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Firm loses appeal against Greater Manchester bus reforms

Andy Burnham has won a legal appeal over plans to bring Greater Manchester's buses under public control by next year.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision by the city-region's mayor to bring services under public control, after Diamond Bus owner Rotala appealed a ruling by a High Court judge earlier this year.

Bus companies Stagecoach and Rotala brought a case against Mr Burnham and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, accusing the GMCA of conducting "a flawed consultation" and said millions of pounds would be spent on the scheme without any tangible benefits to customers.

The mayor has hailed the unanimous rejection of the appeal as "brilliant news for the people of Greater Manchester".

He said Greater Manchester has already been moving to reform public transport, with bus fares capped at £2 per journey for adults and £1 for children as well as a maximum cost of £5 for a day ticket coming in from 1 September.

In addition, Mr Burnham said the city-region was investing in 220 zero-emission buses. It is intended that 50 of those will be brought into service as part of the first phase of franchising in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Salford from September 2023, with more greener vehicles then being introduced in Bury, Rochdale and parts of north Manchester in spring 2024 and finally in Stockport, Trafford, Tameside and south Manchester by the end of 2024.

Under the scheme, 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. 

Rotala said in a statement: "The company has considered the Court of Appeal's judgment in its claim against GMCA and the mayor and, whilst disappointed with the result, it respects the decision of the court and has resolved to take no further steps."

'This clear and unanimous judgment is another green light' 

In a statement reacting to the Court of Appeal ruling, Mr Burnham 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.”

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