Court of Appeal upholds original decision on bus franchising after bus company appeal

Date published: 25 July 2022

The Court of Appeal has upheld the original decision made by the High Court regarding Andy Burnham’s plans to bring buses back under public control.

In March 2022, the High Court made a judgment that the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s decision to implement a bus franchising scheme across Greater Manchester was lawfully carried out; as were all other aspects of the franchising process.

Diamond Bus owner Rotala appealed the ruling, after it and fellow firm Stagecoach, claimed Mr Burnham’s decision, and the process followed, were ‘unlawful’ and ‘irrational’.

The Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected the appeal by Rotala and upheld the original decision of the High Court in March.

Under the franchising scheme, which is set to start in Wigan and Bolton next year before serving the whole city-region by the end of 2024, bus operators would bid to run services, giving local leaders control of fares and ticketing.

They would be the first outside London to have this power in more than 30 years – and other regions are looking to follow suit with government support.

The mayor’s office has been pressing ahead with plans to launch the Bee Network – the integrated London-style transport system which Mr Burnham is creating with the government’s backing – by 17 September 2023.

This includes a new flat fare structure from 1 September 2022, of £2 fares for adults and £1 for children travelling on a single journey and £5 day tickets for all operators.

Mr Burnham has also proposed introducing these cheaper fares by the end of the summer before it is under his control, subject to bus operators’ agreement.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is brilliant news for the people of Greater Manchester – and for anyone across the UK who cares about having a bus service that puts people ahead of shareholder profit.

“We were always very confident that GMCA had followed all correct legal processes and that the decision to franchise buses and bring them under public control was lawful and right. We’re delighted that we have comprehensively defeated the last legal challenge in the way of bringing buses under public control. The Court of Appeal’s judgment upholds the original decision of the High Court and unanimously rejects this appeal as without any merit.

“Throughout two separate consultations, the Greater Manchester public told us that they wanted buses bringing under public control and run for the benefit of the people; and it's frustrating that this legal action has been pursued to prevent this going ahead. So I’m delighted that the court has dismissed all the operator’s arguments and has awarded all costs in our favour.

“This clear and unanimous judgment is another green light which means that we can now power ahead at full speed to deliver bus franchising across Greater Manchester as part of our Bee Network: an integrated, accessible and affordable ‘London-style’ transport system joining together buses, trams, cycling and walking.

“And I hope that the unanimous rejection of this appeal paves the way for other city regions such as Liverpool City Region and South Yorkshire to progress with their ambitions to bring buses under public control.”

Reporting: Rochdale Online

Additional reporting: Local Democracy Reporting Service

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