Mayor Andy Burnham was upbeat on the rollout of the Bee Network public transport system and the region’s drive to hit green targets, as its decarbonised bus service entered service last week.
The rollout of 50 vehicles marks the area’s first nationalised buses in 40 years, with the project aiming to eventually encompass all public transport in Greater Manchester.
The Labour mayor spoke at the Greater Manchester Green Summit in Salford earlier today about the city-region’s ambitious environmental goals.
Burnham acknowledged some teething problems in the service’s first week but added: “The scale of what we’ve done, taking control of an entire system, gluing back together a system that was very fragmented – the fact that we’ve done it without more disruption is probably to the credit of Transport for Greater Manchester.”
The new network “will just carry on improving from here”, he added, as more buses enter circulation on top of the 50 which started last Sunday (24 September). More will be rolled out in March 2024 for Rochdale, Oldham, and the north of Manchester.
Burnham was emphatic about the impact the new network will have on wider cost of living pressures, with the cost of public transport cut by 20%.
“That’s not an easy thing to do in difficult times, but we’ve done it,” he said.
He also committed to the £2 fare cap on single journeys until September 2024.
All 10 Greater Manchester councils will open warm spaces again this winter, the mayor confirmed, with exact numbers to come at a later stage.
He also spoke of the positive effect the decarbonised public transport system will have on other environmental targets, particularly clean air.
He suggested charges for polluting vehicles were not the way forward for the region: “People generally have less disposable income in the north, less ability to change their vehicle. So we decided there was a better way to get to clean air in greater Manchester and it’s via the Bee Network and public transport.
“Buses are the biggest cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution in Greater Manchester. [The decarbonised Bee Network] alone will do a huge amount to clean the air in the outer boroughs of Greater Manchester.
“And so that’s our message to the government: if you back the Bee Network, that’s a better route to clean air.”
Burnham also suggested a discount for students or 18- to 21-year-olds on the Bee Network could be in the pipeline, although discussions are in very early stages.