Buses outside London were deregulated through the Transport Act 1985, aimed at creating competition that would improve services and reduce fares.
The reality has been different, with deregulation creating gaps where bus companies decline to run less profitable but needed routes, while they make huge profits on the most popular journeys.
As a consequence, bus firms have paid shareholders £1.5bn in dividends over the last 10 years, while fares have risen 55%. Journey numbers have fallen by 40% in urban areas since deregulation.
Buses remain the most used form of public transport, particularly for people on lower incomes, but while the regulated network in London flourishes (with prices capped at £1.50 and services cross-subsidised as appropriate), Oldham residents do not get the service they need and deserve.
The Bus Services Act 2017 gave the GMCA (and other mayoral authorities) powers to reform the local bus market.
GMCA are using these powers to consider bus franchising as part of an integrated transport system. Franchising will allow GMCA to control bus routes and fares in GM.
Transport for Greater Manchester have recently completed an assessment, and this supports the proposals for bus franchising.
If independent auditors support the assessment it will go to public consultation, following which a further report will be brought to the GMCA before a final decision is taken by the GM Mayor, Andy Burnham.
Franchising is likely to resisted by operators.
Holding community forums with residents, particularly in areas that are reliant on bus services, to understand and highlight their experience under the current model.
Working with Better Buses GM to make the case for significant change, challenging the GM Mayor to put the needs to residents first when taking a final decision on franchising.