite a few local authorities around the country who look enviously at the GMCA’s ability to budget £11.5m just to assess the case for franchising, let alone actually run a franchise system.But it’s hard to be too critical of the GMCA.It is within its rights to develop a case for franchising – or rather, to assess whether such a case exists and stands up to scrutiny.But it just strikes me as an incredibly expensive process especially if, having spent the £11.5m the Combined Authority concludes that the case for franchising doesn’t exist or is at best marginal.Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s Mayor has been quoted as saying that “London’s regulated system is light years ahead” of Manchester’s.London’s factsExcept, Mr Burnham, bus patronage in London is falling, and its regulated system costs an awful lot of money.Andy Burnham is a sensible politician. I just hope that, rather like Matt Rodda, what he says in public is not a true reflection of what he says behind closed doors.I hope he isn’t going to expose the taxpayers of Greater Manchester to the risky costs of franchising, when London shows that it is not a panacea.last_img

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