Bus companies stopping passengers in northern parts of Greater Manchester from travelling across their services should offer customers cheaper fares, a council boss has said.
Tickets from Go North West, First Manchester and Diamond Bus North West are currently valid on each other’s services – but this will end from January 1, 2020.
But Oldham council leader Sean Fielding has urged the three operators to consider more reasonable ticket prices once they leave the ‘temporary’ scheme.
Passengers can still spend £19 for a seven-day multi-operator ticket through System One, but this is £3 more than what is currently available under the existing scheme.
Two of the operators suggested to the region’s transport committee they were keeping their options open about increasing or decreasing their fares in the New Year.
The end of the arrangement was ‘inevitable’, according to Coun Fielding (pictured below), who said: “We’ve got a commercial market and these depots are now operated by three different operators.
“Now the season tickets that you can buy on First, Go North West and Diamond respectively from January 1 will now be valid on a smaller network.
“In the same way that when you buy a smaller box of cornflakes from the supermarket it is cheaper than a bigger box, is there not an argument for reducing fares on those three operators because those tickets are no longer valid on a wider range of bus services in the city region?”
Oldham is one of the areas of Greater Manchester where services fall under the arrangement, along with Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Salford and Rochdale.
Coun Phil Burke, of Rochdale council, had previously described the decision as a ‘poor outcome for bus passengers’ and said ‘any initiative to increase fares discourages people from travelling by bus unless they have no alternative’.
Coun John Leech, leader of the opposition on Manchester council, also called for an explanation from the bus company representatives present at the meeting on Friday.
Matt Rawlinson, operations director for Diamond Bus, told the committee that leaving the scheme would have little impact as people still preferred First’s services over their own.
Diamond Bus had bought First’s Bolton depot in August after Go North West had bought First’s Queen’s Road facility in June.
Mr Rawlinson said: “We obviously want to put our stamp on the business we purchased and that was restricted by being aligned on everything that we do at the minute.
“We’ll be looking at our fares in the New Year. There may be some rise, there may be some drop. That’s not finalised yet but that’s something we’re working on once this agreement ends.”
Ian Humphreys, managing director of First Manchester, told councillors that it would be ‘difficult’ to comment on the company’s fare plans but added: “We are looking at all options.”