Buses, trams and trains in Greater Manchester are to be connected under one system like London's by 2030. Passengers will be able to tap-in and tap-out on different modes of public transport thanks to a new deal with the government.
Local leaders would have more control over commuter train services in Greater Manchester under a new partnership. However, the bigger pan-Northern routes which serve the wider region are not part of the deal.
It comes as the latest devolution deal for the city-region - described as the 'deepest' yet - is agreed. The move means more decisions over transport, housing and skills training will be made by politicians in Greater Manchester.
Mayor Andy Burnham will also be given full control over local spending with a single budget agreed for several years rather than bidding for pots of cash. The new deal was announced by the government on Wednesday (March 15).
It includes 'full multi-modal fares' and 'ticketing integration' on the public transport system and will see the Bee Network branding on the railways. Mr Burnham is already in the process of bringing buses under public control with the first franchised services to be rolled out in Wigan and Bolton in September.
By 2025, the franchising model will be rolled out across the whole of Greater Manchester and passengers will be able to pay for buses, trams and rental bikes under the same ticketing system with daily caps of fares like in London. The new devolution deal means that trains can be part of this system too.
Mr Burnham said local leaders have long argued for rail services to be brought under Greater Manchester's own public transport system. The first trials on integrated fares and ticketing are set to be agreed by the end of the year.
The Labour mayor said: "By 2030, we will have a situation where for people who live just outside of Greater Manchester, let's say in Buxton or Southport, they will be able to tap in there, but enter the Greater Manchester system and that will mean that public transport becomes a much more attractive and affordable option for lots of people who commute into Greater Manchester.
"And actually with more local control over trains, I think they'll be more responsive because obviously the current situation just isn't working."
The deal also lays the foundation for greater input into our stations, services and strategic infrastructure investment with the creation of the North West Regional Business Unit and the GM Rail Board. This will allow local leaders to scrutinise the performance and help shape integrate it with the Bee Network.
The deal also commits the government and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to identify the specific legal powers needed for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to effectively tackle anti-social behaviour and fare evasion on the bus network. This may include introducing new byelaws.
Local leaders say they want to do everything they can to keep the public safe when using public transport as well as protect revenue that goes back into the bus network to continue to improve it. But to deliver the transport ambitions in the deal, there is an outstanding issue local leaders still want to resolve.
Securing the financial future of Greater Manchester's public transport system post-Covid, and in light of inflationary pressures on energy and other costs, requires more short-term support over the next two financial years, the GMCA has said. Discussions are still ongoing with the government on this matter.
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