First Greater Manchester Flies South for the Winter

Finglands agree to sell bus operations to FirstGroup for a bargain price, subject to OFT clearance

Volvo B9TL, Finglands YX08 FWF, Stockport bus station
Another Volvo B9TLs: one of Finglands’ seen on the Sunday 197 route to Manchester via Heaton Moor and Burnage in February 2013. Since April, Sunday and Bank Holiday 197s have been taken over by Manchester Community Transport.

Who’d have thought it? Within two years of expanding its 18 service from Shudehill Interchange to Rusholme, First Greater Manchester aims to improve its market share in South Manchester. This time, it has set its sights on the bus operations of Finglands and agreed to purchase them for £50,000.

The transfer, if approved by Whitehall, will include 100 employees and the lease of its Wilmslow Road garage. Its 41 vehicles wont be affected by the fee though some of its buses may be seen in FirstGroup livery. Finglands will continue to operate coach services, in the same way Mayne of Manchester has done since Stagecoach bought its bus operations in February 2008.

Should Finglands’ bus operations transfer to First Greater Manchester, it will offer a new operational base for its 18 and 53 services. FirstGroup buses will be seen in Altrincham for the first time since the 500 [Bolton – Manchester Airport] route’s withdrawal. Passengers on another 41 should expect to see the new Barbie livery before long. By December, FirstGroup could be operating two 41s in Greater Manchester!

Before 1991, Finglands was one of Greater Manchester’s oldest independent bus and coach operators. They were among the first companies to compete with GM Buses on the Wilmslow Road corridor. After 1991, its bus and coach operations were taken over by East Yorkshire Motor Services.

Since the reduction of its season ticket and FirstDay prices, patronage on First Greater Manchester’s routes have increased by 8% in the last three months. Perhaps FirstGroup’s impending incursion to the Wilmslow Road corridor might ruffle a few feathers in Hyde Road given Stagecoach’s domination of South Mancunian bus routes.

S.V., 01 August 2013
(Happy Yorkshire Day)

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14 thoughts on “First Greater Manchester Flies South for the Winter

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    1. Hi Andrew,

      Sounds like a very good deal for First Greater Manchester and a chance to extend beyond GM Buses North territory. I think it is likely to be approved by OFT, due to Stagecoach Manchester’s market share on the Wilmslow Road corridor.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  1. I’m as surprised as you by this news Stuart. I think it can only be a good thing for the people of Greater Manchester though, as for years it has been an absolute thorn in my side that I had to buy a higher priced ticket just to go south of the county. I was miffed that Stagecoach took over Wigan, which doesn’t seem to have improved any, and resulted in having to then buy a higher priced ticket to go places I used to be able to go on the price of a First Day or Week. I use my local train service from Kearsley railway station now if I am going to Wigan centre, it is quicker and cheaper.
    Lets also hope that this acquisition if it goes ahead, which I am sure it will, will also open up the door for the possible return of some of our long lost trans-Lancs routes and more cross city routes. The 500 and 400 were a personal favourite of mine which I still miss and wish to see come around again. It will also give greater competition to the ever expanding Metrolink network.

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    1. Hi Trystan,

      That did surprise me, though I could see why. Firstly, it would allow First Greater Manchester to expand beyond the River Medlock (in Manchester, rather than Daisy Nook sense). Secondly, it could be a southern outpost of the Queens Road depot, servicing the 18s and 53s as well as the 41s.

      As well as its core routes, there seems to be a few schools routes which could be worked with other First depots. For example, the 145 (Ashton – Mottram – Hyde – Whalley Range) could be worked by Dukinfield garage as well as Rusholme. The 147 (Mills Hill – Alexandra Road) could also be worked by Oldham garage, but more likely to work from Rusholme owing to the amount of dead time from Mills Hill to Wallshaw Street.

      I doubt as if they’ll revive the 400 and 500 routes, but then again…

      I can see this takeover being approved. As I’ve said earlier, the OFT may see it as suitable competition for Stagecoach Manchester. Since UK North’s and Walls’ exit, there has been little bus competition on the Wilmslow Road corridor. This time, there is some competition between bus and Metrolink as well as private cars and minicabs.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. Buses are owned by the parent company EYMS (some Finglands buses are driving round Hull at the moment in fact) who will presumably be taking them back!

    The First Gemini’s won’t be seen on the 197 – the Sunday tender was awarded to MCT earlier this year!

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    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the correction on the 197 bus caption. This is the only Finglands bus image I have photographed and uploaded. I forgot about the recent operator change though (which was from the 07 April this year).

      I have now corrected the caption.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  3. And so the last sizeable “independent” sells up to one of the big three. I know Finglands aren’t technically independent, but they’re not owned by one of the biggies and that’s what matters to me. I wondered if something like this would be on the cards due to no investment in actual new buses at Finglands since 2008.

    It will be interesting though, seeing a lot more of First south of the city centre and how Stagecoach might respond. A sad moment, but there are positives as have already been said.

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    1. Hi Mark,

      There also seems to be parallels with events leading to Bluebird’s and Mayne’s acquisitions by Stagecoach. Both, like Finglands, had no money for new buses, though Mayne of Manchester continued to invest in the coach fleet (and still do to this day).

      Though it’s sad to see another operator succumb to one of the big three bus owning groups, First Greater Manchester’s move could be positive for South Manchester. However, that depends on whether they lavish the same care and attention into new vehicles (as at Oldham), or run life-expired vehicles older than Finglands’ fleet (as with some routes in Tameside).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  4. This seems quite a smart move for First, they’ve secured what will probably become an outstation for peanuts to service the 18, though ironically recently curtailed from Rusholme to St Marys hospital. I expect First will be able to run Oxford Road/uni services financially more efficiently than Finglands can do given their presence in North Manchester. I expect First might well brand their uni services, and introduce attractive fares.

    The Rusholme garage could also run the 22 services in the evening. The last one from Stockport terminates at Davyhulme, could be more conveniently run from Rusholme than Bolton.

    It also gives them a foothold into the South Manchester tender market too.

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    1. Hi Rob,

      I agree with you on the possibility of them operating the 22 from Rusholme, and the South Manchester tender market. Furthermore, given Finglands’ presence in Sale and Altrincham, there’s potential for competition with Arriva North West.

      Most definitely a sound move for First Greater Manchester, though I doubt some enthusiasts would embrace a less competitive Wilmslow Road corridor. Then again…

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  5. im a driver for finglnds and its stagecoach who have made us sell. there bullies us drivers are so upset because finglands is a company that helps people. we got the 19 from sale to altrincham becuase arriva wasnt running the service as it should. we have the 19 in the night time and seems to be ok

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  6. I WILL MISS YOU FINGLANDS AND TO ALL THE WORK LADS AND WORK LADIES LETS REMBER WE WILL NEVER FORGET THE BOEES AND GARAGE LADS WHO DO A AMAZING JOB KEEPING ARE BUSES RUNNING.

    GOOD BYE FINGLANDS WE LOVE YOU

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    1. To all at Terravision,

      There was originally going to be an Office of Fair Trading investigation into FirstGroup’s proposed acquisition last week. This has been put back to the start of January 2014. Therefore at this moment in time, there are still Finglands Coachways buses up and down Wilmslow Road.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

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