With the start of the transformational Bee Network just three months away, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has announced a range of new tickets that will make travel across the whole city-region cheaper and easier.
The new Bee AnyBus + Tram tickets – delivered by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) with support from Greater Manchester TravelCards Ltd (GMTL) – will make combined bus and tram travel around 20 percent cheaper compared to buying products separately and will launch on 24 September when the city-region becomes the first area to begin to bring buses under local control for the first time in almost 40 years (from 24 September).
Bought through the new Bee Network app and other retail channels, it means unlimited journeys on any bus service and any chosen Metrolink zone for as little as £5.40. Unlimited travel on all buses and the entire Metrolink network – the largest tram system in the UK – will cost £7.80 if travelling off-peak, or £9.50 at peak times. In comparison, the average cost of just parking a car in Manchester city centre is £7 for two hours and £10.27 for three hours.
The move follows the introduction of daily capped bus fares last September, brought in a year earlier than planned to help with the cost of living, that are now being extended for at least another year, until September 2024. The fares – capped at £2 for single journeys (£1 for children) and £5 for an AnyBus all day travelcard (£2.50 for children) – have proved hugely popular with customers and have contributed to an estimated 12% increase in bus trips.
The move to a simplified, integrated and cheaper fare structure is a key part of the Bee Network – Greater Manchester’s plan for a ‘London-style’, high volume, low fare, transport system, which will transform the way people travel across the city region.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We know that lower fares make a real difference to people – particularly in today’s challenging times – so I am delighted to be able to announce that not only are we extending the capped bus fares for at least another year, we are cutting the cost of travel even more with our new Bee AnyBus + tram tickets, making multi-modal journeys 20% cheaper from September than they are today.
“We are working to deliver a network for our millions of residents and visitors that is every bit as good as the one Londoners have – one that has frequent, reliable services and low fares – and it starts by bringing buses back under local control in three months’ time.
“With the potential to travel across the whole of Greater Manchester by bus for just £5 – or as little as £7.80 with the entire tram network included too, the lower fares represent great value for money, particularly compared to the cost of travelling by car.
“Cutting the cost of public transport benefits everyone and I want it to be a lasting and defining part of the Bee Network. That can only happen if more people use it, so my plea today is for everyone to get on board with us and help keep fares low. You’ll be better off with the Bee Network.
“I would also like to put on record my thanks to Rail Minister Huw Merriman for his commitment to working with us to pilot a new way to pay on rail that will ultimately enable us to integrate certain key rail services in Greater Manchester into the Bee Network.”
As part of the Bee Network, Greater Manchester is bringing buses back under local control in three phases, starting in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Salford and Bury, with services to be operated by Go North West and Diamond from 24 September 2023.
The second phase of franchising will take place in Rochdale, Oldham, Bury and parts of Manchester, Salford and Tameside from 24 March – with Stagecoach, First and Diamond today announced as the operators appointed to run these services. As well as prioritising performance and reliability, bringing buses under local control is proving more efficient and effective than the current deregulated market, with franchised services costing less than those recently funded by TfGM after they were withdrawn by operators.
Integrating fares across different modes is key to enabling seamless journeys. Following the launch of the new Bee AnyBus + Tram tickets, TfGM will be working towards a touch-in/touch-out contactless system that will cap travel made across bus and tram, to be launched in early 2025 in line with the final phase of bus franchising.
To help support the ambition for full integration of local train services into the Bee Network by the end of the decade, the Mayor also confirmed today the proposed route for the contactless pilot on rail in Greater Manchester, subject to final business case approval and funding.
First announced as part of the city-region’s trailblazer devolution deal, TfGM has been working closely with Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to develop the pilot on services between Stalybridge and Victoria, and Glossop and Piccadilly.
The pilot will allow passengers to touch-in and out at the start and end of their journey and, like Metrolink, have their fare automatically worked out for them. This will, for the first time, allow passengers to travel without buying a ticket in advance and provide a faster and more convenient way to travel.
TfGM, DfT and GBRTT will then work together to use the pilot to support the wider ambition of full multi-modal integration into the Bee Network across bus, Metrolink, rail and cycle hire, including fares simplification and capping, by 2030.
Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Vernon Everitt, said: “We know that customers and businesses want easy and simple access to the whole transport system and the creation of the integrated Bee Network, bringing together buses, trams, trains and cycle hire, will transform transport in the region. September is the start of implementing this very exciting journey.
“We are also delighted to confirm today which routes have been chosen to pilot the very first contactless payment system – that will automatically calculate a passenger’s fare for them – on services outside London. This is all being taken forward in partnership with the DfT, Greater British Railways transition team and local transport operators as part of the recent Trailblazer deal agreed between the GMCA and Government.
“This all signifies further significant progress towards delivering the transport network that our residents, businesses and visitors deserve for a rapidly growing and thriving city-region.”
Speaking about the wide-ranging benefits the Bee Network will have for businesses in Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Business Board member and co-founder of The Pipeline, Lorna Fitzsimons, said: “Both living in a village outside Rochdale and being an employer, I know how key the bus service is, and it being joined up to the tram network.
“It is key to people being able to access jobs and business being able to access all available labour in this very tight labour market. If we want to optimise the travel to work radius it is essential. This is a brilliant development and will make our system seamless and friction free.”
While the numbers of people using the city-region’s buses, trams and trains continues to grow, inflation has rapidly and permanently increased the cost base of public transport.
Since the pandemic, transport authorities and operators have relied on funding from central government to maintain services in some areas, and the Mayor says a review of public transport funding is needed to provide longer-term certainty and stability:
Andy Burnham added, “We are grateful for the support we have received from government, that has helped us retain services and introduce lower fares, but under the current system the way that funding is allocated is unpredictable and inconsistent – not just in Greater Manchester, but elsewhere too.
“A good transport system needs certainty and stability to keep people connected with jobs, education and other essential services. Failure to do so leaves transport authorities like ours facing a cycle of declining services and increasing fares.
“That is why we need to look again at how public transport is funded in all parts of the country and we will be bringing proposals forward to government and opposition parties during party conferences later this year on just that.”