A fond farewell to the former independent company
Yesterday saw the two tone blue of Bluebird Bus and Coach mercilessly replaced by the swirls of Stagecoach’s livery. Bluebird Bus and Coach was formed by the late Tom Dunstan in 1988, who held previous positions with the North Western Road Car Company, SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport. Following his death in 2004, his son Michael took over the business.
Their first route, the 112 from Manchester to Moston stayed to the end, having expanded northwards to Middleton. The company expanded by means of tendered work around Oldham and North Manchester. In more recent times, they had one of their Dennis Dart SLFs painted in SELNEC livery, and took over the 395 and 396 routes last year, initially as an emergency tender. This followed the demise of SpeedwellBus on the 18 January.
Whereas Stagecoach Manchester and First Greater Manchester had recently reintroduced Boxing Day and New Year’s Day journeys, Bluebird had services on these days well before them. They also operated Bolton’s Metroshuttle service and some journeys on Manchester’s Centreline route (before First Manchester took over these journeys under the guise of Metroshuttles 1, 2 and 3).
Last November, Bluebird Bus and Coach accepted a £2 million offer from Stagecoach Manchester. This was approved by the Office of Fair Trading on the 22 February this year with the transfer completed yesterday.
(Which brings us onto this fellow being seen on the 159 route today):
Seen at Oldham bus station on the 1740 journey of the 159 route to Moston.
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Bluebird Bus and Coach: Designs of the Last Decade:
May 2002: an East Lancashire Spryte laying over at Middleton bus station. Today, TfGM’s Travelshop is on the site of the layover park seen here.
The Dennis Dart SLF started making their presence known on Greengate around 2005, as seen on Oldham Street, Manchester. Along with most operators known to man, the Dennis Dart SLF became a ubiquitous type in Middleton.
A rare type at the time: the MCV Evolution single decker seen loading on the White Moss Circular.
Old meets new: one of Bluebird Bus and Coach’s Dennis Dart SLFs, this time seen in the SELNEC Southern livery as a tribute to its founding father, Tom Dunstan. Seen at the 2008 Trans-Lancs Vehicle Rally in Heaton Park.
Almost the shape of things to come? A fairly common type among their Perthshire owners, but seen here is Bluebird’s Alexander bodied Dennis Dart, in August 2009. Notice the makeshift number indicator (tut tut!).
Dancing the Stevenson Square Dance Cheek to Cheek: a yet to be painted Optare Solo next to one of First Manchester’s Wright bodied Dennis Darts.
A former Mayne of Manchester Dennis Dart seen at Stevenson Square.
A sleek Optare Solo SR M890, a then recent purchase seen on Stevenson Square in February 2011.
0005 BLU seen in service on the 159 route to Middleton from Oldham bus station. Photographed on a rare sunny day during the so-called summer of 2012.
The shape of things to come (2): the short length version of the Enviro200 saw regular service on its tendered route. This example is seen at Ashton-under-Lyne bus station in April 2012.
Shortly before Stagecoach Manchester’s approach, parts of the Greengate fleet began to look tired (sadly, this fellow was no exception). Secondhand purchases in non-standard liveries started to appear on the 395 and 396 routes with Dennis Darts seen in white, yellow and red as well as their standard livery. This example on the 31st October 2012 is seen laying over at Ashton bus station.
Here’s how we should remember Bluebird Bus and Coach after almost 25 years operation: its sleek modern fleet and dependable services. In North Manchester, they pioneered low floor operation and took over a fair few services from First Manchester. They eschewed cut-throat competition and focused on quality with emphasis on niche markets. Today, Middleton only has one independent operator, one whom till recently lay in the shadows of Bluebird: JPT Travel.
S.V., 04 March 2013.