The revival of cross-city bus services in Manchester

Just weeks after Stagecoach Manchester brought the first cross-city bus route in years to Manchester when it extended the 50 to Salford Quays, First Manchester is set to catch the bug by extending one of its own services beyond the city centre.

From the 28th of October, the 18 (Manchester – Langley) will be extended beyond Shudehill Interchange to Manchester Royal Infirmary via Piccadilly Gardens and Oxford Road.

Cross-city services have a long history in Manchester. Stuart Vallantine wrote in 2008 that they date back as far as the 1920s. More recently, the 1990s saw services stretching across the city region from, for example, Chorlton to Oldham (a journey that has recently been made possible again thanks to Metrolink). The last cross-city services I can remember were the 64/65 routes operated by First Manchester, which until around the year 2000 (if memory serves me right) ran between Eccles and Middleton via Manchester.

Since then, aside from a few limited stop services from Lancashire and West Yorkshire extending beyond the city centre to the Trafford Centre for Christmas shopping, and a few peak journeys on Bluebird’s 77 extending to Grosvenor Street near the Metropolitan University, we’ve had a dry few years for this type of route.

What killed them off? It could have been that city centre road planning since the 1996 bomb made it difficult to reliably run buses right through and out the other side, or maybe the increasingly consolidated bus operator landscape meant companies were keen to ‘stick to what they know’ and not challenge well-resourced rivals in other parts of the region. Whatever the reason, Manchester is quite unusual amongst UK cities in not having a core network of cross-city routes.

The TfGM-led Bus Priority project aims to make it easier for buses to be routed across Manchester city centre, with routes planned to run from Middleton, Atherton and Leigh to Manchester Royal Infirmary, but that isn’t scheduled to be ready to be ready until 2015. With the extension of the 18, First has given the plans an early boost, providing a link between Middleton and the MRI before the city centre is fully ‘prepared’ for it.

Cross-city routes could do a lot for competition in Greater Manchester, especially on pricing. For example, First is notorious for its high fares in the north of the city; a few route extensions for Arriva and Stagecoach services from the south could help bring those down.

Who’s going to be brave enough to take the plunge and make the next big cross-city expansion?

Image credit: Mr MPD

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About Martin Bryant

Digital content person about town.
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9 Responses to The revival of cross-city bus services in Manchester

  1. Rob says:

    Rather that directly competing (e.g. First competing with Stagecoach on the 216 say), it seems that competition will be by route extentions into each other’s territory. There is a downside however, other services get downgraded/withdrawn to free extra capacity. Interesting times!

  2. Shaun says:

    Ever since Stagecoach announced plans to extend the 50 to Salford Quays, there was always a good chance that First would respond by extending a service into Stagecoach territory. It was just a question of which one it was.

    It’ll be good news for uni students and anyone working around the hospitals and lives close the Rochdale Road corridor or around Middleton, as it’ll require one bus. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more cross-city buses over the coming months and years.

    Wonder whether JPT are thinking of copying First’s idea by extending the 17 over to MRI to increase the little battle between the two.

  3. I would love to see the 64/66 Ashton-under-Lyne to Peel Green service restored, though I pretty much doubt it! However, there may be a partial restoration of that service – albeit in the form of Ashton and Droylsden trams continuing to Eccles.

  4. ely says:

    I’ve asked this before and wil ask again anyone know why finglands are now operating route 19 alty to sale

    • Martin Bryant says:

      I believe they had resources spare due to a reduction in school bus commitments, so decided to try competing on a popular section of this Arriva route. I see Arriva is putting on extra short journeys (numbered 19A) from the end of the month. A good old fashioned late-80s, early-90s style bus war!

      • Shaun says:

        They’re listed as just 19s on the Traveline website. The extra journeys runs off-peak schooldays only every 15 mins between Altrincham and Sale via Ashton-upon-Mersey. They’re timed to run from Sale one minute in front of Finglands journeys while journeys from Altrincham are timed to run in between the Arriva and Finglands journeys, meaning there’ll be a bus every 5 mins from Altrincham to Sale.

        Certainly have got some little ‘battles’ now going on between the operators. First v JPT on the 17, First v Bluebird v JPT on the 81, 112 and 118s, Arriva v Finglands on the 19, First v Stagecoach on the university corridors (Oxford Road and Chapel Street).

  5. The bus looks extremely smart and royal with comparison to other buses.Its path can be more innovative with respect to the public convenient and the authorities should work on it a little more.

  6. Hammad Tariq says:

    I am a bit late to this post, however, the city hasn’t changed much! Cross city routes are a necessity for Manchester, there is a vast population spread in near-by towns, and getting them to the centre of the city every day is a hectic job which TfGM is doing best I would suggest! It’s a vast network of buses and quality-wise it’s as good as London Buses. (I know we all have grudges when it comes to public transport but it’s public transport, problems happen!)

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