Is There A Genuinely Objective View?

Andy Burnham,  Manchester Mega-Mayor, seems to think so in a sound bite in October 2023. But being “on he up” suggests that performance was originally “down”. 
A leading magazine …
… was a little more cautious a few weeks later in November 2023.
The overall view seems to have been “could do better” and “should do much better”. We know that, in the early days, GoAhead had to bring in 200 approx extra drivers to make their bit of the Bee Network work. As Andy says, things are “on the up” but from a very low base.
But one man ought to be wholly objective.

He is Alex Cropper from TfGM (which used to be called Greater Manchester PTE and, before that, SELNEC.)

But then, what is this “Committee” which has received, with eager excitement (?), his report?

To meet the challenge of bus franchising, a new, smaller, and more strategically focused ‘Bee Network Committee’ has been formed. Replacing the former Greater Manchester Transport Committee it leads transport decision-making at a regional level, taking greater ownership and responsibility for the transport network.

It is made up of 16 members, including Chair Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, and Vice Chair Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council and Portfolio Holder for Technical Education & Skills and Clean Air for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

There is also one councillor from each of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities and four councillors appointed by the Mayor for political balance.
Noye, if fbb’s arithmetic is up to scratch he makes that a total of 16 + 10  + 4 = a committee of 30.
That is an interesting interpretation of “smaller and more strategically focussed”.
And what about that ever important “political balance”? Most local authorities in Greater Manchester are in the thrall of the Labour Party; thus so is the Bee Network Committee. Here is its political make up.

The extra deeper red wedge is a member of the Labour and Co-operative Party, an intriguing feature of those parts. So “political balance” equates to 12 labour and 4 others which probably accurately matches the overall political (im)balance of Greater Manchester.

But we are where we are and there doesn’t seem to be much chance of any meaningful objection to the doings of young Andy Burnham!
You might expect Mr Cropper (after all, a humble employee) to reflect the “political balance” in his report.
Let’s see what sort of things he tells his “smaller and strategically focussed” committee.
The first days of the franchises brought operational challenges.
You bet!
Franchised services are now regularly out performing those of the non-franchised operators.
Really? We will see some of Mr Croppers charts later.
A Bee Network Operational Excellence Plan has been put in place to improve performance.
So, really, honestly, it isn’t doing that well if you need an “excellence” plan?
Patronage on franchised services has grown steadily since the franchises began.
Really? From what base line? Or do you mean “grown steadily” since the end of Covid restrictions – which would be about the same timescale. There are no supporting statistics for this claim!
But it is the performance charts that fascinated fbb. In a few economics lessons at school he was taught to treat all statistical charts with polite suspicion and those below are a case in point.
First we have performance stats for the non-franchised services.

First, is reliability (above), dropping from near 100% to a meagre 80%. Dreadful? 

Next comes punctuality.

This is down from 80% (poor) to just over 60% (appalling) – and it all happened almost immediately after franchising. Yeah, right!

One of the ways to obfuscate statistics is to change what is being counted slightly and to change the scale on the graph. So compared with non-franchised operators, this for Mr Burnham’s Bee Bus baby looks quite impressive.

The various measures (which may or may mot be taken on the same basis), are nearly up to the line, the measure of huge success. But when we look at the axis of the graph …

… the target line is at 80%, not the 100% of the non-franchised reliability chart. Which means the Bee Network is performing no better than the non-franchised network and for some measures a lot, lot worse.

The tram reliability chart looks awful!

It is not absolutely clear what “Planned Operational Mileage is; but it should be operational reliability but ignoring things (overrunning toad works, traffic accidents) outwith the control of Metrolink.

The “awful” chart shows a huge dip from near 100% all the way down (!) to just over 96%. Which ain’t at all bad.
Is Mr Cropper trying to make the Bee Network bus people feel they are doing better than he team?
Remember, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics”.
fbb doesn’t think that the Bee Network is much different from the current non-franchised operations or from the pre-franchised networks – nor is ot ever likely to Bee. 
Saying Yellow to the new network has seen the big change to move a few chairs around on the Titanic.
It’s the same routes with yellow buses and a change-round of drivers and their operational bosses. 
Andy Burnham’s aim to increase patronage by 30% to pay for dramatic improvements (as yet undelivered) doesn’t look too cheery.
Does Andy dream of El Dorado for his plans …

… or something else?

Mr Cropper’s report is not confidential – you can find it on line – but it has not received much publicity in Weatherfield a k a Cottonopolis a k a Manchester.
Tomorrow a Rotherham MP speaks out.
 Politics in Rotherham blog : Thursday 11th Jan 
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