Public Transport in the North Buses

Wednesday 11 September 2024

Hilton Hotel, Leeds

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Following on from our highly successful Manchester conference in September 2023 we turn to Leeds as the host city for 2024. Whilst covering all developments across Yorkshire, Lancashire and the metropolitan districts we will no doubt be looking at how Manchester’s phase One of franchising has gone amongst the many presentations. This year’s conference is being held at the Hilton Hotel, Leeds City Centre. Day one will have a rail agenda and will be hosted by our sister publication Modern Railways magazine.

2024 Event Details

2023 Conference

The Public Transport in the North conference took place at Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Manchester Piccadilly from September 12-13. The event was organised by Buses Magazine and its sister publication Modern Railways, with the first day dedicated to rail and the second to buses.

Manchester was an ideal venue for this first northern conference, because of the imminent launch of the Bee Network. The first tranche of this publicly controlled bus system, replacing a deregulated market in place in Manchester since 1986, went live on September 24.

Naturally, much of the conference focussed on its host city, and we were delighted to welcome Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to open the event. He spoke for 40 minutes, answering many delegate questions and established an air of positivity which persisted through the bus day of the event. The opening session also featured Stephen Rhodes and Anne-Marie Purcell from Transport for Greater Manchester, Zachery McAskill from Stagecoach Manchester and Nigel Featham from Go North West. Featham provided one of the standout presentations of the day, detailing his company’s brilliant Elite Bus Driver Training Academy recruitment campaign.

The second session of the day involved Ben Wakerley from Warrington’s Own Buses and Philip Kershaw from EO Charging, who both spoke about the process of establishing a new electric bus depot. Matthew Goggins from Liverpool City Region, a likely bus franchising location in the near future, also spoke.

The final session of the day included Andreas Schörling of Flixbus, Matthew Lawrence of Alexander Dennis, Ben Gilligan of Easy Yorkshire Buses and Adam Cross and Lee Sands from Hexagon ALI / Sapphire Systems, with CPT CEO Graham Vidler concluding the event, with a talk on improving bus service under any regulatory mode.

Overview of Greater Manchester's bus route franchise strategy - Andy Burnham

The Mayor of Greater Manchester opened the conference. Andy is the first mayor to spearhead a move to a franchised bus network, taking advantage of a change in legislation to allow greater public control of bus services. This new network went live within two weeks of the conference date. The city region has an ambitious target of 30% passenger growth.

Wider Ambitions of Manchester's Bee Network - TfGM

Stephen Rhodes and Anne-Marie Purcell head up bus activities at Transport for Greater Manchester and are managing delivery of the Bee Network. They provided insight into the franchising process, and future goals for the network.

Mobilising a bus franchise - Nigel Featham

Currently holding responsibility for two of the north’s largest bus operations, Nigel is well placed to view the challenges faced by the industry across a wide swathe of the region. He is involved in both the largest Bus Service Improvement Plan grant in England, in Tyne & Wear, and the franchising transformation taking place in Greater Manchester.

Inspiring the next generation to join the industry - Zachary McAskill

Representing the largest operator in Manchester’s deregulated bus market, Zach is in charge of the company’s transition back into regulated operations. As well as preparing for one of the biggest operational shake-ups since deregulation, he is interested in attracting a new generation of drivers, managers and other key employees to the bus industry.

Delivering zero emission bus fleets - Alexander Dennis

The largest bus manufacturer in the UK, Alexander Dennis launched its own electric range last year, and has delivered many hundreds of zero emission buses in partnership with Chinese manufacturer BYD. With ever-increasing pressure and demand for zero emission vehicles, Matthew Lawrence explained how his company is meeting this challenge.

Flixbus's sustainability initiatives and commitment to transport in the north - Andreas Schörling

Flixbus has been expanding its express coach services at a high rate over the last few years, with connections reaching through into Europe as far as Ukraine. With the north of England long being frustrated by a lack of rail development, could the operator’s express services help to fill the gap? Andreas discussed what his company is providing to the region.

Reforming buses in the Liverpool City Region - Matt Goggins

While Manchester is the first city region to take advantage of the opportunity presented by new government legislation to bring in a franchised bus model for its public transport network, the Liverpool region has been strongly considering such a model itself. Matthew provided the authority’s perspective on reforming buses – which direction will it take?

Reshaping the business post-Covid - Ben Gilligan

Ben Gilligan is currently at the helm of East Yorkshire Buses, which has been part of the Go-Ahead Group since 2018, though the operation has a rich history stretching back almost a century. The operator has undertaken a significant restructure in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Ben provided an update on what this means for the iconic company.

The importance of a digital asset management strategy in the bus industry - Hexagon

The bus industry may be more ‘analogue’ than many industries, but a digital asset management strategy is still an important consideration, as Adam Cross and Lee Sands explained.

Five keys to improving bus services, whatever the regulatory mode - Graham Vidler

Over several years at the helm of the bus and coach industry’s major industry body, Graham has been heavily involved in discussions about the industry’s future, with colleagues, government and other stakeholders. His knowledge of challenges facing the industry across the north of England was insightful.