Bus operators in major English cities have blasted the government’s proposed reforms to bus services.
The new busses bill, which is currently passing through parliament, will give more control to directly elected mayors.
They will be able to stipulate frequency of services, set the price of fares and create integrated travel tickets designed to make journeys run smoother.
Various regions of the UK look set to follow the Greater Manchester system of an elected mayor and franchising.
Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, Andrew Fender, has criticised the ‘excessive’ profit margins made by bus companies such as Arriva, Stagecoach and First that run services in the centre of Manchester and the surrounding areas.
He said that the taxpayer is currently contributing to 40% of their turnover and that in return they should be providing better services.
Councillor Fender added that these companies will still make a profit but not to the ‘double digit excesses’ we are currently seeing.
At present, money from the taxpayer is funding subsidies on unprofitable routes, a fuel rebate and free travel for pensioners.
This means that the major bus firms have the power to get rid of any route they no longer wish to run, with competitors subsequently finding it difficult to break into the established markets.
Since deregulation in 1986, bus journeys in Greater Manchester have fallen by a third despite a growing population.
267 million journeys are made every year in the region but Cllr Fender says that this figure has ‘flatlined’ as less profitable routes have been cut by major operators.
He added that it will take time for the mayor to set service levels and fare costs, with things set to change gradually.
However, the move towards mayoral control and franchising has sparked outrage from major bus firms such as Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group.
Stagecoach commented that the notion of ‘excess profits’ is nothing but an ‘economic fantasy’.