With the unplanned hiatus in updates to the Manchester Buses blog at the top of the year, it seems only fair that we do a quick rundown of some of the main events in the world of Greater Manchester’s bus services so far this year. And so without further ado – stuff that happened in 2010…
The beginning of the year saw heavy snowfall affecting bus operations throughout the region. Icy roads led to curtailment of many services during the first week of January, and bus operators’ use of the internet came of age through travel updates on webpages, Facebook and Twitter.
The future of free town centre buses in Greater Manchester looked more certain with an announcement of a new Bolton Metroshuttle contract to run until 2011, operated by growing operator Maytree Travel.
Not a huge amount happened, but Haslingden-based Rossendalebus launched a new livery on a batch of new vehicles.
Some might say a cynically-timed announcement by the then-Government, the delayed announcement of “Kickstart” funding to develop commercial bus services saw several routes in Greater Manchester lined up for improvements:
- £340,131 for enhanced Services 664/674 circulars in Wigan
- £230,000 for enhancement of Service 199 between Stockport and Manchester Airport
- £382,076 for a new MediaCityUK Bus/Rail Station Link
- £401,300 for a new Rochdale – Oldham – Ashton – Stockport Orbital service
- £117,457 for enhanced Sunday daytime frequencies into Manchester city centre from Bolton and Whitefield
- £151,905 for enhanced Service 76 from Oldham to Manchester via Failsworth
- £171,128 for enhanced Services 322/327 between Stockport and Haughton Green, and Stockport and Denton
But how long would this “good news” last for with an election just round the corner and all the main parties talking about reducing the defecit?
April saw the launch of a book to celebrate the centenary of Princess Road bus depot in south Manchester. I was lucky enough to be invited down to the launch ceremony held at the Museum of Transport, complete with a magnificent cake in the shape of the garage frontage that commuters along Princess Parkway will no doubt be familiar with. The two Leyland National 2 single deckers are in the old Stagecoach stripes livery – not sure any actually operated in those colours from this depot, but that’s not to detract from the cakey excellence!
The General Election took place. Although a new coallition Government was installed, there weren’t too many changes in Greater Manchester – the Conservatives gained Bury North from Labour, whilst although on paper a Labour hold, the sitting Liberal Democrat MP in Rochdale lost his seat: an interesting result given the prominence of a pensioner called Gillian Duffy in the national campaign…
Greater Manchester has two MPs serving on the Transport Select Committee in the new Parliament: John Leech, my very own Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington (and previously a party spokesman on transport) and old stalwart Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Manchester Blackley and fierce critic of bus deregulation.
Councillor Keith Whitmore (Liberal Democrat, Levenshulme, Manchester), the chair of GMITA and prime candidate to appear in any publicity photos, took up a new role as vice chair, with Councillor Ian Macdonald (Conservative, Worsley, Salford) taking over the top role.
The first of the new Government’s planned spending cuts were announced, including a cut of £5 million to the DfT’s “Kickstart” budget, with no ring-fencing of the remainder – expect this to be cut completely in the autumn spending review. GMPTE are likely to find some money to go ahead with the Media City shuttle bus at least, but the remainder of the schemes are in limbo. One spending plan for buses that does still appear to be going ahead is the planned new bus station in Bolton.
Despite false reports of bus drivers banning people wearing England football shirts on their vehicles, several GM bus operators got into the spirit of the football World Cup: many First Group buses around the country wished “Good Luck” to England, whilst local operator JPT went one better by decorating one vehicle in full St. George’s Cross livery!
Mixed fortunes at the two major operators in Greater Manchester. First was embroiled in a news story about a driver who refused to help a wheelchair user disembark the bus in the city centre. The story made the national media, no doubt due to a YouTube video uploaded by the woman’s son. The driver was subsequently sacked.
Stagecoach meanwhile was celebrating winning Bus Operator of the Year award at the National Transport Awards. Congratulations came from local bloggers and the Passenger Transport Executive – let’s hope for further improvements in years to come.
And that more or less brings us up to date – though there are more developments due to take place in the autumn which we’ll expand on in future stories. Did we miss out anything significant? Leave us a comment below.
[Image credit: “Enviro 400s in a snowy Hyde Bus Station” by soloM920 on Flickr]