Then two come along at once…

A blue bus for Bluebird of MiddletonHot on the heels of the Wigan depot transfer, Stagecoach today announced their plan to purchase local independent Bluebird of Middleton for £2 million. Along with the leased depot site, the acquisition will include around 40 vehicles and 80 members of staff: if the Office of Fair Trading give their approval, then the takeover could be completed early next year.

Bluebird has built up a small network of commercial services heading north east out of Manchester city centre since formation in 1988, serving Newton Heath, Moston, Chadderton and Middleton, with a host of other services run under contract for TfGM. It could be interesting to hear what local MP Graham Stringer has to say on the deal, as he sits on the Transport Select Committee and is well known on the local news for his views on the subject of bus deregulation!

Of the commercial services operated by Bluebird, the 77 to Newton Heath runs a similar route to recently-upgraded route 76, what seemed to be Stagecoach’s lone oddball route into First-dominated Oldham. The 72 to Chadderton runs a similar route as First services 24 and 181 to Rochdale, whilst the 80 to Middleton via Moston has similarities with First’s high frequency 88/89 circulars. The 112 also operates to Middleton, but now sees direct competition from that other Middleton-based independent, JPT. Tendered routes can come and go, but we’d suggest it might make more sense to run the 44 to Gatley via Wilmslow Road and X2 Stockport to Sale services from other Stagecoach depots.

As with the Wigan purchase, a depot in Middleton may provide the infrastructure for more cross-city services to be introduced. Interesting times abound.

[Image credit: “Bluebird Bus & Coach R133 NPN” by Ingy the Wingy on Flickr, via Creative Commons]


About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
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13 Responses to Then two come along at once…

  1. Tom Moore says:

    It’s not going to be all that interesting, because StageCoach and First are almost open & honest about the fact that they do not do competition, especially with each other.

  2. Ray Wilkes says:

    This is not he case. They compete everywhere where hte bus market is robust enough to sustain 2 operators. Sheffield and S Yorks,, Northampton and Devon are only the most famourus arneas of cxonflict

    • Tom Moore says:

      I bet you a peak time System One bus day-saver that StageCoach does not use its new Middleton depot to compete with First.

      • Martin Bryant says:

        How could it *not* compete with First unless it just keeps all the buses locked up in the depot all day every day? Even if it stuck to Bluebird’s existing routes, they share plenty of sections of route with First services, meaning they would be in direct competition for passengers from day one.

      • Tom Moore says:

        We’ll have to see what StageCoach do, but competition is not their thing (while, compared to First, lower fares, younger vehicles and more frequent services is).

  3. Shaun says:

    Definitely interesting times ahead for Stagecoach with two northern-Manchester bases to come in the next few months or so. Should the Bluebird takeover go through, it definitely gives Stagecoach a chance to build up a portfolio of services in the north of Manchester and give some competition to First and JPT in the area.

    Of course, it does mean First and Stagecoach will be running routes on the same sections: 81 and 112, 80 and 88/89 24/181/182 and 72.

    Can see Stagecoach moving some services from Bluebird’s depot to other depots, certainly would make sense to do so for services like the 44, 173 and X5 (not X2 🙂 )

  4. Watcherzero says:

    Why has the Wigan operation been put in a seperately administered Greater Manchester Buses East Limited (even though its in the north west!) and Bluebird which is in the north east is put into the existing Greater Manchester Buses South Limited? Are they planning a new expansion in the north centred around the Wigan operation or is it just to make digesting the company easier, gradually bring it into line with existing practises and pay then merge it into the South operation?

  5. Boo says:

    I feel Queens road will be sold off by first now as there no money in North Manchester they could pull out of North Manchester and just keep on the core routes with Bury and Oldham and Bolton depots, First and Stagecoach get on well in Tameside and First are now creeping into Stockport

  6. paul w says:

    Bluebird might be going quicker than thought. Reports of several Stageocach Darts operating on 1112 and 151 as “on hire” with working Bluebird destinations

    • James McCollom says:

      Still on track for completion in the New Year: it seems this is a temporary loan to help alleviate a vehicle shortage at the moment.

  7. Shaun says:

    The 80 is the most popular route to see Stagecoach Darts running at the moment. Occasionally, there’ll be one on the 112 too, which had pieces of paper stuck in the window saying ‘On Hire to Bluebird Buses’

  8. Rod Harrison says:

    Read on Merseyside Dennis Dart forum that, now OFT are not referring takeover to Competition Commission, takeover of Bluebird will be next weekend.

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