New era for Wigan and Leigh passengers as Stagecoach Manchester takes over First Greater Manchester’s Wigan operations
Some of you may remember that FirstGroup are in the midst of selling less lucrative operations to rival companies. The depots which FirstGroup are selling off have been chosen carefully. Each area up for sale, or sold, have enough potential as going concerns, though no longer reach FirstGroup’s targets.
After the sale of part of FirstGroup’s Devon and Cornwall operations, First Greater Manchester’s Wigan depot changed hands. Greater Manchester Buses East Limited (originally founded to take over A. Mayne and Son’s bus operations in February 2008) acquired the Locket Road depot, staff facilities, leased premises in Wigan bus station, and 120 vehicles. Twenty of which are owned by Transport for Greater Manchester, mostly for school services.
At present, Stagecoach Manchester has four depots, 630 vehicles and 1,850 staff. Its expansion towards ‘traditional First Manchester/GM Buses North’ territory will increase the fleet to 750. Staff will transfer from First Greater Manchester to Stagecoach’s Greater Manchester Buses East Limited business under TUPE arrangements. It is anticipated that the transfer will be completed by early December 2012.
Les Warneford, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: “We have a strong track-record of attracting more people to bus travel and these new operations will expand our successful high-quality operations in other parts of Greater Manchester.
“We will continue to focus on providing customers with the best value fares of any major bus operator in the UK, investing in our networks and delivering punctual and reliable services.
“Our people are central to our growth plans and we look forward to welcoming our new employees to the company.”
Since FirstBus took over GM Buses North, operations in Wigan and Leigh started well with new buses on key routes. By 1998, they acquired Timeline’s bus operations and closed the Atherton depot on Howe Bridge. In recent years, Wigan’s buses moved from Melverley Street to Locket Street, and seemingly became a dumping ground for cast-off step entrance double deckers or elderly low floor Dennis Darts. The town also has competition from Arriva North West and South Lancs Travel.
The news will come as a relief for passengers, all too familiar with unreliability of local and long distance routes, particularly the 32 (which has seen reduced frequencies and route changes). Stagecoach Manchester’s lower fares and more modern fleet will be a real boost too. Therefore, by 2013, there’s every chance of being able to travel from Ashton to Ashton on a Manchester Megarider, by changing at Wigan and Piccadilly Gardens.
We wish Stagecoach Manchester well on the integration of their prospective Wigan operation. It’ll be a little strange to see the blue, orange and red swirls on a 32 along East Lancashire Road though.
S.V., 31 October 2012.