Manchester Bee Network to offer integrated public transport

Greater Manchester will get new responsibilities for transport as part of the city region’s latest devolution deal with the Government, which hands more powers, money and responsibility to local leaders.

Named the ‘Trailblazer Deeper Devolution Deal’ by the Government and Manchester, it also covers housing, regeneration, skills, business, employment, trade and tourism.

Crucially, it will entail a ‘single settlement’ - a single-sum grant to Manchester that is not ring-fenced, similar to that already provided to Scotland and Wales.

The deal includes more influence on local rail services to deliver a London-style integrated public transport system - called the Bee Network - by 2030, controlled by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

The Bee Network aims to integrate bus, tram, rail, and cycle hire with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing, and with co-branding across stations, designs, and standards by 2027.

Using a bumble bee and honeycomb logo, it launches in September, when franchising takes over buses in Bolton, Wigan, and parts of Bury and Salford.

Trains will continue to be operated by Northern (currently run by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort).

The Government said it “recognises the importance of a consolidated, devolved and long-term approach to transport funding”, and has provided £1.07bn City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements to GMCA until 2027. 

It added: “Implementation of a single settlement, and any further financial consolidation or devolution, needs to be accompanied by GMCA presenting a clear pathway to a secure, long-term financial footing, including meeting ongoing operational costs of the Greater Manchester Bee Network from April 2025.”

The Trailblazer Deal also commits GMCA to “engage meaningfully with the Government and the private sector on the financial package, including on a locally led funding strategy for High Speed 2 scope, as informed by progression of the Hybrid Bill, with the expectation of significant progress by the end of 2023”.

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