Bus Regulation: The Musical – The Trilogy 1 Favorite 



Nov 13 2022


Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool
Bus Regulation: The Musical (2019 – 2023) is a Trilogy of roller-skating Musicals inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Starlight Express’ performed in three of the UK’s biggest post-industrial city-regions – Greater Manchester, Strathclyde and Merseyside – in collaboration with local public transport campaign groups.

Each Musical tells the history of public transport provision in the region from the post-war period to the present day, in order to illustrate the disastrous impact of the policies of deregulation and privatisation of buses in the ’80s and ’90s, which have created the expensive and fragmented systems we’re left with today.

The all-female cast – drawn from local roller derby leagues – play anthropomorphised ‘buses’ who appear as super heroes wearing a variety of capes and logos to reflect the different bus company liveries. Over the course of the 30-minute show, they undergo many fast-paced costume changes to illustrate the change of ownership of our buses, from their municipal ownership by various democratically-accountable Councils, to their private ownership by a series of unaccountable multinational transport companies (such as First, Stagecoach and Arriva) who have a near-monopoly on the systems now.

The Musical aims to create awareness for these important issues and to make the case for using the new powers available (in the Bus Services Act 2017 in England, and the Transport Act 2019 in Scotland) to re-regulate regional bus networks, in order to deliver the fully-integrated and affordable public transport networks we need to tackle the climate emergency and address chronic poverty and inequality.

The first version of the Musical (Greater Manchester) was staged at Manchester Art Gallery in September 2019 in collaboration with the Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign. This paved the way for the Mayor’s historic decision in March 2021 to proceed with re-regulating the region’s bus network – the first UK city-region to do so since deregulation in 1986. This sets a precedent for other city regions to follow. So the other two Musicals were developed during the pandemic to support the local campaigns in Glasgow (where Harrison lives and is co-founder and chair of the Get Glasgow Moving campaign) and in Liverpool – the city-region which we hope will be the next to proceed with re-regulation.
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The first Musical in Manchester in September 2019 formed a key part of the Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign which ran from 2018 – 2021. In March 2021, the campaign declared victory when the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, announced that he would proceed with re-regulating the region’s bus network, becoming the first UK city-region to do so. The Musical was very well received with national/regional/local media coverage and helped to raise the profile of the campaign in advance of an important public consultation on bus ‘franchising’ which ran from October 2019 – January 2020 – upon which the Mayor’s decision was based. The next two Musicals in Glasgow and Liverpool aimed to build on this success, with the Strathclyde version being staged two weeks ahead of the local elections in May 2022 as part of Get Glasgow Moving’s campaign to get all political parties to commit to re-regulating the region's bus network if elected. This was also successful with a distinct change of policy from the Council’s new administration following the election. However, there is still a lot of work to do before Glasgow catches up with Manchester, Get Glasgow Moving continues to use the film of the Musical as a key education/campaigning tool at community/school screenings. In Liverpool, the Musical was staged in November 2022 in collaboration with the new Better Buses for Merseyside campaign, to coincide with the Liverpool City Region’s public consultation on bus ‘franchising’. Unfortunately, the consultation was delayed, so we are now making plans to re-stage the Musical in summer 2023, to help create awareness and ensure maximum public engagement in favour of re-regulation. Following this consultation, the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotherham, will make a final decision on whether to proceed with re-regulation.