In the early hours of Sunday, the 2nd December 2012, Stagecoach officially took over First Manchester’s Wigan operations along with its 300 members of staff, £6 million depot and 120 vehicles in return for £12 million.
Ask any passenger, Wigan’s operations needed major investment and Stagecoach wasted no time in delivering 20 brand new Alexander Dennis Enviro200’s and 11 Enviro300’s. These buses were to replace First’s ever-ageing fleet of Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied Dennis Darts and rickety Optare Excels while the slightly older Alexander ALX300 bodied MAN 18.220s were being transferred.
There was a sigh of relief amongst passengers when the Alexander Dennis Enviros appeared on our streets, no longer would we have to bear the freezing cold of the R reg Dennis Darts or the deafeningly loud Excels, we could travel in comfort with nothing more than a hum.
Clear advertising of the £11 ‘wiganrider’ has benefitted passenger numbers and Stagecoach has even decked out an Alexander Dennis Enviro200 in a bright all-over promotional livery. The Wigan ticket range allows passengers to travel anywhere in the borough without needing to pay city centre prices.
The Volvo B9TLs with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork were sent north across the border in return for some of Hyde Road’s Alexander Dennis Enviro400s and this has left the 11 Wright Eclipse Urban bodied Volvo B7RLEs, my personal favourite single decker, as the only reminder of First’s presence in Wigan.
Once the ALX300 bodied MAN 18.220s arrived, we said goodbye to our Volvo B10BLEs with Wright Renown bodywork, six of these were fortunate to stay with the Stagecoach Group but were promptly sent to Stagecoach de Cymru being R646 CVR (21174), R648 CVR (21176), R650 CVR (21178), R651 CVR (21179), S652 RNA (21180) and S670 SVU (21187) which are split between Merthyr Tydfil and Blackwood depots with the rest destined for the scrapyard.
Along with the ’06 plate ALX300/MAN 18.220s, we were given a few of Stockport’s notoriously loud S plate ones which shockingly were only 12 months younger than the ex-First vehicles they were to replace. Thankfully there are only a couple of S reg ones in Wigan.
Stagecoach soon addressed a major issue, there were never enough double-deckers on the roads. After the seemingly ancient First double-deckers were scrapped, a batch of Alexander ALX400 bodied Dennis Tridents arrived to take over school contracts.As a school kid using the school services First provided I wasn’t surprised that the fleet of Volvo Olympians and Dennis Arrows rarely appeared on public services however Stagecoach seems to allocate more double-deckers onto public routes.
As a school kid using the school services First provided I wasn’t surprised that the fleet of Volvo Olympians and Dennis Arrows rarely appeared on public services however Stagecoach seems to allocate more double-deckers onto public routes.
The overriding benefit for passengers was the introduction of Stagecoach’s lower cost tickets and our own Wigan borough tickets, First never seemed to grasp that passengers were paying Manchester City Centre prices for day and week tickets when only one service connected to the city.
People very rarely used the 32 to travel all the way to Manchester because the train was cheaper and took a third of the time. Passengers can now travel in and around Wigan for as little as £11 a week, saving them £24 per month compared to First’s tickets.
Keep up the good work Stagecoach.While I personally am not the biggest fan of Stagecoach’s fleet, the fact is, public transport in the town has never been cheaper and that can only be a positive thing.