Withdrawals and competition in the north of the county

Municipals in Manchester #2It’s been a busy month for me with not much time for blogging: so apologies for not returning to this subject earlier. As promised however, here are the highlights from other bus service changes coming into effect this week, 29th January 2012. And there are a few “lowlights” as well with the demise of two long-standing routes into Manchester city centre from the north of the county and beyond – but some increased competition as well.

The sad decline of the once “famous” express service to Blackpool continues, as Stagecoach withdraw the X60 and X61 routes between Manchester, Chorley and Preston. We presume a victim of too many “free” concessionary passes, as well as the high-frequency 125 “local” service between Preston and Bolton: the train doesn’t help either. A partial replacement comes in the form of the new express service X25 between Preston, Chorley, and Manchester: 2 return journeys on Monday to Friday and 1 return journey on Saturdays. The peak-hour service on Monday to Friday is designed for commuters, but the other journeys operate via the Trafford Centre, highlighting their more leisure-orientated market.

When Rossendalebus stepped in to provide replacement daytime and Saturday journeys on service 167 between Manchester and Norden in 2009, leaving First with the Monday to Friday peak-hour service, we hoped that it would be successful enough to last. It has proved not to be, with these off-peak journeys being withdrawn as of this week – though First continue with their commuter service. A replacement service 467 will operate between Norden and Heywood, where passengers can change for First’s onward services to Manchester via Middleton.

Whilst Rossendalebus cuts their losses to Manchester, they have improved their services towards Accrington and Burnley. The 483 gets some additional journeys to fill in some gaps in the timetable, whilst an hourly 484 from Bury to Accrington is extended via Huncoat to Burnley: Saturday journeys already did this on behalf of Lancashire County Council, but they are now joined by a Monday to Friday commercial service, in competition with Transdev Lancashire’s “Starship” 9 service. It comes only a few months after Transdev extended service 8 along the Rossendale valley into Bury.

Meanwhile JPT and their sister company Eurobus have improved their offering on the 17 corridor between Manchester, Middleton and Rochdale, in competition against First. JPT will run a 20 minute frequency on Monday to Saturday along the whole route, with a bus at least every 10 minutes running between Manchester and Middleton. There will be a half-hourly evening frequency between Manchester and Rochdale daily, although for now the Sunday daytime service is limited to a 15 minute frequency as far as Middleton only. Will the improved service be attractive against First’s hybrid double deckers? The company has a cheeky reply to that: “Our Competitors may run on batteries, but we at JPT don’t overcharge!

As ever, the full list of latest service changes and bus timetable library can be found on the TfGM website.

About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
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13 Responses to Withdrawals and competition in the north of the county

  1. Shaun says:

    I didn’t put the 484 weekday extension to Burnley and the 8 to Bury together until now, but it certainly is a fair point. Might be a few more clashes between Rossendalebus and Transdev across the border in the following months.

    The 17 route is going to be a ‘one to watch’ over the coming months too. JPT/Eurobus with their £2.80 day ticket compared to the £4.50 FirstDay ticket plus weekly tickets at £12 to £18 might see a few commuters switch.from First to JPT. JPT have been handing out scratchcards on the 17 route in recent days with the change to win free tickets too to win people. Whether First will do anything with their 17 service remains to be seen. I can see a bit of a battle going on on this route, which for passengers might be a good thing.

    The X60/X61 service withdrawal is a shame. Have used that service a few times in the past to head off on trips to Lancashire. Good price at £5.90 (at the time) with its day ticket. I think the service’s downfall started when the Blackpool extension was withdrawn. Other factors could be switching from coaches to buses and the roadworks in Salford, affecting its reliability. Heard reports (plus some sightings) that in the run-up to it’s planned withdrawal, the service was carrying only a few passengers. At least there still is some service between Manchester and Chorley/Preston with the added bonus for Lancastrians of the restored link to the Trafford Centre.

    • James McCollom says:

      Rossendale and Transdev aren’t head-to-head as such: both new services tend to complement existing timetables rather than running a couple of minutes ahead of each other, so I don’t forsee any further clashes.

      Of JPT’s cheeky slogan, I took this quick snap at Southern Cemetery at the top of the month:

  2. Tom Moore says:

    Have not JPT tried their luck competing with First over the entire Manchester & Rochdale route before, ca. 2005?

    • Shaun says:

      I think a few operators have tried over the years. Rossendalebus tried twice, running a 17 service years ago and then recently with the 16/X46 service. JPT’s/Eurobus’s current attempts has been quite successful. Some of their 17’s have been very busy. In these financially hit times, saving money is a big factor.

  3. Watcherzero says:

    First are withdrawing the FTR and refurbishing them before deploying them at an opportunity it has identified elsewhere in the North though their refusing to say where. Having a seperate conductor (since ticket machines didnt work very well) and more efficent bus engines means its cheaper to replace them with a fleet of Eco double deckers.

    Any speculation where they will be going?

  4. Trystan says:

    Was on an ftr in Leeds, ended up with a free ride there and back from Jimmy’s (St James’ Hospital) as the conductor never came to where we were sat as the bus/tram thingy was packed. It’s a great concept but surely it must be a revenue loss maker?

    • Shaun says:

      That’s probably a disadvantage for First (although a cheeky advantage to passengers). I’ve also been on the 4 in Leeds between Leeds and Pudsey and the conductor did come around and check people. They also have conductors on the Midland Metro for people who haven’t bought tickets from the machines at the stops. So, it can work.

      • Trystan says:

        Is the priceing structure the same on the ftr 4 in Leeds as the rest of First’s services? It only cost £1 from Jimmy’s back to Leeds Railway Station, which I thought was a mistake at first. First Manchester need to take a leaf out of First West Yorkshire’s book. If that had been FM I would have had to pay £4.50! for the same distance.

  5. Shaun says:

    Yes, fares on the ftr are the same to normal First Leeds services. First Leeds introduced a Simple Fares structure about a year or two ago, where they only have three fares:
    *Short Hop at £1 for short journeys
    *Longer Hop at £2 for longer journey not going through the city centre
    *Hop Across at £2.50 (or £2.80 peak) which is for longer journeys going through the city centre.

    • Trystan says:

      Thanks Shaun. I can say that I am impressed with First Leeds’ prices. I wonder why First in Greater Manchester don’t operate a similar system. The £4.50 ransom is just ridiculous when only going a short distance This, plus the no returns policy make it very off putting to someone who does not use public transport all the time. I do like to use public transport when I need to get about on my days off work instead of using my car, but sometimes I think it works out cheaper to drive the short distance instead.

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