Franchised operations by 2025 across whole of city region with 50 new electric buses for first phase
In a year’s time, there will be quite a buzz in our city region as The Bee Network takes shape. Firstly, the Metrolink trams will have a slightly different livery. Secondly, there will also be (bee?) hireable yellow bikes in our city centre.
In Bolton, Wigan and Leigh, there will also be (bee?) franchised bus operations as part of Transport for Greater Manchester’s two-year plan to take back control of its buses. Next up will be Bury, Rochdale, North Manchester, Salford and Oldham, which will come on line in 2024. (Given the state of the 409’s timekeeping, many Oldhamers would like that to be resolved by twenty-four minutes past eight tomorrow night). The third and final part will cover Tameside, Stockport, South Manchester and Trafford.
Much to the disappointment of some people wanting orange and white buses, our buses will be painted in yellow and black. Like bees, like wasps, like the FAC51 Hacienda logo or a 1980s Manchester Evening News van. Service vehicles, the Bee Bikes, and Metrolink trams – will all be painted in the same shade of yellow.
Fifty more electric buses
In a bid to lower average vehicle ages and emissions in Greater Manchester, there will also be 50 new all electric buses to begin with. Built by Alexander Dennis in Scarborough (the former Plaxton plant in Eastfield) they will be similar to the all electric green buses you see on Stagecoach Manchester routes to Didsbury. They will also be maintained at Alexander Dennis’ customer aftercare facility in Skelmersdale.
As well as being in yellow and black, there will be mobile charging points with announcements in audio and visual forms, and contactless card readers (as seen on the Metrolink). If you wish to see part of the future today, they are similar to Blackpool Transport’s grey and yellow Palladium buses. Only in zero emission electric form – and 50 years after the Chloride Battery Bus entered service.
Weekly caps and franchising updates
Since single fare and daily fare caps were introduced on the 4th September, The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said that more people have taken advantage of local bus routes. Details of passenger numbers will be published next month. So far it seems to fulfil its aim of attracting more casual commuters, though he has admitted that weekly ticket users haven’t benefited the same.
In addition to the brand spanking new single fares and daily caps, there will be a weekly cap. The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham hopes to set the weekly cap at a lower rate than £20.60. Initially, it was proposed that an all systems ticket under the franchised network would be equal to the lowest price single operator season ticket.
According to GMCA’s Transport Commissioner Vernon Everitt, there has been huge interest for the first round of contracts. Of the 11 contracts up for franchised operations, there has been 33 bids.
What’s next (or what should be next) on the agenda?
- The Voice of the Bee Network: shouldn’t that be The Voice of the Beehive? Andy Burnham has jokingly said Liam Gallagher. I would have wanted it to be Tony Wilson if he was still alive but I think Maxine Peake or Becky Want should be the voice of Greater Manchester’s real time announcements. Could we get Peter Kay on board for the first phase of franchised operations?
- Indicators: in the SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport era, the standard indicator layout was in three parts on the front of the bus (intermediate stops, number then destination in that order) with the number on the kerbside and at the rear of the vehicle. Should TfGM have an all electronic version of the SELNEC/GMT displays or the later GMT version as seen on the Leyland Olympians?
- Seats: moquette, PU leather or imitation leather? We think a subtle grey moquette might be more attractive, so long as it is devoid of bees. (Something similar to the moquette seen on TfGM’s electric hybrid Solo SRs would be great).
- Timetable design: in the early 1980s, Bus Guides made for Better Bus Rides according to GMPTE’s Publicity Department. There should be space for paper timetables as well as electronic versions.
Before I go…
Are you excited about the launch of franchised operations or are you underwhelmed by it all? As always, feel free to comment.
S.V., 22 September 2022.
Bee Network bus image by Transport for Greater Manchester.