Labour set to back Rotheram’s bus overhaul

Labour pledges to back Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Liverpool city region bus franchising plan, expected to cost more than £300m, if it wins the General Election. Tony McDonough reports

Hanover Street
Labour will back bus franchising in Liverpool city region. Picture by Tony McDonough


Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is likely to get full backing on the biggest overhaul of Liverpool city region’s buses since the 1980s if Labour wins the next General Election.

Late last year leaders of the city’s region’s local authorities voted in favour of Mr Rotheram’s bus franchising plan. This came after 6,000 people had their say in a public consultation with almost 70% in favour.

Under a franchised system, decisions about routes, timetables, service frequencies and fares would be taken out of the hands of the private bus operators and be put under the control of the Combined Authority.

It would reverse the privatisation of the network introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government in 1986. This led to a period of chaos with private operators aggressively competing for passengers on Liverpool’s busiest routes.

Liverpool city region would be the second region to implement the franchising model. It is already being rolled out in Greater Manchester under the direction of its metro mayor Andy Burnham.

However, last summer Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, put forward a motion  supporting the plan but asked how it would be paid for. It was suggested the cost could be as much as £340m.

Urging the Government to back the strategy, Mr Morgan’s motion said “financial costs and risks associated with adopting a franchising model cannot be underestimated”.

Franchising in the city region will definitely go ahead but there will be a number of upfront costs which will require some Government support which is why the backing from Labour is important.

This week Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has confirmed Labour will back bus franchising if, as predicted by the polls, it wins the next General Election likely to be held this year.

Ms Haigh said Labour would improve taxpayer value, deliver better services, and allow local authorities “a choice over the bus system that works best for them”.

She added that deregulation had “robbed communities of a say over the vital services that they depend on, instead handing power to unaccountable private operators”.


Bus, hydrogen
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram wants to overhaul the local bus network


“Labour will give every community the power to take back control of their bus services, and will support local leaders to deliver better buses, faster,” she said.

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“Labour’s plans will create and save vital routes and services, end today’s postcode lottery of bus services, and kickstart a revival of bus services across England.”

Welcoming the announcement Mr Rotheram, who is himself up for re-election on May 2, said: “Great to see Louise Haigh and Labour commit to expanding and simplifying the process so other areas can follow us.”

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