West Midlands Mayor sets out plans to reform bus services - The Solihull Observer

West Midlands Mayor sets out plans to reform bus services

Solihull Editorial 20th May, 2024   0

THE NEWLY elected West Midlands Mayor has outlined his plans to reform bus services across the region.

During his campaign Richard Parker pledged to create a frnachise system, to regain control over timetables, routes and fares while private companies own and run the vehicles.

Now, just weeks into his role the Labour Mayor has set out how to turn this into a reality.

In the past 18 months the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), spent more than £75million on subsidies to keep the region’s buses on the road.

And with the support only in place until the end of the year, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA, has already started talks with Government and bus operators over further funding to prevent reduction in services or steep fare increases in 2025.

Mr Parker said: “This is unsustainable, our bus network is broken and that is why we want to take back control so that it serves the people, communities and businesses who rely on regular, affordable and reliable bus services.

“I have directed our officers to put a report before the WMCA Board at the earliest opportunity to set out a roadmap for franchising the region’s bus services as quickly as possible – and get us ready to start that transition in 2025.

“We will consult communities and businesses, to create a network which enables people to get to work, school, college or hospital – providing access to essential services, an affordable alternative to the car and reducing traffic congestion.

“We are also talking to the Labour leadership, who if successful at the general election, will introduce measures to make it easier and speed up the process towards franchising – I will make sure this benefits the West Midlands.”

Although TfWM is covering about half the running costs of bus services, the private bus operators make decisions about routes, fares and timetables.

The WMCA say under the franchised model TfWM will decide these and award contracts to operators to run services to set specifications.

Pete Bond, director of integrated network services for TfWM said: “We now have a bus network which requires a long-term subsidy and so the current approach, in which we tender a number of socially necessary services on a case-by-case basis, may no longer be fit for purpose.

“This work requested by the Mayor will show if there are improved efficiencies and benefits from franchising, and if we can get better value for money for the taxpayer as well as shape the bus network by using funding in a more coordinated and efficient way.”

The report to the WMCA Board in July will set out the process in further detail along with the estimated set up and running costs.

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