Bus franchising is set to be rolled out in Rochdale from the end of March 2024 as ‘bold’ Bee Network plans start to take shape.
At a launch event Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham unveiled what new buses on his Bee Network will look like.
On September 22 Mr Burnham made a series of announcements about the new London-style public transport system.
It comes a year before the first buses in the city-region are brought under public control, giving local leaders power over routes, fares and ticketing.
Bus franchising will be rolled out in phases, starting in Bolton and Wigan as well as parts of Salford and West Manchester on September 17, 2023, followed by Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and parts of North Manchester from the end of March 2024 and Stockport, Trafford, Tameside and South Manchester as well as the remaining parts of Salford from January 5, 2025.
Mr Burnham said: “The countdown to bringing buses back under local control for the first time in 36 years is well and truly on. With the order placed for our first 50 new electric buses and strong interest from operators who want to run the first franchised services a year from now, the Bee Network is gathering real momentum.
“Our vision for the Bee Network is bold and our case compelling; but is nothing more than our people deserve. In Greater Manchester we are leading the way when it comes to improving intra-city transport and connectivity between our villages, towns and cities.”
Mr Burnham also revealed that an order has been placed for 50 new electric yellow buses which will be rolled out as part of the first phase.
The Alexander Dennis buses will have audio-visual announcements of stops, charging points for mobile phones and contactless card payments readers.
He added: “I am also delighted to unveil a sneak peek of what the Bee Network is going to look like.
“We’re building on Manchester’s symbolic bee and Metrolink colours – both of which are synonymous with our city-region – to deliver something modern and iconic that reflects the first-class transport network it will become.”
Transport commissioner Vernon Everitt said there has been ‘huge interest’ from bus operators so far with 33 bids for the 11 contracts currently available.
He also revealed that Greater Manchester Police will treat the transport network as the “11th district”, giving it the same status as other boroughs.
This will see officers ‘surge’ services across the public transport network in the way that they have been in each of the boroughs under Operation Avro. Mr Burnham admitted that safety on public transport is still an issue, but he hopes that pooling police resources for buses, trams and trains will help.
He also announced his intentions for a capped weekly ticket for all bus operators to be introduced in the new year, with negotiations under way.
It follows the launch of new single fares capped at £2 for adults and £1 for children and multi-operator day tickets priced at £5 at the start of September.