07Beyond bus franchising

The franchising process will enable mayors to improve the bus network for passengers through simpler fares, cross-subsidy from profit-making to loss-making routes and more efficient and integrated networks. And franchising the network incentivises mayors much more strongly towards taking the decisions that will improve the network.

To make franchising as successful as possible, mayors should also be clear that this will require:

Bus priority measures. Bus lanes, priority at junctions, parking charges and other fees on driving are important in any congested city to improve accessibility for bus users and maximise the benefits buses under any regulatory framework. Greater Manchester highlights the increased ability to invest in bus priority.

Extra subsidy. Bus services require ongoing subsidy in every city including London. All mayors will need to increase funding to improve their bus network and achieve the benefits that a high quality network will produce.

Co-ordination with neighbours. Most bus markets spill over administrative boundaries. Residents of neighbourhoods that sit just outside the urban authority, such as in Reading or Nottingham, must be part of the bus network. And outlying towns and rural areas rely on the cities they surround for hospitals, schools, employment and shops.46 Franchised bus networks should avoid fragmentation along local boundaries that will limit access to opportunities for residents.

While bus operators call for these actions, in particular the first two, to take place without recourse to franchising, the pattern of where these pro-bus measures have been enacted indicates that the institutional and structural effects of deregulation limit their appeal to city leaders and mayors.


  • 46 https://www.centreforcities.org/publication/talk-of-the-town/