Hot 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]