Frequently asked questions

What is a Quality Partnership Scheme (QPS)?

​A QPS is a statutory scheme which in this case would be made jointly by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and relevant local authorities (Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, Rochdale Borough Council and Wigan Council). The QPS lists facilities (for example bus lanes, passenger shelters, waiting and loading restrictions etc.) within the QPS area which benefit bus passengers and operations. The QPS requires the GMCA and the local authorities to continue to provide these facilities for the life of the QPS. In return operators of bus services which use the facilities must (unless their services are excluded from the QPS) undertake to operate the services to the standards set out in the QPS (for example standards covering performance, vehicle standards, customer care etc.).

What is a Voluntary Multilateral Partnership Agreement (VMPA)?

​A VMPA is a legal agreement which complements the QPS and is made between the bus operators affected by the QPS and the local authorities and transport authority/transport executive (in this case TfGM). It deals with matters such as how the services standards will be monitored, how the facilities will be maintained and the bus priority measures enforced, what information the parties will share with each other and generally how the parties will work together in partnership to improve bus services within the QPS area. A VMPA would be entered into for this QPS by TfGM, Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, Rochdale Borough Council, Wigan Council and any bus operators whose services are included in the QPS.

When will the QPS come into force?

​TfGM have worked closely with Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, Rochdale Borough Council and Wigan Council to deliver significant improvements to bus facilities as part of the bus priority package. Benefits are provided if the new and historic investment is protected and maintained and passengers receive a high quality bus service.

The commencement of the QPS will be dependent on the outcomes of the consultation and the successful resolution of any objections.  Following the consultation and the resolution of any objections final approvals will be sought through the local authorities and GMCA’s approval processes to make the QPS.  In accordance with the QPS regulations, a minimum three month grace period is required between making and introducing the QPS. It is planned to commence the QPS when the majority of the bus priority package facilities have been provided in 2016.

What benefits will the QPS bring to passengers?

The purpose of the QPS is to provide and maintain high standards of service and travel experience for passengers. The potential local benefits to passengers of the QPS include:

  • Improved performance and punctuality standards;
  • Better customer relations, through driver training and more consistently delivered customer focused standards;
  • Stability of services within the QPS area;
  • Improving security and cleanliness;
  • Reduced differential between car and bus journey times; and
  • Maintaining improved vehicle standards.
What benefits will the QPS bring to operators?

The key benefits to operators include:

  • Protection from traffic congestion and improved competitiveness to the car;
  • Public sector commitment to continued provision of bus infrastructure;
  • Increasing patronage which helps make the routes more sustainable; and
  • Protecting operators who have undertaken to adhere to the standards from other operators operating services to a lesser standard alongside.
What area is covered by the QPS?

The QPS will be one of the largest in the UK spanning four local authorities and covering approximately 50 bus routes operating along the three principal corridors joining up within Manchester city centre.

The routes covered by the QPS will include:

  • A580 East Lancashire Road / A6 Chapel Street (Ellenbrook to Regional Centre), including A577 Tyldesley Road (Atherton to Tyldesley) and A572 Spinning Jenny Way (Leigh Bus Station to guided busway);
  •  A664 Rochdale Road / Manchester New Road (Middleton to Regional Centre); and
  • Oxford Road / Wilmslow Road (East Didsbury to Regional Centre).
The QPS area will cover the on-highway sections of the bus priority package and is shown by the QPS Area Maps.
How long do you propose that the QPS will last?

The QPS will last for five years however there is an expectation that the QPS will be extended past the five year term. Before the QPS is due to expire, the bus operators and local authorities will consider whether they wish to extend the life of the QPS.

What service standards are proposed in the QPS?

Bus operators will only be able to use the high quality infrastructure if they meet a series of specified standards. Services included in the QPS will be required to maintain higher than usual standards in the areas of:

  • High quality vehicle and emissions standards;
  •  Start and intermediate point punctuality;
  • Operated mileage;
  • Driver and staff requirements;
  • Service delivery;
  • Customer care standards;
  • Ticketing; and
  • Data provision and sharing.
Details of the service standards are contained in Schedule D of the QPS.
Which bus services will be included with the QPS?

​A local bus service will be included in the QPS if it meets specific criteria that consider the length of the QPS corridor on which a service operates.

Details of the inclusion criteria are contained in Schedule B of the QPS and the Inclusion Criteria Maps.

Each new service that is registered or any service that is changed will be assessed to determine if it meets the criteria and will be included in the QPS, therefore the services included in the QPS may change over time.  There are currently 50 services that would be included in the QPS, the individual services are identified in the Proposed Services List.

Operators who run services that do not meet minimum criteria for inclusion will be exempt from the QPS. These operators may not necessarily meet all of the QPS quality standards, but may continue to provide their service as now. It may also be that they run bespoke services such as a school buses, excursions or community transport, which would be exempt and may continue to operate as now.

Which operators are currently included in the QPS?

The bus operators included in the QPS will depend on the bus services that are included.  Based on the services currently operating in the QPS area the included operators would be:

  • Arriva
  • Bullocks
  • First
  • Manchester Community Transport
  • Stagecoach
What happens if an operator registers a new or revised service in the QPS area?

The operator and TfGM will assess whether the new or revised service would meet the service inclusion criteria for the QPS. If it does, then the operator will be legally required to inform the Traffic Commissioner that their service will have to comply with the standards set out in the QPS. If the operator is not currently included in the QPS, then they will be invited to sign-up to the VMPA.

What facilities will be included in the QPS?

​It is proposed that bus priority facilities that are less than 10 years old will be included in the QPS. The facilities included are considered to provide benefit to passengers and operators, or to limit the impact of traffic congestion for bus operations and include:

  • Bus stops and shelters;
  • Bus lanes;
  • Prohibitions of driving;
  • Clearways;
  • One ways;
  • Turning restrictions;
  • Waiting restrictions; and
  • Loading / unloading restrictions.
Full details of the proposed facilities are provided in the Facilities spreadsheet.
Facilities to be completed
A number of the facilities identified in the Facilities spreadsheet are currently under construction and therefore can’t be confirmed at this stage. The facilities that are still to be provided are highlighted in green in the Facilities spreadsheet. It is not expected that there will be any significant changes to these facilities, however any changes will be reviewed with the bus operators before the QPS is made.
Existing Facilities
It is proposed that the QPS includes existing facilities that are more than 5 years old but less than 10 years old. The 5 to 10 years old facilities are highlighted in blue in the Facilities spreadsheet so that any bus operators that have relied on the facilities have the opportunity to register an objection. If within the consultation period, no bus operator has objected to the inclusion of such a facility, or any objection made has subsequently been withdrawn, the existing facilities can be included in the QPS.
Facilities outside the Scheme Area
It is proposed that the QPS includes facilities that are outside of the QPS area where these facilities are required to secure the bus priority benefits of the facilities within the QPS area.  The facilities that are outside of the QPS area are highlighted in orange in the Facilities spreadsheet and bus operators have the opportunity to register an objection.
What are the local authorities’ duties?

​Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, Rochdale Borough Council and Wigan Council will be responsible for providing the facilities (with the exception of the bus stop shelters, poles and timetable information – refer to TfGM’s duties).  In addition they will have duties relating to:

  • Protection and maintenance of the facilities;
  • Enforcement of the bus priority infrastructure, bus stop clearways, waiting and loading restrictions; and
  • Management of the highway network relating to roadworks notification, maintenance, inspections and repairs.

Full details of the proposed duties are provided in Schedule 2 of the VMPA.

What is TfGM's role and duties?

​TfGM will monitor the implementation of the QPS in liaison with the local authorities and bus operators. TfGM will put in place partnership arrangements with the operators and local authorities for the monitoring and review of the QPS and of the benefits to passengers accruing through the QPS.

TfGM will be responsible for providing the bus stop shelters, poles and timetable information facilities and in addition will have duties relating to:

  • Maintenance of the bus stop facilities and infrastructure;
  • Maintenance of timetable information; and
  • Management of signalised junctions.
Full details of the proposed duties are provided in Schedule 3 of the VMPA.
Who will enforce the QPS?

​Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, Rochdale Borough Council and Wigan Council are responsible for the enforcement of parking and stationary traffic contraventions in the QPS area. The enforcement of certain moving traffic offences will be provided by the Police and the local authorities that have decriminalised powers.

Any contraventions of the bus operator’s service standards contained in the QPS may be enforced by the Traffic Commissioner North-West.

What are the implications to competition?

​TfGM has taken independent legal advice concerning the Transport Act 2000 Schedule 10 Competition Tests and the QPS and the VMPA. Following receipt of that advice, TfGM has determined that neither the QPS nor the VMPA raise issues under the competition tests.

For the QPS, there will be no significantly adverse effect on competition. Even if an adverse effect is assumed, the QPS would still be justified as it complies with all three justifying purposes and the benefits of the QPS would be very likely to outweigh any adverse effect on competition.

Similarly, for the VMPA, there is no anti-competitive object or effect. Even if an anti-competitive effect is assumed, the VMPA will meet all three bus improvement objectives, the only restrictions imposed are indispensable to achieving those objectives, and it is extremely unlikely that competition would be eliminated in a substantial part of the services in question.

Will you make any further Quality Partnership Schemes?

​As new bus infrastructure proposals are brought forward in Greater Manchester, all relevant partners will consider on a case by case basis whether a statutory QPS would be required to deliver and secure the intended benefits to bus passengers.

Will you make any further Voluntary Partnership Agreements?

​It is likely that any future QPSs will be accompanied by a VPA (or VMPA if there are a number of operators). There are also opportunities to make VPAs independent of a statutory QPS.

Where can I find the legislation about a QPS?

​The relevant legislation is contained in sections 114 to 123 (inclusive) and Schedule 11 of the Transport Act 2000, the Local Transport Act 2008 (which amended certain provisions within the 2000 Act), the Quality Partnership Schemes (England) Regulations 2009 (as amended), the Quality Partnership Schemes (Existing Facilities) Regulations 2001 and the Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services) Regulations 1986. In addition the Department for Transport has issued statutory guidance to local authorities on Quality Partnership Schemes and has also provided non statutory guidance relating to the use of Voluntary Partnership Agreements.

View Department for Transport QPS Guidance. 

View Department for Transport Voluntary Partnership Agreements Guidance.