Could Birmingham buses could be put back under public control?

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West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has asked for ‘a full assessment of options for the future of bus services’ in the region

Buses in Birmingham could be bought back under public control in a London-style operation as delays and waiting times continue to hit passengers.

Mayor Andy Street said nothing has been ruled out after “a full assessment of options” was being investigated for the future of bus services in the West Midlands.

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The news follows the announcement bus fares in Greater Manchester will be capped at no more than £2 a journey, according to the area’s mayor Andy Burnham.

A closely watched court case last week ruled in favour of Mr Burnham, who had challenged bus companies Stagecoach and Rotala over claims he had acted “unlawfully” by relying on a “flawed” consultation on bus franchising during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Birmingham busesBirmingham buses
Birmingham buses | Madrugada Verde - stock.adobe.com

Mr Burnham and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) claimed that their decision-making process was lawful and that their conclusions were “justified” in light of uncertainties over future passenger numbers because of the pandemic.

Calling the ruling “fantastic news”, Mr Burnham now wants to deliver low-carbon, “London-style”, fully-integrated public transport across Greater Manchester, called the Bee Network.

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The court ruling has now inspired other regional mayors, Tracy Brabin in West Yorkshire and Steve Rotheram in the Liverpool city region, to try and follow suit.

West Midlands Mayor Andy StreetWest Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street | LDR

What has West Midland Mayor Andy Street said about putting local buses under public control?

A spokesperson for the West Midlands Mayor said: “In January the West Midlands Combined Authority Board asked for a full assessment of options for the future of bus services in the [region].

“This assessment is looking in detail at the business cases both for an enhanced partnership and a franchising model, as well as exploring the risks and opportunities for making buses a more attractive choice for more of our residents.

“Whilst we note with interest the decision in Manchester, both bus franchising and enhanced partnerships in the West Midlands are currently being explored and no decision will be made until our assessment concludes.

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“As it stands, Transport for West Midlands already has an enhanced partnership in place and a strong track record of collaboration with private operators through the Bus Alliance.

“This has served us well with bus fares amongst the lowest in the country and a rise in patronage levels pre-pandemic.”

Birmingham busesBirmingham buses
Birmingham buses | Tupungato - stock.adobe.com

Who runs the buses in Birmingham now?

In the West Midlands, 22 bus operators compete for business in the region, with single fares often costing £2.40 or more currently.

Bus fare in the West Midlands are one of the cheapest in the country, but reports on bus delays and waiting times are hitting confidence and trust between passengers and transport companies.

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The Department for Transport recently announced the extension of its Bus Recovery Grant Scheme, originally due to expire in early April 2022, with a further £150 million package to October 2022.

But it is unclear if bus operators in the region will draw back on their original plan to cut eight bus routes, carrying 37,000 passengers a week, thanks to the funding extension.

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