Liverpool city region bus reforms could cost £340m

A plan to bring buses in Liverpool city region back under public control could cost up to £340m, leading councillors claim. Tony McDonough reports

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram wants to introduce bus franchising into the city region


Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plans to bring the city region’s buses back under public control could cost as much as £340m.

Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, has put forward a motion at the authority’s next full meeting, along with cabinet member for regeneration Tony Brennan. The motion supports the Metro Mayor’s plan for bus franchising but questions how it will be paid for.

Mr Rotheram is currently seeking views via a public consultation on his proposals which would represent the biggest upheaval of bus services since the mid-1980s.

Early in 2022 the Combined Authority voted in favour of pursuing a bus franchising system for Merseyside. This would effectively reverse the privatisation of the network introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1985.

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.

The public consultation will run until August 3 with people being invited to take part in the consultation even if they are not regular bus users.

In their motion, Cllr Morgan and Cllr Brennan say: “The Liverpool city region is right to be bold in its approach to “Bus Reform”, and identifying “Franchising” as its preferred model means that there is a clear vision and ambition for the future.”

However, it adds: “In order to realise the once-in-a-generation opportunity of “Bus Reform”, it is now crucial for the Government to provide the funding which the Liverpool city region needs to deliver the new model without impacting on other key public services.”

They say that the “financial costs and risks associated with adopting a franchising model cannot be underestimated”.

“The Government must therefore commit to providing additional monies to fund the implementation of the “Bus Reform” agenda, so that the additional costs are not “passed on” to local authorities via the Transport Levy or to local residents via the Mayoral Precept which they pay via their Council Tax.”

And they warned: “Any increase in the Mayoral Precept to support the implementation of Bus Reform would place further financial pressure on local households, many of whom continue to be massively impacted by the ongoing cost of living crisis.”

In a statement to the Liverpool ECHO, the Combined Authority said a “comprehensive full business case” for reregulating the network has been published and has been independently audited.

It added: “The case outlined a number of options and the costs associated in comparison to the other available option of an enhanced partnership, which would also come with significant costs but severely limited control in how the region’s buses operate.

“The Government has directed the potential options and our region must now choose between franchising or an enhanced partnership – the status quo is not an option.


Bus, hydrogen
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram with one of his new hydrogen buses


“The financial pressures facing local services cannot be underestimated – and few places have felt the impact of these cost-cutting measures more than our region’s bus network.

“Despite being faced with a declining service, 82% of all public transport journeys in the Liverpool city region are taken by bus every day. For many residents, they are a vital lifeline to the outside world.

“A public consultation on franchising is currently underway and will close in a matter of weeks – at which point the Mayor will make a decision on whether to franchise.

“This decision will have consequences for decades and that is why the business case has been such a thorough exercise. There is no zero sum game here. Either public investment is made into the bus network or operators will continue to cut services.

“We will soon learn of the public’s preference when consultations close. Leaders will then be asked to support Mayor Rotheram’s proposals.”

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.