HOPPER fares will be introduced on Greater Manchester’s buses if Andy Burnham is re-elected, the mayor has promised.

Launching his campaign for a third term as Greater Manchester’s top politician at Salford Lads’ Club, Mr Burnham said the venue, a symbol of working-class aspiration and the last surviving purpose built “lads club” in England, meant “so much” to him.

Opened in 1903, the venue has now become world famous by being photographed for an album by The Smiths, drawing fans from across the world to be pictured there – including himself, the mayor said, 40 years ago.

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Leigh Journal: Andy Burnham launched his re-election campaign from Salford Lads ClubAndy Burnham launched his re-election campaign from Salford Lads Club (Image: PA)
At the iconic venue, Mr Burnham cited his record in office, claiming the local economy was outperforming the national average, and that he had turned around the local police force, Greater Manchester Police, after the sacking of the last chief constable and employing 1,600 more police despite “Tory cuts”.

He said he had ended “40 years of disastrous Tory deregulation” by bringing local bus services, the Bee Network, back under public ownership, with more routes and lower fares.

Mr Burnham also spoke of three “big ideas” for his next term of office if elected. 

One of those is the introduction of hopper fares, which means passengers can pay for a £2 single and take as many buses as they need to within an hour. The scheme, already available in London, would be available on Bee Network services from early next year. 

Leigh Journal: Metrolink extensions have long been a part of Mr Burnham's plansMetrolink extensions have long been a part of Mr Burnham's plans (Image: Metrolink)
Mr Burnham also reaffirmed a commitment to expand the Metrolink to Heywood, Middleton, Stockport, and Bolton. That was alongside a repeat of a pledge to bring in eight commuter rail lines to the Bee Network by 2028 on a tap-in and tap-out basis.

Those lines are Wigan– Victoria, Stalybridge–Southport, Glossop–Hadfield–Piccadilly, Rose Hill–Piccadilly, Buxton–Piccadilly, Alderley Edge–Piccadilly, Rochdale stopping services, and Manchester Airport stopping services.

But Mr Burnham’s pitch to voters this year is that they should stick with him as he’s established the foundations for more good to come soon.

“We have shown that there is a better way to the Whitehall way,” he told the event. “We are fixing the fundamentals. 

“The Greater Manchester way is a vision with people at its heart. Greater Manchester is leading the way and the best is yet to come.”

Leigh Journal: Andy Burnham will be have a third term as mayor if re-electedAndy Burnham will be have a third term as mayor if re-elected (Image: GMCA)
Central to his 2024 campaign are three ‘big ideas’. They are called Housing First, Live Well, and the Greater Manchester Baccalaureate

Curiously, all three contain policies which have been announced previously. The Housing First mantra aims to ‘fix the housing crisis in 15 years’, the Mayor added, which includes a right to request a home safety check, announced last month, and the implementation of a Good Landlord Charter, revealed in January.

Live Well will challenge the way benefits claimants are viewed, as Mr Burnham believes ‘most people want to contribute’ to the economy in work. To do that, he will ask for devolved powers from the Department for Work and Pensions on how the welfare process is delivered — and it could include Job Centres being renamed ‘Live Well Centres’.

The final ‘big idea’ is the Greater Manchester Baccalaureate, or MBacc. The MBacc will present students who aren’t minded to go to university seven career themes to look at, and suggest GCSE subjects for them to choose. From there, they might go on to do a T-Level, or even a degree apprenticeship.

Already in the works, it is set to be rolled out in September for the first time.

Voters go to the polls on May 2.