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Court of Appeal upholds lawfulness of decision by Manchester mayor to implement bus franchising

The Court of Appeal has rejected an operator’s appeal over the decision by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to implement a bus franchising scheme across the area.

In March 2022, the High Court dismissed a challenge brought by two operators, Rotala and Stagecoach. Rotala sought to appeal Mr Justice Knowles’ judgment.

In Rotala Plc, R (On the Application Of) v Greater Manchester Combined Authority & Anor [2022] EWCA Civ 1048 the Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected the appeal.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, 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.

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“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.”

Burnham added: “Throughout two separate consultations, the Greater Manchester public told us that they wanted buses bringing under public control and run for the benefit of the people; and it's frustrating that this legal action has been pursued to prevent this going ahead. So I’m delighted that the court has dismissed all the operator’s arguments and has awarded all costs in our favour…..

“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.”

John Howell QC of Blackstone Chambers and Amy Rogers of 11KBW acted for the successful defendants, instructed by Liz Treacy, GMCA Solicitor and Monitoring Officer.

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