Liverpool highlights option of franchising in its Bus Vision plans

Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram is seeking the backing of the combined authority for the next stage of his Bus Vision plan which could see the introduction of franchising for the city region’s bus services. The latest report follows a consultation process that generated 1,500 responses and presents three key options including using the powers available under the Bus Services Act 2017 for franchising, along with Enhanced Partnership or a continuation of the voluntary partnership under the existing Bus Alliance which comprises Merseytravel, Arriva and Stagecoach.

The report acknowledges that more funding will are required, but claims that maintaining existing bus services under any of the three models could require up to an additional £35million of additional public subsidy a year by 2030, on top of the current subsidy of around £60million a year.

This increased funding requirement results both from an increasing cost base as well as a likely need to plug more gaps in commercial operations as less profitable routes are cut in response to operator costs rising faster than passenger revenues.

We have big ambitions for bus in the Liverpool City Region,” says Liverpool city region metro mayor Steve Rotheram. “The Bus Alliance has allowed us to make good progress in modernising our bus network but, as the ‘Big Bus Debate’ has shown, we have to go much further and faster, ensuring bus services are developed around people, supporting them getting to and from work, accessing health care and enjoying all the city region has to offer.

“It’s clear that whatever bus reform option is right for our city region, there will be additional and significant cost to the public purse. We have to meet this challenge head on and work through it. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The report states that the cost of implementing a franchising option could be £95million a year by 2030, which it equates to the cost of maintaining the current network under the enhanced partnership or Bus Alliance scenarios of around £90million a year by 2030, with both figures including the current subsidy bill of £60million a year.

The next phase of the Big Bus Debate will take place later this summer, with detailed face-to-face surveys and further community engagement in the autumn.

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