In Pictures: Bluebird Bus and Coach

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):

Dennis Dart SLF, Stagecoach Manchester X744 JCS, Oldham bus station
Seen at Oldham bus station on the 1740 journey of the 159 route to Moston.

*                       *                      *

Bluebird Bus and Coach: Designs of the Last Decade:

East Lancashire Spryte Y8 BLU, Bluebird Bus and Coach, Middleton Bus Station
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.
Bluebird Dennis Dart
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.
Bluebird MCV Evolution
A rare type at the time: the MCV Evolution single decker seen loading on the White Moss Circular.
Dennis Dart, SELNEC livery
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.
Dennis Dart, Bluebird
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!).
Optare Solo KX54 NLD and Dennis Dart P501 LND, Stevenson Square, Manchester
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.
Dennis Dart, R1 BLU, Marshall body, Stevenson Square, Manchester
A former Mayne of Manchester Dennis Dart seen at Stevenson Square.
Optare Solo SR M890, MK59 BLU, Stevenson Square, Manchester, Bluebird Bus and Coach
A sleek Optare Solo SR M890, a then recent purchase seen on Stevenson Square in February 2011.
Bluebird Bus and Coach Dennis Dart SLF 0005 BLU, Oldham bus station
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.
Bluebird Bus and Coach, Enviro 200 DD56 BLU, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station
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.
Bluebird Dennis Dart SLF, SELNEC Southern livery, Ashton bus station
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.
Bluebird Bus and Coach ML59 BLU, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
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.

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13 thoughts on “In Pictures: Bluebird Bus and Coach

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    1. Cheers, Michael.

      I wonder what’s going to become of the ones they’ve displaced? I noticed on Tuesday that ML59 BLU wore the Bluebird livery, albeit with Bluebird logos replaced by Stagecoach ones. The effect looks rather subtle. Though I had my camera on me, I was otherwise engaged – on another Stagecoach bus at that – aboard a 346 home!

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. Apparently Stagecoach vehicles were operating “on loan” to Bluebird before the official take over date. Buses Magazine (March) reports that in January, Magicbus Olympians 16799/800 and normal liveried Darts 33084, 34057 were in use.

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  1. Stuart,regarding your question as to what has/is happening to the Bluebird vehicles:
    the same magazine states that Bluebird had returned Darts P989/93 AFV and MA02 BLU to Ensignbus, off loan.

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  2. Considering you’ve ridden on them regularly on 343 until recently, I’m surprised you labeled 40407 as a B6 when it actually is a Wright Crusader Dennis Dart, and if I remember rightly the Solo parked next to it was one Bluebird aquired from Swans when they gave up their bus service operations

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      1. you will not see 40407 any more was scarpped months ago left in that batch are 40416/19/30/31/36

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  3. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free-market. Stagecoach is monopolising Greater Manchester. I know we prefer them to First but the problem is they are becoming the dominant operator. Surely the best thing would be a return to GM Buses, nationalised for the good of the people.

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    1. Hiya Salford,

      That is so true. There is no such thing as a totally free market, and probably for good as well as bad reasons. If we left everything to market forces, there wouldn’t be a social security system in most developed countries; there would be less competition; workers’ wages would be several times lower than bosses (though present company in Westminster may be ensuring this). Copyright infringement and counterfeiting would be greater under a totally free market on laissez-faire principles, hence Intellectual Property and consumer protection laws. Pints would be less than a pint, bread may be adulterated, and customers could be misled. Hence the need for a degree of regulation to ensure fairer competition.

      In truth, public transport should be deemed a public utility too important for the market to decide its fate (along with power, heat, water and telecommunications). If we had today’s privatised system building the National Grid in the late 1920s, we’d probably still have different supply voltages in Manchester to that of London’s: plugs and sockets in Hastings could differ to those in Eastbourne.

      I definitely agree with you on Stagecoach, being better than First in Greater Manchester, but the latter company has made some improvements to the fleet in Oldham and North Manchester. Even so, they’ve some way before equalling Stagecoach Manchester’s standards. I would like to see a return to GM Buses, or Greater Manchester Transport, though I cannot see that happening in the most immediate future. Where I live, I have a very good long-established independent operator which runs one of my routes (the 343). Their timekeeping equals, and sometimes puts the bigger operators to shame. I would like to see them continue to prosper as much as I would like to see the return of Greater Manchester Transport.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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    1. Hi John,

      Luckily for you, I have just dug up my copy of The North West Bus Handbook (1993 edition). Allocated fleet number 17 was a Duple Laser bodied Leyland Tiger TRCTL11/3R. It was built in 1984 and came to Bluebird Bus and Coach as VXP 717. Its first registration was A806 CCD and it came to the Bluebird fleet in 1992 from Thames Transit. Could this be the artefact you seek?

      It entered service on February 1984 for Southdown before joining the Thames Transit fleet. It has also received the registration numbers of 416 CCD and A474 NJK and was last seen sold to an unknown dealer in Dundalk, in February 1999.

      I have also found a picture of the above vehicle pending its National Express stripes in Hilsea:

      Duple Laser

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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      1. Thanks Stuart, but iam kinda sure it was a 1988 was that the only duple coach they had around that time do you know

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