Local Liberal Democrats are demanding that secret information on how bus companies are performing should be made accessible to the public by Transport for Greater Manchester.
£34.6million of taxpayers’ money is used every year by TfGM to pay companies to run 20% of the bus network, while the remaining 80% is run commercially for profit.
TfGM gather data on bus operator performance across the city from a variety of sources including Bus Station service monitoring, customer comments, and a structured Punctuality and Reliability Monitoring System (PRMS) in partnership with bus operators and local authorities.
They do not collect data on vehicle maintenance as this is a matter for the regulatory body – the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.
The Lib Dems have claimed that this information is ‘kept secret’ and that ‘no-one outside TfGM is allowed to see it’.
And Stockport Council Deputy Leader Iain Roberts has expressed his concern on the matter, saying people have the right to know if the company providing their buses is running a ‘shoddy’ service and ‘pocketing the cash’.
He said: “This is our money and these are our bus services. Passengers using a bus service should be able to find out whether the company running their buses is a top performer or whether they’re letting people down, running a shoddy service and pocketing the cash. There’s no legal reason to keep it secret.”
However, TfGM have said that only commercially sensitive data is kept secret, while the rest of the information they collect is already available to the public.
They have also rebuffed the councillor’s claim that there are no legal reasons to keep some of the information hidden.
A spokesperson explained that this data is collected to provide regular reports on Greater Manchester’s Bus Network Performance in a consistent format to the TfGM Committee, the Bus Network and TfGM Services Sub-Committee.
These reports are available on the committee website and members of the public are able to attend meetings with senior TfGM officers, locally elected members and bus operator representatives.
They told MM: “Our work with the bus operators to monitor performance has produced great results in recent years, driving forward improvements for passengers in areas we know are a customer concern – including bus service punctuality and reliability.
“Through our supplier rating system we ensure that any bus operators who run services which we financially support meet strict performance criteria.
“This way we ensure good value for money and have actually helped drive up service standards right across the bus network.
“We make regular reports outlining bus network performance to members of the TfGM Committee and this information is also available online.”
It was explained that for legal reasons, due to commercially sensitive information, some bus network performance data – including financial information and bus operator supplier rating – is presented as Part B reports, which are not available to the general public.
The spokesperson added: “There are sound reasons why some of this information is not available publicly.
“Some of the data gathered is commercially sensitive and making it public could have both commercial implications for the bus companies and potentially result in inflated contract prices for TfGM.
“As such we are legally bound to ensure this is confidential, although as part of the democratic process it is regularly reported outside TfGM to elected members for scrutiny.”
But Cllr Roberts is insistent that as the buses are a public service, paid for by the public, then ALL this information should be made available to everyone – not just in the future, but past data as well.
He said: “Not only should future data be published, but all the information that’s been kept secret up to now should be released to the public as well. We will be holding TfGM to account on this.”
TfGM are said to be looking into publishing this information in future, following pressure from the Liberal Democrats.
Image courtesy of Chris, with thanks.