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Liverpool City Region Bus Franchising Consultation

Have your say on how our buses are run

Welcome to Moving Buses Forward, a chance to give your view on how buses should be run in the Liverpool City Region.

Buses are the backbone of our region’s local transport network, with 8 in 10 public transport journeys being taken by bus. Half a million people across the Liverpool City Region use the bus every day, and choose buses to get them to work, to school, to the doctors, to visit friends and family, or to have a day out. Buses are key to keeping our city region moving.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has new powers to improve bus services by taking greater public control of the network – either through an enhanced partnership with bus operators or by introducing bus franchising.

After undertaking an assessment of these options, the Combined Authority has reached the conclusion that franchising would be the best option to reform our bus services. Before any final decision is made, we want to know what the people who live and work in the Liverpool City Region think.

Anyone can take part in the consultation. You do not have to live in the Liverpool City Region or be a regular bus user. Even if you do not use buses, you can still take part – we want to hear from everyone. You can answer as a member of the public or on behalf of an organisation.

Watch this short animation to find out more

How are buses in the Liverpool City Region run now?

Since 1986, bus services in the Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) have been deregulated. That means that most bus services are run by bus operators who decide the routes, timetables, fares, and service standards.

The Combined Authority then fill the gaps in the network with subsidised bus services, paying operators to run services on key routes or at key times of day when there is a social need.

The bus companies receive the revenue from passenger fares and public subsidies and keep any profits. They also have control over the bus network, including where services run and how often, and can decide to reduce or remove services if they are not profitable.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority believes the way buses are run in the Liverpool City Region needs to change.

Current public funding for bus services

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority currently pays for:

  • Subsidised bus services – around 15% of the region’s bus network relies on this support (£14m in the 2021/22 financial year)
  • Investment in transport schemes such as the £2 single fare, Green Bus Routes (making your buses run faster/more reliably) and zero-emission hydrogen buses (£145m between 2022 – 2027
  • Concessionary travel schemes to make travel cheaper or free for certain groups including free travel for older people and people with disabilities (£40.3m in the 2021/22 financial year)
  • We also provide public transport network information and run and maintain bus stations, bus shelters and travel centres.

What are the options?

We have looked at two options for reforming our bus system:

Franchising (the Proposed Franchising Scheme)

Under this option the Combined Authority would specify what bus services are to be provided, where they should run, the timetables and fares. Bus operators would compete to run the services through a competitive tendering process. The Combined Authority would take the revenue from passenger fares which would contribute to the running costs of the system. This is how buses are run in London, and in Greater Manchester the first franchised buses are planned to start running in September 2023. This is our preferred option for the Liverpool City Region because it delivers the best value for money and gives us greater control over the bus network.

Enhanced Partnership

Under this option the Combined Authority and the bus operators would work together to improve bus services (such as new buses, passenger information and fare-setting of multi-operator tickets). Operators would continue to take revenue from fares on commercial services and make decisions about how bus services are run.

The Proposed Franchising Scheme

Throughout the consultation we refer to the Proposed Franchising Scheme – this is our plan for how the Combined Authority would put franchising in place on the city region’s bus network. It outlines when the decision will be taken to implement franchising, when it will be put in place in each area, how long it would take to mobilise each contract (get the buses on the road), as well as information on the routes and areas franchising will be put in place in, and those bus services that are not included.

What would franchising cost?

More money would be needed to move to a franchised bus system and to invest in improving our buses. We believe some of the big costs to be:

  • £252m investment in buses
  • £62m investment in bus depots
  • £27m to change over to franchising

We would look to borrow this money and pay it back in future from the fares we receive, and the more people that use the bus the easier this will be.

However, it is likely that extra funding would be needed to cover all long-term costs. This means that we would have to look at options such as:

  • Transport Levy – this is funded by Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral councils
  • Mayoral precept – this is the additional charge that residents across the region pay as a contribution to the work of the Combined Authority
  • Mersey Tunnel tolls – a proportion of any money left over after the cost of running and maintaining the tunnels is met
  • Government funding – additional money from central government

You can let us know what you think about funding for bus franchising by taking part in the consultation and answering the questionnaire.

How do I get involved?

We would like you to fill in a questionnaire. The short version contains 8 questions, and the long version contains 34 questions. You can answer either version of the questionnaire and you do not have to answer all the questions. You can complete and submit a questionnaire below.

If you cannot fill in a questionnaire online, you can fill in a paper copy of the questionnaire at one of our events. Your completed paper copy can then be handed in at the event, emailed to  [email protected] or sent to:

Embankment East Tower,
100 Cathedral Approach,
M3 7FB

What happens next?

AECOM, the independent agency who are managing and analysing the responses on behalf of the Combined Authority, will independently assess the responses as part of the consultation process.

The Combined Authority will then consider all the responses we receive when making any decision on whether to introduce the Proposed Franchising Scheme. We expect this to be in December 2023. However, this may change depending on the progress and outcome of the consultation.

The Act allows the Proposed Franchising Scheme to be amended after the consultation closes, for example to reflect the bus network at that moment in time or to amend the network to reflect consultation responses. In some circumstances, if changes are significant enough, it may be necessary to consult on the changes to the Proposed Franchising Scheme.

You can opt in to receive further updates on our plans for bus reform when filling out the questionnaire.

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Key date

Consultation closes:
Thursday 3 August, 11:59pm

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