Wigan has always been out on a limb from the rest of Greater Manchester county: indeed, its municipal bus service was never part of SELNEC PTE and only joined as part of GMPTE in 1974. After deregulation and sundering, the depot found itself as part of GM Buses North, now known as First Greater Manchester. Today it was announced that Stagecoach are purchasing the Wigan depot from FirstGroup, along with 120 vehicles and staff. The transaction may be completed as early as December.
First Group have been having a rough time of late and have made little secret of their need to sell some bus operations in order to pay back debt. Wigan was mentioned as a possibility: unlike recent closures in Edinburgh and Barnstaple, the Wigan operation retains value as a business. It’s reported that the sale price will be £12 million, for an operation with revenues of £13.2 million annually returning a £1.5 million operating profit, a reasonable 11.3% margin. It’s noticeable that Wigan has had very few new vehicles in recent years, so Stagecoach will need to introduce younger vehicles soon – though thankfully they have a track record of doing just that.
For their part, it’s interesting to note that the new acquisition will be part of Stagecoach’s Manchester business—closest depot: Manchester—rather than the Lancashire operation which has a depot in neighbouring town Chorley. (In fact, the subsidiary will be the geographically inaccurate named “Greater Manchester Buses East Limited”, which Companies House shows is the renamed “A Mayne & Son Ltd” – one last hurrah for that long-lived concern.) There are very few competition concerns within Wigan borough itself, as Stagecoach currently only operate some tenders on services 113 and 516. Any bids by Arriva or South Lancs Travel would have been much more likely to be referred to the competition authorities, but the Stagecoach bid should go through unhindered.
Which routes will be transferred? We’d expect to see all routes wholly within the Wigan borough—those numbered in the 59x and 6xx series—transferred. A question mark remains over the 540 route to Bolton, and the 32/33 routes to Manchester, which could easily be transferred to other First depots – but with December only a few weeks away it shouldn’t take long until all becomes clear.
Official update page: http://www.stagecoachbus.com/wigan.aspx
[Image credit: “Wigan Corporation 140 DEK 3D” by Pimlico Badger on Flickr, via Creative Commons]