A MAJOR transport overhaul could see control of buses and trains transfer into local hands.

New plans unveiled by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham could mean that Bolton’s bus and train passengers can travel across the region with a simpler integrated ticket system and London-style capped fares.

The new plans ­— dubbed Our Network ­— were released alongside a ‘tube map’ of the area, showing new orbital bus links, locally-controlled rail services and an electric bicycle hire scheme.

There will also be new trams introduced, with a contactless card system on the Metrolink and 1,000 new park and ride spaces by the end of 2020.

The announcements come in the wake of major market review, which recommended that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) takes control of local buses through the franchising model.

If GMCA leaders agree to change the model at a meeting this week, the plans will be put out for an independent review and then a public consultation, with the final decision expected next year.

“An important part of this is reforming our bus market,” Mr Burnham said.

“We’ve reached a key milestone with the completion of the assessment into the future of Greater Manchester’s bus market, which recommends franchising as its preferred option and to be considered further by the GMCA.

“We’re the first city region seeking to make use of the new powers under the Bus Services Act and the first to test this legislation – so are leading the way nationally in this regard.”

Bus franchising has long been an aim of Mr Burnham and is supported by several local groups, including campaigners such as Pascale Robinson from Better Buses for Greater Manchester.

“We’re really happy to hear that the assessment on bus reform recommends moving ahead with re-regulation of our buses, but we’re not surprised,” Mr Robinson said on hearing the latest proposals.

“Public control of our buses would mean affordable fares, a simple smart card with a cap on spend, and services that are accountable to us, our communities, like they are in London.

“We want to make sure Andy Burnham sticks with passengers and staff and keeps on going with this pledge to give us better, regulated buses in Greater Manchester.”

But the switch to a franchising model has been heavily criticised by others, including the OneBus Partnership which represents the region’s private bus firms.

Gary Nolan, chief executive of OneBus, said the mayor’s plans were “heavy on ambition but light on detail” and did not inform taxpayers of the true cost of overhauling the system.

He said: "Despite a two-year assessment on whether to consider franchising or partnership, today’s announcement still keeps the people of Greater Manchester in the dark when it comes to the cost.

“If the local authority truly wants to be doing things differently ­— like they say ­— they can do better than replicate a London-style system that expects to operate under a £742m deficit by the end of this year, cutting routes and consuming government subsidies.

“Despite only £1m of funding from TfGM last year, compared to £500m for cycling and £72m for new trams, buses have led the way in transport innovation by introducing technologies such as contactless payments, something which is only just coming to the tram network this summer.

“Multi-operator tickets are already available, capped at £19 a week across the bus network, while passengers can use the integrated multi-modal Get Me There travel card on all bus routes and trams."

OneBus argues that its own plans for a £100m overhaul put together by the region’s current operators such as Arriva and Stagecoach would provide better services and better value.

If plans for Our Network are eventually implemented, the system would link bus travel with regional train and tram services, as well as a grid of cycling and walking routes, over a 10-year period. This could include the development of tram-trains, which would be similar to having trams run on regular train tracks and is an effort to link the Metrolink to towns outside of Manchester without building new lines.

In spite the plans, Mr Burnham’s vision would require the government to hand more funding and political powers to the GMCA, something which has only happened before in London.

The mayor ended his speech with a plea to Westminster.

He said: “To achieve our full transport ambition, Greater Manchester needs the infrastructure and the necessary political powers.

“For too long, central government has over promised and under delivered when it comes to the North. If the next government is serious about closing the North-South divide, a critical step forward will be empowering us with the necessary funding to improve our transport.”

In response to Mr Burnham's plans, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “These proposals demonstrate devolution in action, underlining how this government has provided regions with significant decision-making powers over their transport networks.

"This includes providing Metro Mayors across the country with the power to franchise bus services.

"We have also delivered more than £312m through the Transforming Cities Fund to Greater Manchester to support the Bee cycling and walking network, a new bike hire scheme and new trams, and allocated up to £150m to support the roll-out smart ticketing across the North, including on Metrolink."