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Court of Appeal decision paves way for bus reforms across North – Andy Burnham

Reform of bus services across northern England can go ahead following the rejection of a legal challenge, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has claimed (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Reform of bus services across northern England can go ahead following the rejection of a legal challenge, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has claimed (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Reform of bus services across northern England can go ahead following the rejection of a legal challenge, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has claimed.

The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Burnham’s decision in March 2021 to bring services in the region under public control.

Bus companies Stagecoach Manchester and Rotala challenged this, bringing a case against Mr Burnham and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

A High Court judge ruled against the companies in March, and the Court of Appeal rejected a challenge by Rotala on Monday.

Mr Burnham said: “This is brilliant news for the people of Greater Manchester – and for anyone across the UK who cares about having a bus service that puts people ahead of shareholder profit.

“We were always very confident that GMCA had followed all correct legal processes and that the decision to franchise buses and bring them under public control was lawful and right.

“We’re delighted that we have comprehensively defeated the last legal challenge in the way of bringing buses under public control.

“The Court of Appeal’s judgment upholds the original decision of the High Court and unanimously rejects this appeal as without any merit.”

He added: “This clear and unanimous judgment is another green light which means that we can now power ahead at full speed to deliver bus franchising across Greater Manchester as part of our Bee Network: an integrated, accessible and affordable London-style transport system joining together buses, trams, cycling and walking.

“And I hope that the unanimous rejection of this appeal paves the way for other city regions, such as Liverpool City Region and South Yorkshire, to progress with their ambitions to bring buses under public control.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “This is good news for Greater Manchester, good news for the work we’re doing to reregulate buses in the Liverpool City Region but, most of all, it’s good news for passengers across the country.

“For too long, public transport users have been forced to contend with an inefficient, fragmented system that has left too many communities behind.

“Thanks to devolution, Labour mayors across the country are putting that right. We’re making transport quicker, greener, cheaper and more reliable – putting the public back at the heart of public transport.”

Bus services outside London are deregulated, provided by commercial operators who decide their own routes and timetables, and also retain control over their revenue and profits.

Some local authorities are able to operate franchising schemes, where bus operators can provide services under contract to the local transport authority.

Dismissing the challenge, Lady Justice Andrews at the Court of Appeal said the analysis by High Court judge Mr Justice Julian Knowles was “impeccable” and she agreed that Mr Burnham’s decision was “neither unlawful nor irrational”.

Rotala said in a statement: “The company has considered the Court of Appeal’s judgment in its claim against GMCA and the Mayor and, whilst disappointed with the result, it respects the decision of the court and has resolved to take no further steps in this legal process.”