TIME is running out to stop a bus route catastrophe in Bury and across Greater Manchester.

A recent assessment from our regional transport committee has identified around one third of our bus services will be impacted, with significant reductions in frequencies and with the private bus firms potentially cutting about 30 routes completely, if Covid support funding is not extended.

Make no mistake about it, this would be disastrous for Bury and hit many of our residents who rely on these services. It also risks cutting off entire communities.

Urgent action is required from the Government to commit necessary funding to protect our vital public transport network.

The Metrolink is also in need of support, and without it, may be forced to increase fares, stop investment and even cancel expansion plans.

When we need to promote more use of public transport. All of this will put us back years and potentially kill off any improvements we would have seen from the plans to bring buses back under public control and create a London-style integrated transport system.

How on earth can the Government claim to 'level up' the north but stand idly by when bus routes are set to be decimated and our tram system is deprived of vital investment?

These are the tests of how committed this Government is. Not the words but the actions. I am calling on residents to back our campaign to stop this impending disaster and tell the Government to give us the funding we deserve and need.

This is not just about public transport either, this is about how we recover in the strongest, fairest and greenest way possible from the pandemic. A third of GM residents do not have access to a car, so to connect them up with education and jobs, GPs and hospitals, high streets and cultural attractions will require a growing network on integrated public transport, not one slashed to the bone because of Government inaction.

As we have seen with Andy Burnham’s 'Our Pass' scheme, which gives all 16-18 year olds free city region bus travel, huge opportunities await us if we improve access to public transport.

It is also a central part of the answer in how we deal with dirty air and climate change. It is not fair on motorists to say they need to give up or reduce their car journeys if the public transport system isn’t good enough.

The carrot of a London-style, integrated transport system, with lower fares and better-quality buses, is far more attractive than the stick of other policies. To deliver this choice properly, we must protect what we have already got and use that as a floor on which to build something much better. That is why we must all care about this moment of avoidable crisis in our bus network.