JPT RIP: Family Firm Acquired by Stagecoach Manchester

End of an era for family firm

JPT Travel Enviro300, ST59 JPT, Ashton-under-Lyne
Going: JPT Travel and the 217 service in its present form seen at Ashton-under-Lyne bus station.

Over a year since Bluebird Bus and Coach’s acquisition by Stagecoach Manchester, another Middleton company has ceased operations. JPT Travel, family run since 1974, will be taken over by Stagecoach Manchester tomorrow morning. This will be the second Middleton bus operator to have been taken over by the Perthshire transport giant.

The company was founded in 1974 as a private hire minibus operator. By deregulation, they began stage carriage operations with smart minibuses seen around Middleton with ‘City Nippy’ branding. As well as commercial services in ‘parts which GM Buses couldn’t reach’, their early GMPTE tenders included the 419 from Middleton to Ashton-under-Lyne, and the 354 service from Ashton to Denshaw via Bottom Mossley and Uppermill.

In recent times, JPT Travel had expanded by means of winning GMPTE tendered services. Modern low floor buses dominated the fleet with expansion in East Manchester and Tameside away from its core area in and around Middleton town centre. Other tenders won included evening journeys on the 256 service, busy on Manchester United’s match nights.

Boom and Bust

Optare Excel, JPT Travel, S928 LBL, Middleton Bus Station
One of a number of Optare Excels, seen in competition with Stagecoach Manchester on the 112 service at Middleton bus station.

Of late, the company expanded its commercial services, competing with Bluebird Bus and Coach and Stagecoach Manchester on the 112 service. Initially, they were operated under the Eurobus banner, with older vehicles, in a ‘cheap and cheerful’ Magic Bus way. Recent acquisitions included Volvo Olympians and early Dennis Dart SLFs, with some of the older vehicles for Eurobus operations joining the main JPT Travel fleet.

Running costs at Transport for Greater Manchester’s end would see them lose the 217/218 services’ Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys after the 26 April 2014. As a last gasp attempt to wrestle market share from Stagecoach Manchester and First Greater Manchester, they reduced the price of their Day Saver ticket to £2.00. Sadly, it seemed to be a step too far.

Changes to existing services:

Over the last five days, some of JPT Travel’s buses have been serviced at Stagecoach Manchester’s Middleton depot. There was rumours of JPT being sold to the Perth giant for a £1.00. Fares on former JPT routes will be revised to fall in line with Stagecoach’s fare tables. Therefore, passengers will be seeing three fare revisions in the space of three days, as Stagecoach Manchester’s fares are set to rise this Sunday!

As a consequence, Manchester Megariders will be sold on, for example, the 118 and 156 services. Furthermore, their Middleton Rider tickets, sold on former Bluebird Bus and Coach services will also be valid on ex-JPT Travel services.

Affected services:

Please note that the following services detailed below are those operated on behalf of TfGM:

  • 88: Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] – White Moss (most weekend and Bank Holiday evening journeys subsidised by TfGM);
  • 89/89A: Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] – White Moss Circular (all evening journeys plus whole Sunday and Bank Holiday service); 
  • 156: Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] – Middleton – Langley (all journeys including TfGM subsidised Saturday service);
  • 164: Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] – Middleton (all evening journeys plus whole Sunday and Bank Holiday service);
  • 165: Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] – Heaton Park (all evening journeys plus whole Sunday and Bank Holiday service);
  • 169: Ashton-under-Lyne – Southern Cemetery (Sunday and Bank Holiday service: journeys leaving Southern Cemetery at 1853, 2105 and 2315; journeys leaving Ashton-under-Lyne bus station at 1958 and 2210);
  • 217/218: Tameside Hospital – Shudehill Interchange – Stalybridge (withdrawn from the 27 April 2014 – replaced by 217 service from Ashton to Manchester, and 408 service between Droylsden to Stalybridge. Brushes Estate section to be served by 343 service.);
  • 270: Wythenshawe – Trafford Park [Parkway Circle] (one weekday journey);
  • 276: West Didsbury [Elizabeth Slinger Road] – Trafford General Hospital (whole service);
  • 294: Langley – Trafford Park (whole route, weekday mornings);
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde (Saturday daytime journeys).

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During the start of bus deregulation, JP Executive Travel cut their teeth in North Manchester. Like Chadderton rivals Citibus Tours, they opted for a niche market, serving parts of Middleton hitherto bus free. More than anything, their presence ensured that Top O’Th’Hebers, Langley and Alkrington Garden Village would be connected to the wider bus network. Today, some of their early routes form part of First Greater Manchester’s and Stagecoach Manchester’s services.

As proven by I’ last Summer, it seems to be harder for the next generation of JPTs and Bluebirds to gain a foothold. All the more so given the consolidation of FirstGroup, Stagecoach and Arriva in Greater Manchester.

S.V., 25 April 2014.

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