Anyone who’s walked down the approach road from Manchester Piccadilly station can’t have failed to notice the two free Metroshuttle bus services that operate around the city centre to the Arndale (orange line 1) and Salford Central (purple line 3). There’s a third route as well (green line 2) that operates between Victoria and Oxford Road. The orange and green lines have been running for almost eight years with the purple line running for five years, and as the contract is coming up for renewal GMPTE has successfully bid for Green Bus Fund money in order to specify low-carbon hybrid buses for the new contract.
With the new buses comes a new livery (pictured), retaining the old individual line colours. 20 hybrid single deck buses have been ordered by GMPTE for Metroshuttle duties, consisting of 12 Optare Versa for Piccadilly Station routes 1 and 3, along with 8 smaller Optare Solo SR which are earmarked for the less popular route 2 and also (from what we can tell) three spare vehicles which will appear in a generic livery. These will replace around 17 dedicated diesel Optare Solos currently operated by First Manchester – which are already starting to lose their old Metroshuttle branding and will no doubt see further use within First Group’s UK bus operations.
There’s likely to be a few extra seats per vehicle on the busier routes, but perhaps a small reduction on green line 2:
|Metroshuttle route||Current capacity *||Planned capacity ^||Change|
|Line 1||30 (Solo, 9.5m)||32 (Versa, 9.7m)||+2|
|Line 2||28 (Solo, 8.8m)||24 (Solo SR, 8.2m)||-4|
|Line 3||28 or 30||32 (Versa, 9.7m)||+2 or +4|
* Figures based on typical sized vehicles currently in use
^ Figures based on typical seating layouts from manufacturer’s website
Who will operate the new vehicles? Under the new contract, GMPTE will own the vehicles but leave the maintenance and operation to the contracted bus operator. An official announcement is likely to be just around the corner as the new contracts are due to start at the end of September. Various rumours suggest that there will be a new operator on at least one of the routes, possibly all three. One clue suggesting this may have some truth to it is that First have deregistered their current operations on the three Metroshuttle routes with effect from 25th September 2010 – though as ever with bus registrations, there may be more to this than meets the eye. We shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out officially.
There’ll be more news on Greater Manchester’s other hybrid bus orders in future posts.
[Image supplied via GMPTE]