One Monday morning at the end of January as I looked out the window on the train to work, I glimpsed a strange coloured minibus parked at the rear of Stagecoach’s depot on Hyde Road. My interest was piqued: after all, the livery it was wearing (example pictured) was that of a company that Stagecoach was meant to have sold a few days earlier, namely PrestonBus. What was it doing there? I left a report on a local bus mailing list and thought little more of it.
All appears to have been explained by the news that Stagecoach are to take over operation of service 300 in Stockport town centre, better known as the Stockport Metroshuttle – and we understand that three former PrestonBus minibuses will operate it. As with its Manchester and Bolton cousins, this free bus service operates as a contracted service, with support from GMPTE and the local council. Originally operated by SK Solutions, the arms-length outsourcing firm owned by Stockport Council, the contract changed hands to Swans Travel in June last year, and then again in October when Bluebird took over at what appeared to be short notice but using the same vehicles. Stagecoach will operate from this Saturday to the existing timetable – which seems fitting given that they used to run the service when it was naught but a Saturday-xmas-shoppers-only glint in the transport planners’ eye.
In other service changes this weekend, Stagecoach will revise the Sunday and public holiday timetable on service 84 between Manchester and West Didsbury. Arriva are tinkering with many of their Manchester and Bolton services in what we suspect are attempts to improve punctuality – double-check your timetable if they run your service. Service 515 between Bolton and Ladybridge is withdrawn by Arriva, but South Lancs Travel introduce a replacement service at the same frequency albeit running at different times.
The Coachmasters introduce a new 15-minute Monday to Saturday frequency on service 471 between Rochdale and Heywood. This will be in competition with First’s 10-minute frequency service that continues beyond Heywood as far as Bury and Bolton. But while First sees increased competition on one route, there’ll be less on another as Speedwellbus withdraw service S48 between Ashton and Carrbrook from 20th March. Bu-Val will also officially withdraw their Saturday xmas shopping services in Rochdale from this weekend, services 448 and 449.
There are a few more timetable alterations to come at the beginning of April, and a large swathe of bus services will change at the beginning of May. We’ll blog about these a little closer to the date. As ever, the GMPTE latest bus service changes page is a great resource for all bus users.
[Image credit: “Preston Bus 56 PE51YHL” by Ian Roberts on Flickr]