It doesn’t seem too long ago that I took a trip down to Salford Quays to view the new shuttle bus service between Salford Crescent and MediaCityUK, just over a year ago. News has emerged that the route is to be withdrawn in September – but in its place comes Manchester’s first cross-city bus link for some years as Stagecoach extends its service 50 from Albert Square to Salford Crescent and onto the Quays on a commercial basis!
From 2nd September 2012, Stagecoach are extending service 50 from its current terminus at Albert Square up John Dalton Street as far as Salford Central. Most journeys will then operate along the Crescent to Salford Crescent station, then over the route of the QuaysLink service 9 via
Pendleton Precinct Salford Shopping City to terminate near the Lowry and MediaCityUK. The frequency will be every 10 minutes on Monday to Saturday daytimes, with evening and Sunday daytime services up to every 15 minutes. This is an improvement over the current Saturday daytime frequency of every 15 minutes, and there will be earlier departures in the morning. Stagecoach will be using their standard double deckers, which offer more seats over the hybrid Optare Versas currently in use – and TfGM will be able to deploy the spare vehicles elsewhere in the county.
Some question marks still remain over fares: currently a single fare is £1 and a weekly ticket is available for £6. Will this continue under the new commercial arrangements? And currently Salford University ID card holders can travel for free, due to the part-funding by the university: again, we’re not sure whether this will continue. The residents of Salford may have more reason to celebrate however: they’ll now be able to buy Stagecoach season tickets to get into town (£12 per week) as opposed to First’s more expensive offering (£18 per week). Commuters to Salford from south of the city should also benefit from the new direct link – I know that I’ll be tempted to use the new service given the unreliability of the parallel rail services through East Didsbury this year.
There was always going to be a move towards cross-city bus routes given TfGM’s planning towards that end, but we have to admit that this took us by surprise. It would be interesting to know how much consultation there was between Stagecoach and TfGM with regards to the replacement of service 9: were TfGM handed a fait accompli? Either way, the aim of making this link a commercial proposition seems to have happened sooner rather than later, so surely TfGM won’t be too unhappy that they’ll be saving money on funding?