On Friday, the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee gave the official “thumbs-up” to the first bus Quality Partnership Scheme (QPS) in Greater Manchester, running along the A6 corridor between Manchester, Stockport and Hazel Grove. It will run for a period of five years from 1st April 2012, and will incorporate Stagecoach routes 191 and 192. But just what is a QPS and what will it mean for passengers?
The 192 is Greater Manchester’s most frequent bus route and carries over 10 million passengers per year. As such, it plays a big part in the local communities it serves. A Quality Partnership Scheme is a contractual agreement between bus operators, transport authorities and local councils that will set down not only quality benchmarks and timetables that operators must adhere to, but also spells out what the public bodies will provide in the form of infrastructure and traffic management. The A6 corridor was already designated as a Quality Bus Corridor, having had investment in facilities along the route, and with Stagecoach providing investment in new vehicles, so is considered a good candidate for further improvements.
At this point, let’s take a comparative look at how Quality Partnership Schemes have been running in some of the other big northern conurbations:
- On Merseyside there’s been a big push to the effect that several major corridors already feature Quality Partnership Schemes, with routes to Crosby, Croxteth, St. Helens and Garston. Arriva is the biggest bus operator in Liverpool, with Stagecoach providing competitive services. Both operators now accept each others’ day and week tickets on common sections of QPS routes, and have synchronised their timetables to provide a more even frequency.
- Over in Sheffield, there’s been a mixed reception for Optio services on selected cross-city corridors. Although similar to the Liverpool schemes with timetable co-ordination, there’s rather less satisfaction with the multitude of tickets available. Each QPS scheme has its own colour-coded range of tickets, valid on both First and competing Stagecoach services, but it’s not as elegant as the Merseyside solution when it comes to single-operator tickets.
How does the Levenshulme scheme compare? Well, the main difference is that only one bus company is involved: Stagecoach and its two routes 191 and 192. When first announced, there were some concerns in the trade press that other services such as trentbarton’s 199 service between Manchester Airport and Buxton – a long way outside Greater Manchester – were going to be included in the scheme. This looks to have been avoided by stipulating that only services which operate over 15% of their route mileage over the QPS corridor should come under the scheme. Another exception is made for routes with less than two journeys per hour during the peak period. As such, there’s no opportunity for multi-operator ticketing beyond that already offered by System One Travelcards.
Perhaps the second proposed QPS will be of more interest on that front: the Leigh–Atherton–Bolton corridor where First and South Lancs Travel both operate regular services (or at least they do when there aren’t bridgeworks!) We await further details of how this scheme is progressing.
[Image credit: “Back End Of A 192 Bus” by Smabs Sputzer on Flickr]