Transport bosses’ anger at fares rise
Reporter: ALAN SALTER
Date online: 05 April 2011
FURIOUS transport chiefs are threatening to tear up their voluntary agreements with bus operators and use the law to control fares after a round of shock increases this week.
It would mean invoking the Transport Act to force quality contracts on the operators and give councillors the power to fix fares and timetables.
The first meeting of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) was marred by anger at local bus companies — in particular Oldham-based First — which put up fares this week at the same time as the authority’s concessionary fares moved from 80p to half the commercial price.
Last week, the Chronicle revealed that First Manchester managing director Richard Soper had written to every member of the committee — the new name for Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority — blaming the concessionary decision for the need to put up fares for every passenger. Stagecoach and Arriva followed suit.
Although the idea of quality contracts was introduced in the Transport Act of 2000 and made easier to introduce in 2008, no area in the country has so far used the legislation.
But transport authorities in the North-East and West and South Yorkshire began the process this year.
TfGM chief executive David Leather was today meeting Mr Soper’s boss, First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole, to protest at the rise after a unanimous motion was passed to demand that Mr Soper takes back his claim that the concessionary scheme is responsible for the fare rise.
Chairman Councillor Keith Whitmore said: “This has come on the back of a difficult decision we had to make. We understood we had a partnership way of working with the operators.
“They are getting large sums of money from the Government. What happened last week has now put that way of working at risk.”
Oldham’s deputy mayor, Councillor Richard Knowles, who will be TfGM vice-chairman in charge of capital projects and policy, said: “Partnerships only work if the bus companies are as committed as the transport authority.
“We have had the power to impose contracts since 2000. We have held back but this has really been a snub.”
The authority is to redouble its publicity drive about the new system after councillors received hundreds of complaints from parents.
TfGM claims that no child needs to pay more than 85p to travel to school despite the scrapping of the 80p flat fare.
First’s weekly ticket is the most expensive at £8.50 and Stagecoach offers an even cheaper weekly pass at £5.75.
Mr Soper could not be contacted at First Manchester’s headquarters in Walshaw Street, Oldham.
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