Stagecoach Manchester: Congestion Behind 15% Drop in Average Bus Speeds

Why Stagecoach Manchester is urging politicians to tackle congestion and improve air quality

  • Bus operator writes to local politicians across Greater Manchester;
  • Stagecoach says passengers are ‘paying the price for short-sighted policies’;
  • Survey shows how bus speeds in Greater Manchester have fallen by 15% since 1997.
Enviro400 Stagecoach Manchester, MX08 GNU, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station
Back in 1997, the average journey time from Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] to Ashton-under-Lyne bus station on the 346 route was seven minutes. Today, the average is nearer 12 minutes with traffic lights the bane of this route on reaching Ashton-under-Lyne town centre.

Once more, Stagecoach Manchester have urged local politicians to get tough on congestion which has seen bus speeds fall by 15% in Greater Manchester. The conurbation’s largest bus operator, in terms of market share and fleet size, have also called to place buses at the heart of environmental health policies.

They have also called upon MPs and Councillors across the UK to warn of the worrying impact of congestion and to give examples of the ways it affects bus passengers.

Nationwide research showed that the direct and indirect costs of congestion to UK motorists amounted to over £37.7 billion in 2017. That is an average of £1,168 per driver, with drivers spending an average of 31 hours a year in congestion during peak hours.

Stagecoach’s own research has also shown the extent of the problem. Since 1996, Stagecoach Manchester has had to increase the number of vehicles on the road during peak times by 20% as a result of traffic congestion. This has also seen longer journey times and some thinning out of peak hour journeys. In some cases, the loss of peak hour services like the 153 to Mossley [Brookbottom].

In addition, recent research issued by Greener Journeys also showed that the Government’s seven-year freeze on fuel duty has resulted in a 4% increase in traffic since 2011. This has been matched by a similar decrease in public transport use. 60 million fewer rail journeys and 200 million fewer bus journeys across the country.

Stagecoach Manchester managing director, Elisabeth Tasker, said: “This is not specifically about Stagecoach, or any other bus company – it’s about the impact of congestion on bus passengers and other road users in the area and the situation simply cannot continue if we are to continue improving the local bus network and improving the local environment.

“Our passengers are paying the price for short-sighted policies that have led us to this point – we urgently need politicians to take practical action to get our towns and cities moving again.

“Buses are key to delivering this – effective bus networks can boost the local economy, improve traffic flow, reduce air pollution and help improve air quality. We are playing our part by investing in improvements for customers including in digital technology, new routes and new vehicles, but we need politicians to play their part to help buses flourish. All of the tools exist for them to take action now.”

Traffic congestion significantly impacts bus customers in a number of ways, including journey times, reliability, satisfaction levels and the cost of their ticket.

Stagecoach has revealed that a 10% decrease in operating speed leads to an 8% rise in operating costs – and, despite the company’s attempts to protect customers as much as possible, these increased costs invariably push prices up for passengers. This can lead to fewer people taking the bus, potentially resulting in even more cars on the road.

In its letter, Stagecoach has offered to meet with elected members to talk through the local issues, traffic hotspots and potential solutions, including changes that can be made to road infrastructure and layout, traffic management systems and priority schemes.

In Greater Manchester, imagine what impact bus priority systems could have on journey times. How many times have you been narked off by buses being held up at traffic lights? Not least the effect it has on your journey or connections.

On a more localised level, some of Greater Manchester’s increased journey times have been affected by Metrolink works. In 2016, there was the small matter of a sinkhole beside the Mancunian Way which had a great effect on timings along East Manchester’s bus routes.

An EM60 Presentation, 12 June 2018.

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