Greater Manchester Bus Franchising Assessment

Discussion in 'Buses & Coaches' started by HSTEd, 17 Aug 2017.

  1. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Sorry but local authorities in Nottingham and Brighton have already shown that improving bus infrastructure is not pre-decated on franchising. How we use space in our cities isn't dependant on who runs the buses but how we seek to choose to that space. If you look at Danish social planning (bit of niche subject, I grant you), it is all about a holistic view to living. That includes a gradual weaning ourselves off the car addiction in various ways. Yes by improving public transport in various ways and also reining in public car usage. Copenhagen have reduced roadside car parking by 3% a year; Liverpool removes dedicated bus lanes. Not difficult to see who values their public transport and their cars.

    And in Bristol, it's not that we've reached the limit of what can be done in a deregulated environment. That does mean we should have car parking spaces in peak hour bus lanes! The lack of regulation and enforcement is also shocking - watching buses trying to exit a bus lane into regular because its path is blocked by some UPS or DHL van has parked up, hazards on, to deliver some more plastic tat from China! That would happen come what may.

    Overbussing on routes is largely confined to the past. Aside from places like West Lothian and Southampton, the usual challenge is that bus companies have either established local monopolies or sit in some non-aggression pact with their neighbours. These perceived savings aren't there and, as you acknowledge, commercial bus operations have already largely disappeared alongside the GM Busway. Such has been the abstraction of trade that the former parallel services have been pared back. The same is clear on other major corridors - the big money spinning routes that First had in north Manchester between Oldham and Manchester have been decimated by the tram (though I seem to recall someone trying to argue that they hadn't). Same with services along Washway Road towards Altrincham.

    If I had any faith in our local politicians, I might be more pre-disposed to ideas of franchising. However, there's a lot of things that they have singularly failed to do. Go for the "low hanging fruit"..... nah, too easy to do that. Doesn't smack of "doing something".
     
  2. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Overbussing occurs even where there is little or no competition, because of the culture of providing direct services to the city centre. For example along Rochdale Road, Princess Road and through Salford. Some of these routes may only be every 30 minutes or worse, but the overall combined frequency may be 10 buses per hour or even more.
     
  3. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    As a resident of Nottingham I accept that the bus service is better than in most other places, but I'd say this is because the principal operator is still majority council owned and while it can't act as an arm of the council it still has less of a commercial remit than a fully private operator. There are still routes served by multiple operators with non-interavailable tickets, which can do things like making an evening service that would have a reasonable frequency in total into one where users of a single-operator ticket are penalized by having to pay extra or wait longer.

    It's entirely reasonable that busy bus corridors should have investment to convert them to tram or to BRT where that is the most effective way of handling a high passenger flow. What is missing is the complementary changes to the bus network which any other country would implement to get the best out of that investment. Instead those not directly on the high capacity route (whether tram, busway or conventional bus) are left to the vagaries of the market.

    There's also a political point here, that politicians and voters may look askance on investment which they may see as propping up a failing bus network - will the bus still be there in five years time and are they just lining the pockets of the "bus barons" at public expense? This may be unfair on the better operators, but perhaps isn't surprising given how some of the others behaved in the early years of deregulation. And if the bus network is fragmented and difficult to understand, it makes it less likely those with cars will want to use it, leading to pressure for things like parking spaces in bus lanes.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Why would it? Switzerland is non-EU but its approach is often quoted.
     
  5. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    It is also possible for a route to be both overbussed and underbussed simultaneously.

    See the Oxford Road corridor as an example.
    The corridor is overall overbussed, but many demand segments are underbussed due to the split between MEgabus and regular services, and the distribution of the buses across the various routes.

    Post Franchising, one of 142/143 could be replaced by extensions of the V1/V2, which would save Peak Vehicle Requirement.

    We could then have a non-stop loop bus running between the University of Manchester main campus and the Fallowfield Campus, using the Oxford Road corridor northbound, and the 50 bus route southbound to take advantage of existing bus lanes. It would run during Uni operating hours and would provide the service required over the busiest section of the corridor with minimum vehicles required.

    (Bus lanes on the Southern Part of the Oxford Road corridor are orientated northwards, on the 50 corridor they are oriented southwards, a relatively small sections of bus lane could be provided on the dual carriageway south of Fallowfield campus, and along the 50 bus route)
     
    Last edited: 16 Oct 2019
  6. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Nottingham is a good example of public transport (including bus travel) is increasing. Brighton and Hove is another fine example and the reasons are not because it's a council owned company but because both councils have adopted a reasoned approach to curbing the growth of private cars and allowing buses to compete with the private car on a more sustainable level.

    I take the point on interavailability of tickets etc but that's sweating the small stuff. What massively impacts the use of bus patronage in the UK is service reliability and that's getting worse. No point in having an interavailable ticket if your bus is stuck trying to negotiate traffic. There's no reason why road space can't be freed up and properly policed. It's not about "bus barons" (and really, if you're making opinions based on the early years of dereg, you need to question the relevance to today). A regulated bus or deregulated bus is the same size and encounters the same problems. If you want to justify investment in bus infrastructure, then it can be done through partnership and quality standards as with elements of the Bristol metrobus scheme. Don't meet certain criteria - you don't get to use the infrastructure. And you make it dependent on hitting legally agreed standards of investment.

    And "if the bus network is fragmented and difficult to understand, it makes it less likely those with cars will want to use it, leading to pressure for things like parking spaces in bus lanes" - sorry but that's the wrong way about cause and effect. In general, we have made car use easier (through road building schemes - see Glasgow) and cheaper than ever before and that's made it a better option and promoted car use at the expense of buses.

    An example of my journey that I used to make into Bristol (from a public transport desert in the sticks). A modern double decker with wifi and dual doors waiting at a peripheral park and ride. Good waiting area though invariably, a bus waiting and very few cash fares with the majority of users employing m-tickets. First failure - the bus doesn't have priority out of the car park (!). It's then a muddle of part time bus lanes and priority (Good but not brilliant), some areas where the road footprint can't be expanded (fair enough) but also some real missed opportunities. One area where no bus lane exists so as to accommodate a right turn lane that could actually be removed. Two instances where buses get waylaid because whilst the space is there, parking is instead allocated for a rank of takeaways or some parking for residents of houses converted to flats. The bus is modern, the fares easy to use, even the cost isn't bad but it's taking a scheduled 16 mins for 3 miles and it seldom achieves that, sometimes taking twice that!

    We can't get our traffic flowing efficiently yet we're worrying about buying bus depots and the like. So many things we could do but as a nation, we haven't. If the idea is buying some bus depots and having a Manckaart to rectify it, then perhaps it's more about Andy Burnham (who I actually like) being able to talk about fat cats and bus barons and not doing the important stuff to reduce car usage (cos that might annoy the electorate).

    PS I know I'm prattling on and I hope you do recognise that this isn't contrariness on my part. I'm really passionate about good public transport; you don't go walking around the Danish Architecture Centre if you're not ;) I just think we're putting the cart before the horse a bit, or perhaps treating one issue in isolation in the hope it will sort things
     
    Last edited: 16 Oct 2019
  7. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Bus franchising is quite capable of being cost neutral, the Council can spend as much or as little as it wants subsidising buses in such a system.
     
  8. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I think we're actually largely in agreement. We need to do all those things to make a dent in urban car use and all the problems it causes, and in that particular context buses have a much bigger role to play than trains or trams. As I pointed out before Manchester has done quite a bit in that direction, and examples from other cities that may have done less aren't really relevant unless they are also contemplating franchising. But some form of regulation is an important part of the solution, and measures such as subsidizing buses as an alternative to roadbuilding are much harder to achieve in a deregulated bus market.
    We've made car use easier but we've also made bus use more difficult, and again both of those things need fixing. When there's not a simple fare structure that allows people to travel around without worrying which operator they're on or whether they've got the best value for money or whether the services connect then a lot of people will just give up and drive instead. That's one reason trams are more popular - simple route map, buy your ticket at a machine rather than having to argue the point with a surly driver with 20 people waiting to get on behind, you know the route hasn't been changed because the tracks would have had to be moved...
     
  9. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    And now Metrolink have touch in touch out contactless. I would hope and expect GM to have the same for buses (assuming they don't have flat fare and thus can get away with touch in only) and they can probably piggyback onto the Metrolink payment system.
     
  10. 158756

    158756 Member

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    Can you do that on buses without putting a card reader at every stop?
     
  11. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The question is, given that there is no access control on Metrolink, what level of fare evasion they see, and what level of fare evasion they would see if an open boarding system was introduced on buses.

    I can think of many routes where speeding loading using a second door would be extremely useful
     
  12. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Brighton and Hove - you can tap in and tap out.

    The number of dual door vehicles is increasing. Again, Bristol has quite a few and they are good for improving passenger flow. The problems are issues like bus stop and bus station design in many places.
     
  13. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    I think we have a lot of commonality in our views but also vive la differance!

    Trams and light rail have a lot of advantages once you get past the massive capital spend. Not least that they often have the dedicated infrastructure that isn't impacted by the private car. As I pointed out, I had a simple commute into Bristol for a few weeks and I used mtickets, but it wasn't the ticketing or the bus that was the issue. It was the piecemeal provision of bus priority.

    Appreciate the view on fares etc but unfortunately, those sorts of fare availability and anomalies were commonplace even in the past especially when you went over the border. I could buy a United Explorer ticket before deregulation for travel across any NBC service but if it were wholly within Tyne and Wear, that wasn't allowed. Conversely, bus companies are now harnessing technology to make things easier. Take an instance last week. I was out for a long run and after about 14 miles, my calf was hurting so I bailed out. In a minute, I had got a day ticket on my phone, paid £4.50 and got a bus into central Bristol and then another out. No chatting to drivers - just scanned my phone. Easy as...

    There are much better things to be spending on than buying Manchester bus depots, rather than some politician indulging in some class warfare and sticking it to the man.
     
  14. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Why on earth does franchising require buying the bus depots?
     
  15. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I'm certainly not suggesting going back to the days of NBC, which got things wrong in a different way. With a different attitude back then, perhaps Beeching would have sown the seeds of an integrated system today.
    I assume it's something to do with lowering barriers to entry for new operators, although I'd have thought it's not a big deal to acquire a piece of land somewhere near where your routes are and set up a simple depot. Maybe needed to stop existing operators complaining their assets are being rendered valueless?
     
  16. 158756

    158756 Member

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    The reasoning behind it is that the need to own a depot is a huge barrier to entry and the existing layout of the depots would result in little competition for many contracts.
     
  17. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Not much consolation to the operators.
     
  18. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I'd say getting market rate for their premises is pretty good for them.
     
  19. 158756

    158756 Member

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    Depends if the land is worth more as a bus depot or housing. Stagecoach will lose a lot compared to the position they would have had if franchising went ahead without buying the depots. I wonder if Arriva (Bolton) and Transdev will be pleased or not to be keeping their depots?
     
  20. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Really? Or is it because of how it chimes with your beliefs?

    It's like getting your home compulsorily purchased and you're given the market value and nothing more. No compensation, nothing towards your moving expenses, no reflection on the hard work you may have put into it.

    The loss of business, other exit liabilities etc will be cold comfort for any business in any sector.
     
  21. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The market price will reflect the true value of any "hard work" you've put into the property.
     
  22. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Go-Ahead, Rotala and Transdev have recently bought into the area with the expectation that franchising will happen soon so they don't seem bothered about potentially losing routes that they have only just acquired.
     
  23. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Probably not communicating it very well. You're right - you only get the cold hard nominal value of any hard work but doesn't reflect the hard work and disruption that you had to experience to achieve that.

    I'm sure that Go Ahead didn't spend £11.2m to buy Queens Road depot, refurb the fleet, improve the depot, do a load of work on culture and people, in the expectation that Andy Burnham will simply buy the bricks and mortar at a commercial property value.
     
  24. Robertj21a

    Robertj21a Established Member

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    Can the owner of the depot simply refuse to sell, or is it effectively compulsory purchase ?
     
  25. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Are you saying that Go-Ahead might not have bought Queens Road if they knew the depot would be compulsorily purchased?
     
  26. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    I really can't answer that. That's one for David Brown.

    However, might have been that having an existing operation might have been seen as a good bridgehead to tendering for routes (a la London). However, if the upshot is that you can compulsorily buy the depot for a pure property value then that removes the advantage/barrier to entry. And if the model is for three area awards (rather than individual route tendering as in London) then you can lose the business and it's value overnight.
     
  27. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    I assumed that they had bought into GM *specifically* to be in a good position when tendering came in. Having the depot compulsorily purchased would suggest that advantage is lost. But they may well have considered the possibility of the depot being compulsorily purchased. If you look at franchising outside the UK it is common for the depot and sometimes the buses to be transferred to the new franchisee. They will still have some advantage in having experience of running buses in the area previously.
     
  28. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    As I say, I don't know what was in GA's mind - perhaps that it was a London style framework rather than this type of deal.

    However, it essentially removes any advantage of any tendering party and becomes a procurement experts' wet dream. Don't kid yourself that they retain any advantage.
     
  29. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    Didn't someone say further up that there are a selection of larger and smaller bundles of routes, with a limit on the number of smaller bundles a single operator can win so that big operators can't push smaller ones out? I think the three areas is just about getting the system up and running in three chunks, each of which will be several franchises.
     
  30. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    If it's smaller bundles of routes, you'd think that they would still be tied to a particular operating centre or else....why buy the depots?

    Would be interesting to understand if, for instance, they put out a package of routes based on Leigh. Would you be obliged to use the current Stagecoach depot at Bryn (that operates a number of routes) or could Jim Stones still use their depot? Could Warrington Transport use their depot from across the border? Or would you be locked into using a particular depot else it would be sub-optimal?
     

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