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Andy Burnham defends spending £500k on repainting Bee Network buses

The mayor of Greater Manchester has defended the plus £500,000 fee spent on the rebranding of buses as part of the new Bee Network system.

Andy Burnham, appearing on his regular ‘In the hotseat segment on BBC Radio Manchester this morning, was quizzed by a listener as to why they have spent £558,408 on repainting 93 buses. The figure was revealed by a Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

That figure accounts for around £6,000 to £7,000 per bus, which is ‘industry standard’, a Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) spokesperson said.

The FOI also revealed that a tram was ‘wrapped’ in vinyl to promote the launch of the Bee Network, at an approximate cost of £20,000.

Defending this public spending, Mr Burnham told listeners: “It’s not [crazy]. If you go around the world, other than Britain, you will see a consistent public transport fleet operating. 

“It’s safer — people can see it more clearly and understand where public transport is. Yellow is the safest colour because it’s the one people can see most clearly.

“If you are going to have public transport that will inspire public confidence and is integrated this is the sensible change to make.

“It’s a modest amount of money. It was always in the plan to have a consistent fleet. 

“One of the reasons people did not use the buses in the past was the jumble of colours and not knowing if they could use the ticket they had.”

Following the second phase of the launch of the ‘London-style’ integrated transport network in March, yellow buses can now be seen on the roads of almost every Greater Manchester borough.

The branding of the GM Cycle Hire service was a contractual requirement of the procurement and did not come at an additional cost. Bikes recently had vinyl branding applied as part of the Starling Bank sponsorship, with no net cost to TfGM.

Any other bus rebranding costs have been covered by revenues generated through franchise operations, rather than as a cost to the taxpayer, according to TfGM.

Fran Wilkinson, customer and growth director at TfGM, said previously: “Customer experience is at the heart of the Bee Network and in the early stages of development of the branding, our customers were very clear that the mass of operator logos and brands made travelling on public transport in Greater Manchester confusing and difficult to navigate.

“The Bee Network as a simple, consistent, singular brand removes that confusion and makes it easier for people to understand how to get onto the network, how to use it, what ticket to buy and increases the chances of them using public transport.

“Our forecasts also showed that branding buses would pay for itself in less than two years and since the introduction of Bee Network franchised buses last September, we have already seen an increase in bus patronage, so we know our approach is working.”

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