Greater Manchester Combined Authority brings cheap fares cap a year forward

If the bus you normally board is £2.60 one way or £6.40 for a day, we have some good news for you. Especially if you live in Greater Manchester, because you’ll be in for a treat.

In a previous article, we told you that Greater Manchester’s single fares will be no more than £2.00 in 2023. Over the last week, we have found that GMCA has brought the original scheme forward.

Instead of waiting a year for its arrival, the £2.00 fare scheme will be with us next month. From the 4th September 2022, the maximum single fare will be £2.00 for adults or £1.00 for children, no matter what distance. The System One Any Bus DaySaver ticket will be slashed from £6.40 to £5.00. Better still, no changes have been made to the adult ticket’s boundary points which cover some parts of Lancashire and Derbyshire. This means you can still travel to Glossop on a 237 or a 358 to Hayfield – so long as your journey starts in Greater Manchester.

As it will be three years till a fully franchised network comes to fruition, incumbent operators are free to set any adult single fare below the £2.00 cap. Cross-boundary fares will cover our City Region’s £2.00 cap then whatever the fare from Greater Manchester to Derbyshire, Lancashire or West Yorkshire may be. Operators will continue to sell their own single operator day rover tickets or season tickets, which maintains a seamless link on cross-boundary routes like the 125 from Bolton to Preston.

How will the fares work?

Let’s start by looking at the fares:

  • £2.00 maximum adult single fare;
  • £1.00 maximum child single fare;
  • £5.00 daily cap (or £2.50 for child fares).

Unlike Transport for London’s short hop fare, there is no hour long time limit for your single ticket. If the single journey takes more than an hour, it is still £2.00. Which means you could go from Oldham to Dukinfield on a 343 (1 hour 10 minutes).

If you catch more than one bus inside an hour, it would cost you no more than £5.00. Which, despite being more expensive than TfL’s timed ticket, is still a lot cheaper than today’s [pre-4th September] fares. At present, you need an Any Bus Day Saver for travelling from Top Mossley to Ashton-under-Lyne. Firstly, a single journey is more than £4.00 for 20 minutes; secondly, Stagecoach Manchester runs the 350 after 7pm instead of First Greater Manchester.

Ultimately, the £2.00 (or £1.00) single fare is designed to woo casual passengers on board. Even with GetMeThere/System One season tickets staying the same price for now, you can still save money with their 7-day, 28-day and annual season tickets.

What if I am making a cross-boundary journey?

Under present conditions, your single fare on the 237 (for arguments sake) will be made up from TfGM’s £2.00 fare up to Hollingworth and Stagecoach Manchester’s own fares up to Glossop. A good buy (unless some of its journeys go to a different operator) is any of Stagecoach Manchester’s Day Rover or Megarider tickets.

Where will I be able to buy my tickets?

On the bus. With cash, contactless debit card or iOS/Android smartphone digital wallet app.

What about weekly or monthly caps?

We shall find out once franchised operations commence in the western part of Greater Manchester (Wigan, Leigh and Bolton).

Is the £2.00 single an off-peak fare or an all-day fare?

An all day fare, from the very first bus of the day to the very last bus of the day. There is no premium for travelling between (for example) 7am to 9.30am or 4pm to 6.30pm.

What about night buses?

Historically, night bus fares in Greater Manchester have been 50% higher than daytime fares or two clips on a standard ClipperCard. Based on this precedent, it should be capped to £3.00, though nothing has been said about this subject yet. (Expect to see something around the time we see our Christmas and New Year changes).

Where next?

The £2.00 cap is only the first step towards a more cost-effective bus network in Greater Manchester. In a way, it gives us a taste of what could be done with more simplified fares and more affordable bus fares for occasional passengers.

It is hoped the new fares would boost bus patronage. This bit might take some time as Greater Manchester’s bus operators (up until 2025 at the latest) still call the shots on service levels. They still have a say on what buses to put on the 346 on the non-tendered section of its route. It won’t solve any of our operators’ staffing problems overnight, but not having to remember several permutations of single fares would be a godsend. (Unless your roster has cross-boundary routes like the 237, 358 and 394).

The biggest bonus is that occasional trips from one town to another may be cheaper. Instead of being a fiver on a FirstDay ticket, it’ll be £4.00 from Ashton-under-Lyne to Rochdale and back as well as Oldham. £4.00 to take the scenic route from Oldham to Dukinfield instead of £6.40 – a massive saving of £2.40 now – and a pound under the £5.00 cap next month. From Manchester to Ashton-under-Lyne, it would give trams and trains a run for their money. Despite being slower, the 216’s and 219’s combined daytime journeys alone are twice Metrolink frequencies – and up to 12 times more frequent than the Victoria train!

We shall be watching next month’s events with interest. If the fares cap isn’t bringing in as many passengers as desired, it is clear that our operators’ timetables may be as much an achilles heel as the fares were before September.

S.V., 24 August 2022.

One thought on “Greater Manchester’s Cut Price Fare Scheme Starts Next Month

  1. I think a problem may be that operators will still push their own day tickets in terms of advertising and people may still buy them through force of habit. Effective advertising of the £5 day ticket will be essential. I fear that many bus users will not know about it.

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