Mayor Burnham’s bus passenger tax will hit commuters in the pocket

Date published: 27 February 2019

The organisation representing Greater Manchester’s commercial bus operators has blasted Mayor Andy Burnham’s plans to slap a £100 per day levy on buses, labelling it a “bus passenger tax”.

The Mayor has announced that buses will be charged to drive in and around Greater Manchester from 2021, with vans hit with a penalty from 2023, in order to slash pollution levels.

But OneBus chief executive Gary Nolan says the tax misses the point completely by exempting private cars and doing nothing to tackle crippling congestion across the region, with regular commuters set to bear the brunt.

Nolan said: “It’s very disappointing that buses are being singled out by this tax and it’s passengers who will suffer in the end.

“This bus passenger tax does not tackle the biggest source of pollution in Greater Manchester – and that’s cars.

“Figures from the Department for Transport show that there were more than 1.14million cars licensed in Greater Manchester at the end of 2017, some 17,600 more than in 2016 and 75,400 more than in 2012. 

“More than a third of these are diesel cars and – along with vans, which will be exempt from the tax until 2023 – they are responsible for 71% of Nox pollution, whilst buses and coaches make up just 6% of the figure.

“Buses are crucial in helping people access jobs, education, training, and healthcare, as well as supporting 30% of spending in city centres. Any measures which target buses will drive up costs, resulting in increased fares and damage to the network, impacting negatively on the region’s economy and local communities who depend on buses to move about.”

OneBus recently launched a ground-breaking £100m partnership blueprint to revolutionise the bus network including plans to ease the cost of travel and tackle the region's growing congestion and air pollution crisis. It also promised 450 new low emissions buses over the next three years to boost the region's air quality, with the first 150 delivered by 2020.

But Nolan’s members remain concerned at Mayor Burnham’s reluctance to use his existing powers to positively impact pollution figures by dealing with congestion blackspots across Greater Manchester.

“Instead of targeting buses, action would be better focused on addressing the congestion crisis in the region,” added Nolan. “Damaging emissions are four times as bad in nose-to-tail traffic than they would be if traffic is able to flow.

“The Mayor has powers to tackle congestion – which makes bus journeys slower, sometimes unreliable and less attractive to car users – but he and his team at Transport for Greater Manchester have, for some unknown reason, chosen not to use them.

“The result of this inaction is that we have an unsustainable number of cars on our roads. And it’s not going to get any better if you’re slapping a tax on bus passengers from 2021.”

Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester added: “We fully support the need to improve air quality and the environment across the Greater Manchester area. We are however disappointed to learn that additional taxation is to be used as the first key step in the plan as it is not helpful and an added burden on those who will ultimately pay and may not be able to afford it – especially those in the more deprived communities we serve.

“Bus passengers should be encouraged and rewarded for their choice of travel mode rather than being penalised as they are making a contribution to improving our environment. Air quality improvement planning requires a number of measures to be introduced in parallel to avoid penalising particular groups in society.” 

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