It’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 It has proved not to be, with these off-peak journeys being withdrawn as of this week – though First continue with their commuter service.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!”