Greater Manchester bus campaigners hand petition to mayor
Campaigners calling for Greater Manchester's buses to be brought back under public control have marched a petition to the region's mayor.
Mayor Andy Burnham wants a London-style system in which operators bid to run services on a franchise basis, and a public consultation ends on Wednesday.
Better Buses campaigners handed the petition, signed by more than 11,000 people, to Mr Burnham's office.
Stagecoach said "franchising is a one-way ticket to higher taxes".
Buses were privatised in the 1980s with routes, timetables and fares set by individual bus companies, which the Better Buses group claims was a mistake.
"Our buses just aren't good enough. They are expensive, they are unreliable," Pascale Robinson from the campaign group, which marched from Stagecoach's headquarters in Manchester to the mayor's office, said.
"We deserve what London has always had... publicly controlled, affordable, all night, clean buses."
A spokesperson for Stagecoach Manchester said: "Franchising is a one-way ticket to higher taxes for local people and will not solve the key practical challenges needed to improve bus services and air quality, such as car congestion.
"In London, passenger decline is faster than anywhere else in the country, routes are being cut and the bus network is £700m in the red."
The spokesperson added Stagecoach had invested more than £37m in improvements in the past five years and were focused on offering value fares.
Under the proposals, private companies would have to bid for a franchise but the routes and fare structures would be decided by a public body.
The three-month public consultation by Greater Manchester Combined Authority has had more than 4,500 responses, said Transport for Greater Manchester.
Mr Burnham is expected to make a decision on the scheme in March.
His office confirmed it had received the petition and said it was assessing its content.
If he approves the bus franchising scheme, Greater Manchester would become the first city region outside London to take advantage of new powers to re-regulate its bus network.