April 2012 launch for A6 bus Quality Partnership Scheme

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]

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About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
This entry was posted in Buses, Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to April 2012 launch for A6 bus Quality Partnership Scheme

  1. David Garnett says:

    My local route. It might be better to have a geographical area rather than a linear route.
    There are two First routes (53 & 22) that are closely linked with the A6 route which exclude the use of Stagecoach day rider tickets etc. I like the idea used in the Naples transport area where the cost of travel is based on zones irrespective of who provides the means of transport ( Bus , Light Rail or Main Line railway)

  2. Trystan says:

    TfGM should be allowed to bring in a zonal ticket structure as David suggests and do away with each individua bus company charging. I know there is the system one ticket but not a lot of people know about them and sometimes people travelling from First territory to Stagecoach territory and vice versa are not always aware of the differing ticketing structures. Persoanlly I feel this would make cross city bus journeys easier. I find it annoying that I am FORCED to buy an even more exspensive ticket if I wish to go south. YET, if timed correctly, as I have done, I can travel from Bolton to Stockport and then travel to Romiley from Stockport for the price of a First Day (£4.20) because I was able to catch all First services, yet at other times it is Stagecoach that runs the 22 and you can be marooned for 4 hours before another First service does the return to Bolton. If the pricing structure was just done as the old Saver 7 zones it wouldn’t matter which bus company one caught.

    Another example of the ludicrous system we have in GMC is when I wish to go to Ashton-U-Lyne and I am again forced to buy the system one ticket, or it would take half a day going over the First system from Bolton to Rochdale via Bury (471), then Rochdale to Oldham and Oldham to Ashton UL. (409). It is much quicker to do Bolton – Manchester (8) on First and then Manchester to Ashton UL (216) on Stagecoach.

    And why do First not offer return tickets anymore? Answers on a postcard please. I don’t always wish to purchase a First Day when I am doing 1 return journey.

    • Shaun says:

      I think the reason that First don’t do returns anymore is so that people will buy FirstDay tickets instead of two singles, as two singles will be just slightly cheaper than a day ticket and some people might think “might as well buy a day ticket and travel to a couple of places”, therefore more money for First.

      With the 22, First and Stagecoach do allow weekly tickets from either operator (FirstWeek, Megarider), on the service but don’t allow day, monthly or annual tickets (or at least it says they accept it on Stagecoach’s fare table, which you can find online).

      I think the problem with introducing QPS’s in Greater Manchester is that there isn’t really that many routes where companies compete against each other. The Bolton-Leigh one will have some benefit as it will allow some co-operation between First and SLT with the 581, 582 and 592. The bridgework at Atherton has actually allowed the two to co-operative with each other, such as the 581 running journeys upto the bridge and the 582 re-routed via Tyldesley to provide a direct connection to/from Bolton lost from the 581/592.

      The only other routes, along with the Bolton-Atherton-Leigh route, that could have some kind of QPS like the ones in Sheffield or Liverpool would be the 17 route (First/JPT/Eurobus), 346 route (First/Stagecoach, who you can argue already has taken a step towards that by integrating the timetable to run combined 10 minute service), 575 route (Arriva/First) or the Wilmslow Road corridor.

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