Stagecoach Manchester chief marks four decade tenure
Greater Manchester, 1974: a truly different place to the conurbation we see today. Firstly, our buses were orange and white. Manchester United was playing Second Division football; the Hulme Crescents, over a year after completion saw rats and cockroaches. Stalybridge Celtic was members of the Cheshire County League whilst Mossley played in the Northern Premier League – then the highest division after Football League Division Four.
Back in ’74, The Bower Club (Stalybridge Celtic’s social club), Poco Poco in Heaton Norris and Baileys in Oldham were essential nightspots. It was third time lucky for Supertramp as their third album, Crime of the Century gained a top ten position. Teenyboppers fawned over the Bay City Rollers and David Essex. The hottest station on the typical Greater Mancunian wireless was the recently formed Piccadilly Radio on 261 Medium Wave.
In the same year, one of Britain’s most revered transport bosses began his maiden voyage with Greater Manchester Transport. Forty years on, a clutch of awards later, Christopher Bowles has seen his industry change beyond recognition. One spanning public sector operations, bus deregulation, multifarious bread van conversions, dalliances with AEC Routemasters, and the dominance of big bus owning groups. Six years into his career, a brother and sister partnership ran regular coaches from Dundee to London. We didn’t know what happened to them after that!
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Christopher Bowles managing director of Stagecoach Manchester, is currently celebrating a landmark, 40 years working in the bus industry. To mark the occasion, Christopher visited the company’s Sharston depot, where a vehicle typical of 1974 bus operation (the year Christopher started work) stood side by side with a modern hybrid bus, allowing Christopher to reflect on his career.
From a background working for local authority bus services, Christopher has spent all but 10 years of his career working in Manchester, where he is currently managing director of the Stagecoach operation, responsible for over 2,200 staff and 400 services across the region.
Reflecting on his 40 year career, Christopher said: “When I began my career, I was excited by the variety of experiences which the bus industry has to offer. I think this is still true today.
“Forty years ago the industry was in decline because of growing car ownership. But there was still the potential for a mass travel business, because everyone could see congestion was going to get worse.
“By the 1990s the industry was investing serious money in modern buses, which made travel more attractive. We have also been working to promote the sustainable credentials of bus travel.
“In recent years, the UK bus industry has taken great strides. As an industry, it is now much more customer-orientated, putting travellers front and centre to deliver services that work for local people. In Greater Manchester there are now 25 bus stops every square mile, making bus travel more accessible for local people.
“There have also been huge developments in technology to improve safety and the environmental credentials of the bus industry. Despite this investment, price increases are kept to a minimum and we deliver a high quality service that is great value for money. Customer satisfaction for Stagecoach Manchester is at 86% – and we’re working hard to improve this even further.
“Even within the last five years, I’ve seen a huge change in how we run the business. We now operate very much as a partner in a wider transport network – a change which has improved and modernised the ability for people to move around by bus in Greater Manchester. ”
In recognition of his work within the industry this year, Christopher was identified as one of the 250 most influential people in Greater Manchester, in a list compiled by the Manchester Evening News.
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But Wait… There’s More!:
Some more pictures of Mr. Bowles, 7001 (Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlantean) and a cameo appearance for the Enviro400H. All photographs © 2014 Tangerine PR Ltd.
S.V., 22 November 2014.