Stagecoach plans more electric buses just don’t pull plug
STAGECOACH bosses plan to roll out 105 electric buses across Greater Manchester – but only if they keep power over the network.
The firm has applied for £21.5m in government funding to launch the new vehicles by 2020.
Stagecoach plans to put in £34.6m from its own coffers, but only if it strikes a deal to share control over buses with our region’s leaders.
Bosses say that if they get funding, the electric buses would run on routes connecting Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly railway station, as well as six hospitals, two universities and Oxford Road.
Chief executive Martin Griffiths introduced plans for the new fleet as part of the ‘partnership proposal’.
A partnership model would be the alternative to franchising, in which the network would work in a similar way to London, where Transport for London governs how buses are run.
Franchising would take power away from operators such as Stagecoach.
The future running of Greater Manchester’s bus network is still up in the air, with mayor Andy Burnham yet to make a decision.
But leaders of both political groups have previously expressed their views in public meetings that franchising would be best for passengers.
Mr Griffiths said the plan would mark the biggest single investment in ‘e-bus’ technology anywhere in Europe, adding: “Our plans will put Greater Manchester at the forefront of the drive to improve local air quality, and help cement Britain’s position as global leader in manufacturing lowemission vehicles.
“It is also part of our wider partnership proposals.”
Asked what would happen if a franchising model was chosen, a spokesman said: “The cost of the kind of major investment pro- posed by Stagecoach would be borne by the taxpayer, rather than the bus operator, as the combined authority would be responsible for the full costs of the bus network.”
A TfGM spokesman said no decision had yet been made on how the bus network will be run in future, adding: “If any of these options are pursued, ensuring fair competition will be a key consideration, so that bus operators of all sizes can access the market.”
The power to reform Greater Manchester’s deregulated bus network – which has largely been controlled by individual commercial operators since the 1980s, leaving local leaders with only a limited degree of influence through a diminishing pot of public grants – was a major strand to the region’s devolution deal of 2014.
TfGM has bid separately for £12m from the same ‘Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme’ for electric Metro-shuttle buses, yellow school buses and vehicles to run on the guided busway.
Stagecoach has 750 buses in Greater Manchester, 144 of which are hybrids.