A Little Gem of a Comfy Bus (or Three)

Two new operators hit the streets of Greater Manchester this July

Cumfybus MX55WDG
Coming soon to a Bolton street near you: a Cumfybus Optare Solo. Photograph by Alan Sansbury (Creative Commons, Some Rights Reserved license).

The fluid nature of the Greater Manchester bus scheme never fails to fascinate East of the M60, and a fair chunk of its regular readers. Conversely, the presence of new operators may infuriate some passengers, particularly those accustomed to single operator season tickets.

First of the two operators to hit the streets of Greater Manchester will be Cumfybus. In the last decade, they have expanded through tendered services in West Lancashire, along the Fylde Coast and in the Merseytravel ITA area. Their fleet comprises of modern Optare Solo minibuses in a bright yellow livery with cheerful multi-coloured sans-serif lettering.

To accommodate its Greater Manchester fleet, a new depot has opened in Bolton. They will commence operations on the 08 July 2013 (a fortnight from today). With effect from the said date, Cumfybus will operate the following services in Wigan and Bolton:

  • 536: Bolton – Breightmet Circular (evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays – formerly Stagecoach in Wigan);
  • 551: Bolton – Leigh (from South Lancs Travel);
  • 553: Boothstown – Bolton (from Stagecoach in Wigan, hitherto Bolton – Leigh);
  • 559: Hindley – Bolton (from Stagecoach in Wigan, hitherto Bolton – Aspull);
  • 570: Sutton Estate – Bolton (from Arriva North West).

*                              *                              *

An Old Friend Returns (Well Almost)

Our second operator is a family run company formed in 1995. From the 17 July, Club Class Travel will launch its first stage carriage service. The 61 will operate every half hour from Higher Blackley to Manchester city centre. Its main city centre stop will be outside Shudehill Interchange.

To publicise the route, its buses will be branded ‘I’mALittleGem.com’ – a 21st century twist on GM Buses’ response to the Bee Line Buzz Company. Being Club Class Travel’s first foray into stage carriage operation, we at East of the M60 wish them the best of luck.

*                              *                              *

Fare Information

As well as the usual single operator season tickets and fares, both operators will honour the System One range of season tickets. For Club Class Travel’s 61 route, rival operators’ staff passes will also be valid. Details of their RideAway Day and RideAway Week ticket prices will be unveiled on the 17 July.

Links

  • Cumfybus: website detailing all operations throughout Lancashire
  • Club Class Travel: company website detailing private hire operations with reference to forthcoming 61 route;
  • I’mALittleGem.com: microsite detailing the forthcoming 61 route.

S.V., 24 June 2013.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “A Little Gem of a Comfy Bus (or Three)

Add yours

  1. Being someone who lives bang on the top of the new Little Gem service, and seeing how quiet the existing FGM 64, and indeed how bad the loadings on the relatively new 157 from JPT are. I’m not really sure that sadly there is enough of a demand.

    Although saying that, I wish them well

    Like

    1. Hi Connaire,

      It will be interesting to watch. Could it be that: a) they’re unhappy with the terminus (they might prefer Piccadilly Gardens or Stevenson Square), or b) they’ve spurned the bus in favour of the car or the Metrolink? If they turn out to be more reliable than the incumbents, could they warm to I’mALittleGem.com. Passengers may also be picky about vehicle quality as well as reliability and punctuality.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. It’s more what demand there is, is instead of being concentrated on the 2 64’s (and indeed the slightly longer 88/89) it’s now split between 4, which come at roughly the same time.

        Be interested to see how it goes, it should in theory be slightly quicker for most of the far reaches than the 157

        Like

      2. Hi Connaire,

        At the moment, there is no map for the 61 route, though I think it may shadow the 157. They’ve allowed 32 minutes between Higher Blackley and Shudehill, which seems leisurely (off-peak 219s allow a similar time between Ashton and Manchester).

        All will be revealed once TfGM prints their first timetables. It will be one of two 61s in Greater Manchester.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  2. I’ve often thought that there would be a lucrative market for a small bus operator to begin running a completely express service from Ashton to Manchester during morning peak times (Manchester to Ashton in the evening peak) down the Old Road.

    Like

      1. Hi Ady,

        It appears we’re almost there with Checkmate Coaches’ C20 route from Mossley to Manchester. However, it isn’t quite a peak hour service as the pm journey is before the evening peak (it leaves Piccadilly Gardens at 1600 hours).

        The C20 has a return journey on Monday to Friday and omits Ashton-under-Lyne bus station. It observes all stops and traverses Ashton Old Road leaving Ashton-under-Lyne via Lord Sheldon Way, Ryecroft Hall and the Trough [Audenshaw].

        The closest to your criteria was the 153 service from Mossley and Carrbrook to Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]. It was introduced by Manchester Corporation in 1959 (from Carrbrook), extended to Mossley by GM Buses in 1986, and withdrawn by Stagecoach Manchester in April 2005. It observed all stops from Mossley to Stalybridge, was limited stop to Ashton-under-Lyne (Chester Square), then non-stop to Piccadilly railway station.

        In more recent times, SpeedwellBus launched a limited stop route from Manchester to Mossley [Hey Farm], under their SpeedwellValue brand. The S50 observed all stops to Ashton-under-Lyne, before being limited stop to Piccadilly Gardens. It went via Ashton New Road, which at the time was disrupted by Metrolink works. As a consequence, the Manchester – Ashton section was discontinued, albeit as a ‘temporary measure’ from 2009. It operated between Mossley and Ashton till 2011.

        If a limited stop bus route was to run between Ashton and Manchester, it would have to compete on the grounds of economy rather than speed. The end of this year would see the Metrolink as a convenient traffic-free peak hour option whereas Northern Rail’s service will continue to serve passengers who prefer speediness. The 10 minute journey time to Victoria, in the rush hour, is unachievable on any form of road transport – private car and bicycle as well as local bus routes.

        Therefore, a limited stop bus route would have to undercut tram and train fares. Its viability would depend on passengers preferring lower fares at the expense of faster (compared with rail) journey times. Furthermore, it should traverse Ashton Old Road via the C20 route, and possibly begin outside Ashton bus station (ideally at Ridge Hill estate or Hazelhurst via the 38/39 route). Beginning at Ridge Hill or Hazelhurst would create a direct Mancunian bus link for its residents, or allow passengers to switch modes (alighting at Ashton Market for the railway station, or between Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange and Audenshaw for the tram).

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  3. You mentioned no published route, this isnt strictly true… There is a tfgm corporate pdf somewhere which had the map of the route, i cant find it but to simplify…
    Planthill road and tweedle hill road then down victoria ave, then down rochdale road, turns around near the new coop building in manchester, and doesnt even call in shudehill, but stops at the bus stop near the off licence… Then back the same way

    Like

    1. Hi Jimbo,

      Thanks for the clarification. If you find the map (public or corporate version), I would be most grateful for the link.

      Yes, I noticed that the new service would stop outside the off licence. However, I referred to Shudehill as the district rather than the tram/bus/coach Interchange.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  4. i would like to offer some answers to the questions asked, and to say thanks for all the comments on here about us, (imalittlegem.com)
    to main vehicles to be used on this service are low floor Dennis Darts, our replacement vehicle at this time is a step entrance but we hope to replace this before the 17th july,
    our fares are to be minimax fares, with day and weekly available, at this time we are working on a twist to the route but that still at the planning stage, we do hope our service dose well,
    we are working on our next challenge, so keep your eyes peeled

    Dave, and all the team at Club Class Travel,

    Like

    1. Hi Dave,

      Many thanks for your valued comments, and I wish yourself and the rest of the team every success with the 61 route.

      I love the idea of Minimax fares. Mancunian passengers over the age of 45 (and probably yourself) would remember Manchester City Transport’s Minimax fares, and a 2013 version may evoke some memories. Furthermore, the flat fares will reduce boarding times, a good thing which could make for more attractive journey times.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      P.S. For the benefit of younger readers of this blog, the original Minimax fares launched by Manchester City Transport were flat fares. Passengers would pay 6d (3d concessions) into a machine whilst boarding.

      Like

  5. The main reason for our minimax fares is time costs, so we have made our flat fare quick and easy, by this we will be in and out of town in no time at all, some old passengers will remember little gems and minimax fares, i always remember when bus fares where value for money and a service to none, thats our aim with our little gems,

    Dave

    Like

    1. Hi Dave,

      My thoughts exactly. As well as comfortable vehicles, I always consider economy as a potential selling point. For years, I’ve held the belief that local services (such as yours) should have an attractive price point and simplified fares to entice passengers.

      For many, the local bus route is the start of a longer journey. If for instance you’re travelling to MediaCityUK from Blackley, one passenger could use their System One pass on your 61 route, then continue to MediaCityUK on the tram. From personal experience, I often get a local bus from home to Ashton or Hyde en route to Manchester, sometimes in favour of a less frequent direct bus to the city centre.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. minimax fares should be used on more buses,
        if passengers can afford to use public transport they will, the real problem with public transport is everyone wants to make as much profit as they can, we all need to make money just to stay in business, but we dont all need to make loads of profit to keep the share holders happy, our aim is to be able to offer a service that keeps to its timetable, a bus that will turn up when we say it will, friendly staff, single priced single journeys and great value multi ride tickets, also we will take all free travel passes and system one passes,
        if people make use of this service we will then increase the timetable,
        we have no plans one being the biggest bus company, our only plans are to be the best we can

        Like

      2. Hello again, Dave.

        Strongly agree: lower fares will entice passengers, simpler fare structures also reduce boarding times and – most importantly – keep journey times to a minimum and to the timetable most accurately.

        I can see why some passengers admire or miss their local independents. Though Stagecoach’s acquisition of Mayne and Bluebird has meant more routes and a better value single operator ticket, I miss the former’s buses and service. The people of Droylsden, particularly in Littlemoss and on Greenside Lane were loyal to Mayne of Manchester’s bus operations. They’re still here today, though only on the coaching side, and this has been down to 90+ years of high quality service.

        The emphasis on service rather than excessive profit was another reason why the municipal operators – plus SELNEC, Greater Manchester Transport and GM Buses – were much revered. It would be great to see these values used more.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  6. its been a couple of weeks since we started our 61 service and tbh its being used well by the travelling public, we are now underway to extend the route as Victoria ave was only a temp finishing point till we found out what people wanted from that service, look out for our update coming soon
    once Vosa have accepted the route we will put timetables and maps out

    dave

    Like

    1. Hi Dave,

      Great to see you’ve had a good fortnight with the 61. I hope your success continues. It may be a bit early yet, but have you started getting any regular users?

      I’ve yet to have a ride on the 61 so I shall try to do that on a free Saturday.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  7. i would say that over the last few weeks we have gained a good number of passengers who allow the 88/89 156 and 157 go past and flag us down,
    early days so that there was a few mistakes made by our self, when we started the route, but were working on fixing that right now,.
    1. we start our service too late in the morning
    2. we finish to early in the day
    3. higher blackley looks like it was the wrong place to start anf finish the route

    how ever we have wrote up another timetable
    with a longer route and our next timetable will be from approx 06:00 till 00:00
    so this change will improve what we have already started to build

    Like

    1. Hi Dave,

      Onwards and upwards I say! Also good to see the passengers leaving other buses behind in favour of the 61. Therefore your entry as a Good Value For Money operator could fill the gap left by Bluebird (though not necessarily along their routes – obviously seen with the 61).

      Could you consider the south-western entrance of Heaton Park as a future terminus? There’s proper turnaround facilities outside The Woodthorpe pub opposite the south-western gates of Heaton Park. If you carry on through Victoria Avenue, it can turn left and stop outside the gates nearest the Heaton Park Tramway en route to The Woodthorpe.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: