Scheme is set to "unlock benefits" for a generation

Young people aged 16-18 will be able to travel across Greater Manchester’s bus system for free from next September. The ‘Our Pass’ travel card was launched by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham this week (Monday 1 July), accompanied by young people who had helped chose the name and design the logo.

The pass is designed to allow teenagers access to greater opportunities in work, leisure and culture. With a single bus journey potentially costing young people in Greater Manchester £4 a time, the scheme is set to save card holders and their families around £500 a year.

Andy Burnham said, "I hope that Our Pass will change the lives of young people across Greater Manchester. For too long they have been Westminster's target for cuts and negative publicity. In Greater Manchester we are using devolution to make young people our priority for investment."

Our Pass creates a generation of young people who use buses as their primary mode of transport without a second thought

The scheme has been compared to the transport system in London, where 16-18 year-olds currently receive 50% off all travel from TfL. Our Pass supersedes TfGM’s 16-18 get me there card, which gave half price bus travel. It is no secret that Andy Burnham thinks Manchester should be modelling its transport system after the capital in terms of cost and integration. He believes this will be achieved by adopting a franchise-style system, while bus owners disagree.

Transport for Greater Manchester estimates that 26% of the city region’s 16-18 population currently use buses as their primary mode of transport. The intention behind Our Pass is to break the vicious circle that undermines public transport systems; namely that as the system gets less reliable and more expensive, less people use it, while on the other had as less people use the system, it becomes less reliable and more expensive because of decreased demand. Burnham has committed elsewhere to improving the buses in Greater Manchester, so the Our Pass initiative allows the other element of the circle to be addressed by creating a generation of young people who use buses as their primary mode of transport without a second thought. This will have a beneficial effect on congestion and the environment. 

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Tickets to cultural events are part of the Our Pass package

Our Pass will also give young people a range of free or discounted sport, culture and leisure opportunities, such as free tickets for Hallé concerts at the Bridgewater Hall. Kath Russell, director of development at the Hallé commented that Our Pass would open up their facilities and performances - and the chance to meet and work with professional musicians - to a whole new generation. Around 55 concerts a year will be part of the offer.

There have been complaints from members of the public that the scheme is a waste of money, and that many of these teenagers are able to afford the bus fare, either because they are working or that their families can afford it.

When asked if the Mayor had ever considered means-testing the benefit, the GMCA office responded “the policy has been a universal one from the outset and was included in the Mayor’s manifesto.” 

To offset the public burden, the Our Pass scheme is “working with public and private sector partners to identify additional funding sources.” To this effect, JD Sports has promised a six-figure sponsorship deal. However, the affiliation has not been welcomed by all, as JD Sports was roundly criticised for running its warehouses like “dark satanic mills” after it was revealed that ambulances were called out to its Rochdale warehouse 117 times over the past three years to treat workers. Despite the sponsorship, the scheme will cost £16 million to local taxpayers. 

Our Pass will be available for 16 to 18-year-olds who are residents of Greater Manchester. There is a one-off £10 administration change when you apply. For more information and to apply visit the ourpass website