Bus fares across Greater Manchester are to be capped at £2 for adults under new plans to transform public transport in the region.
Following a judicial review last week, where a judge ruled in favour of the region’s buses being brought back under public control, mayor Andy Burnham has today announced a series of major steps to move Greater Manchester towards a London-style public transport system, according to Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
During what has been described as “a major event to outline a new era for Greater Manchester”, Mr Burnham has set out a revised timetable for the introduction of bus franchising.
Regulated buses will first introduced in Bolton, Wigan, and parts of Salford and west Manchester from next autumn, before Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, and areas of north Manchester will follow in spring 2024, and then Stockport, Trafford, Tameside, south Manchester, and remaining parts of Salford are expected to run by the end of 2024.
From this date, customers will be able to take advantage of capped fares across the whole region on buses run by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).
As mentioned, these newly-announced plans by the Mayor come after a legal challenge brought by bus operators against the city-region’s bus franchising plans was dismissed last week, and are said to signify “a key next step towards the delivery of the Bee Network vision”.
The new £2 capped ticket will function as a ‘hopper’ fare.
This means that the same ticket can be used for any change of bus within 60 minutes of the ticket being bought, regardless of how many times a person changes buses within that hour.
This move clears the way for a new franchising model taking control over buses away from profit-focused operators and placing it instead in public hands – which makes the region the first outside London to have this power in more than 30 years.
The franchise model is estimated to cost around £135 million and means fares, timetables and routes will be set by local authorities instead of private companies, but operators may continue running services under a franchise system.
Speaking on the new bus fare caps ahead of the official unveiling of the plans later today, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The court ruling means we now have the green light to deliver on our plans to deliver a London-style public transport system [and] make travelling by public transport more appealing, easier, and significantly, put our people before profits.
“The government has signalled its intention to support our ambitions many times over and we now need them to work in partnership with us to help us turn our shared vision into a reality.”
Greater Manchester will have a new Transport Commissioner to take a leading role in the delivery of the Bee Network, with former Transport for London (TfL) Managing Director of Customers, Communication and Technology, Vernon Everitt, having been appointed.
“I’m delighted to welcome Vernon onboard, as we deliver a new era of London-style transport for Greater Manchester,” Mr Burnham added.
“He is a great signing for this city-region [as he] spent 14 years as a Managing Director at Transport for London, leading on London’s integration of public transport through simple and intuitive fares, ticketing and customer information.
“In Greater Manchester we are leading the way and developing a blueprint for other city-regions to follow when it comes to improving intra-city transport and connectivity between our villages, towns and cities.
“My ambition is that soon here in Greater Manchester it will be simpler, cheaper, and more reliable to get around on public transport.”
Amazon to donate surplus essential goods to Greater Manchester families in need
A new charity initiative has been launched this week to help more than 50,000 families in need across Greater Manchester.
The Brick-by-Brick Project has been set up with support from Amazon, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Wigan-based charity The Brick, and it’s setting out to donate more than 400,000 surplus essential goods to over 50,000 families in need throughout the region this year.
With the rising cost of living crisis sadly continuing to make its impact felt nationwide, the Brick-by-Brick Project will work as a community donations hub, where Amazon and other local companies can donate a wide range of surplus products to.
While reducing waste and helping the community at the same time, the donated surplus products will then be distributed out to to people in need through a network of local charity groups and care professionals – including teachers, midwives, and social workers.
The launch of the initiative comes after it was revealed that, in February 2023, more than 32,500 people in Wigan, and the borough town of Leigh, were claiming Universal Credit, while 29 of the borough’s 200 neighbourhoods also all fall within the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in England, which makes up for roughly 15% of Wigan’s total population.
The Wigan project is an extension of the ‘multibank’ model first launched in Fife in Scotland as ‘The Big House’ in 2022, which has now supported 50,000 families in Fife, Edinburgh, and the Lothians.
The Brick-by-Brick Project will bring the knowledge and network of charity, The Brick, together with other local charities, logistics expertise, donations from Amazon, and product donations from other national and local retailers to “provide the right products at the right time”.
Suppliers and partners will provide products that “meet the particular needs of families in the area”.
Some of the essential surplus products set to be distributed include bedding, toiletries, nappies, wipes, clothing, backpacks, home furnishings, lightings, and electrical products.
Speaking on the launch of the project this week, Andy Burnham said: “Last year, Gordon Brown invited me to Fife to see for myself the work he was doing with Amazon and a local charity there to support thousands of families with essential household items.
“The project made a huge difference to people’s lives, and that’s why I was determined to work with Gordon and Amazon to set up a pilot in Greater Manchester, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the partnership with The Brick and I’m blown away by what has been achieved so far.
“Families in Wigan are struggling in this cost of living crisis and that is why this project is vital in helping those who need it most.
“During these difficult times, it’s right that the public, private and VCSE sector work together and do what we can to alleviate difficulties, and I congratulate all those involved in this, and look forward to it being rolled out elsewhere across Greater Manchester.”
Qatar and Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to submit ‘world record’ offers to buy Manchester United as other bidders are expected to join the race
The deadline for the second round of bidders in the race to takeover Manchester United football club has officially passed, with multiple world record offers reportedly on the verge of being submitted.
Following the first round of bids, which saw a Qatar investment group headed up by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe both put in their initial offers, Manchester United set a second deadline of 9pm on 22 March for them to increase their offers and welcome other offers.
While the opening bids matched each other at £4.5 billion, working with financial advisors Raine Group who are brokering in the deal from the US, neither reached the Glazer family ownership’s estimations, who value the club closer to £6bn.
As a result, both went on to carry out further negotiations — each visiting Old Trafford last Friday and staying for upwards of six hours (more than 10 in the case of the Qataris) — but it is now thought they may no longer be the only parties involved in the bidding war. Whether it will be in time is the issue.
Despite earlier reports that Sheikh Jassim and his associates had submitted a “world record offer” before the Glazers and Raine Group’s 9pm deadline (5pm New York time), Sky Sports‘ Kaveh Solhekol has now clarified that the bid was not submitted in time and that they have asked for an extension.
Man United are said to have agreed to the extension and Sheikh Jassim still remains confident that they have the “best bid” of the bunch.
Moreover, as per the likes of Mike Keegan, Jim Ratcliffe was also set to enter his second bid, with both offers said to have increased to around the £5bn mark. However, the INEOS chief exec is also said to have failed to meet the deadline and been granted an extension, according to a senior source.
Kaveh also went on to detail that multiple other offers have in fact been submitted, with the numbers said to be “approaching eight” different bidders.
Any bid of more than £3.75bn would break the world record fee for a sports club set when the Denver Broncos were sold last summer.
As for the frontrunners, both offers are still around a billion short of the Glazer’s asking price and not only have Sheikh Jassim and co. already warned they will ‘walk away’ if the price is too high, but it’s unclear how far Ratcliffe’s wealth can stretch if he is to continue pursuing a deal.
The key difference between the two bids is that Qatar’s bid will apparently make the club debt-free given the sheer mass of state wealth behind them, whereas the Failsworth-born businessman’s financing may be more complex to put together.
Trying to clear up the confusion, The Times‘ Matt Lawton said on Twitter that “both Qatari and INEOS representatives said their bids were in, United sources [are] saying they haven’t yet bid and have asked for an extension”, with offers now set to be made by tomorrow.
As reported by Sky Sports earlier this week, it was thought that “at least five other bidders” and as many as eight in question could join the race along with Ratcliffe and Qatar, who were the only two parties to have submitted an official offer for United during the first round of bidding.
However, a detailed list of the other candidates and precisely how many are still yet to be confirmed; Kaveh did go on to suggest that some could simply be a form of “hot air” designed to hopefully urge the ‘serious bidders’ to edge their offers up even higher.
As for next steps, neither of the parties in the supposed two-horse race expect an immediate decision from the board, especially after the unexpected delay, and those who submitted new offers in the second round of bidding will have to wait at least seven days to hear back from the club and brokers Raine Group regarding their progress.
However, it is worth noting that these subsequent bids may not necessarily be attempts to buy the club outright and not only is there a feeling that a third round of negotiations could take place, but there is also a growing sense that the Glazers could still pull out of a potential buyout altogether.