BUSES in the west of Scotland are to be brought back under public control under fresh plans which could see the system work like Manchester.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) agreed to begin work on establishing local bus franchising in line with the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 at a meeting on Friday. 

SPT said franchising is a proven model for delivering local bus services throughout Europe, and that it can significantly improve networks, lead to more passengers and boost accessibility.

The organisation has said the process will cost up to £15 million and could take between five and seven years to establish.

It was also recommended that SPT, along with its partners, should progress with the bus service improvements partnership (BSIP) arrangements to provide a basis to curb the decline in passenger numbers.

SPT chairman and SNP councillor for Govan Stephen Dornan said: “This is a bold and ambitious plan from SPT which sets a strong approach to tackle a declining bus market.

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“It gives us opportunities to build for growth and deliver a network that is attractive, accessible and affordable to both passengers in our communities who rely on the bus to get around, and those who we need to get ‘on board’ by offering an attractive alternative to the private car.

“However, any franchising option will take time and investment to establish so we need to look at doing something now to halt the declining bus market.

“BSIPs, which also require suitable investment, offer the best opportunity for a significant, interim improvement while we work to establish the world-class local bus franchise model the people of the west of Scotland deserve.

“In order to progress any of these options, we need investment from the Scottish Government, which now has to step up with real funding and a commitment to support public transport, particularly bus.”

Campaigners have been calling for buses in the region to be brought back under local control and the "chaos" of deregulation to be brought to an end as part of the Better Buses for Strathclyde movement.

Deregulation, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1986, was meant to drive down fares and improve services and competition but has led to complaints about fewer services, punctuality and higher costs.

Better Buses for Strathclyde has held demonstrations outside SPT as it called for the company to follow the lead of Manchester, which last year launched the Bee Network which sees the local authority set fares, timetables and routes, while services are franchised to private companies.

Since December 4, local transport authorities have been given new powers under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to again run bus services.

The iconic orange Strathclyde buses disappeared following the Transport Act 1985, which led to SPT being forced to sell off its bus operations.

The public will be consulted on the latest recommendations in the coming months.

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Glasgow councillor Gordon McKee said buses in Glasgow had been "dreadful" for decades as he welcomed the move.

On Twitter/X he posted: "Glasgow's buses have been dreaful for my entire life. I hope this is the first step in making the services for the city they serve."

Councillor Keiran O'Neill added: "Years of campaigning have led to this. Well done to everyone for the graft. Time to take back our buses."

Local services franchising is a system that allows a local transport authority to award exclusive rights to an operator to run certain bus services for a set period of time.

SPT board papers state the local transport authority must first put in place a franchise framework setting out what local services are to be provided, the standards to which the services are to be provided, and any additional facilities or services that are to be provided.

Under this franchise framework, the local transport authority enters into franchise agreements with bus operators, awarded through competitive processes, to deliver the specified services and standards.

Greens councillor Blair Anderson said: "We’re taking a big step towards putting public transport back in public hands.

"Now we need to deliver the finance to make better buses a reality. Greens are working on bold plans to raise more money and fairly fund our public transport again."

Andrew Carter, chief executive of think tank Centre for Cities, said: “Glasgow and the wider Strathclyde region is setting a precedent for other places in Scotland to follow with its move towards bus franchising.

“The current public transport network in and around Glasgow under-serves lots of its residents and bus franchising could improve access to the city centre for around 300,000 people. It will lead to better routes, better pricing and simpler fares for passengers. It’s one step towards reversing decline in bus travel and getting the economy firing again.

“Greater Manchester, the first place outside London to implement bus franchising, has already seen rising passenger satisfaction and an eight per cent increase in bus passenger numbers.”