Bus Changes to Be Discussed after North Manchester Service Withdrawn

Bus Changes to Be Discussed after North Manchester Service Withdrawn
A First Manchester Volvo B9TL with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork on Rochdale Road.Tom Harrison

Transport bosses are due to discuss proposals to pay for a new bus service following an announcement that the 88 bus – which serves North Manchester – is being withdrawn.

Current operator First Manchester informed Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) of its intention to stop operating the service, which runs between Manchester, Monsall, Moston Vale and Charlestown.

While some sections of the route – which is partly funded by TfGM – are covered by other bus and Metrolink services, some residents faced being severely impacted, with no other public transport links nearby.

Under the current system, the majority of Greater Manchester’s bus services are run by commercial operators who are free to decide routes, timetables and set fare levels. Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has no say in how these services are run, and is not responsible for planning and coordinating the bus network.

TfGM financially supports around 20 per cent of Greater Manchester’s bus services, which run at times of the day and in areas where there is a social need.

On Friday 9 March, members of the Bus Networks and TfGM Services subcommittee will discuss proposals for a new contract to be awarded that would see the current 114 service – operated by Stagecoach – diverted to run via Monsall to replace part of the 88 route not serviced by alternative public transport.

The 114 route would remain unchanged between Moston and Alkrington and run every 20 minutes in the daytime during weekdays, with an additional service running every 30 minutes in the daytime on Saturday and hourly in the evenings and on Sundays.

The proposal is one of a number of changes to financially supported services set to be discussed.

Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Despite a steady decline in the number of people travelling by bus, it remains the backbone of our transport network, accounting for three in every four public transport journeys.

“Where commercial operators decide to stop running a service we have an important role to play in paying for services where there is a social need so that access to education, healthcare and jobs is maintained.

“However, the budget for financially supporting services is under severe pressure as it comes from the district councils, who themselves are under enormous financial pressure.

“We have reached the point where it is now very difficult to plug the gaps created by sudden decisions by bus operators to cease services.

“This will be the primary consideration of members when these proposals are discussed at next week’s Bus Networks and TfGM Services subcommittee.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, said: “It’s clear to me, following the public outcry to the news that the 88 was being withdrawn, just how important and relied upon the service is.

“It’s important that those who depend on this service aren’t left high and dry and I’m pleased that an alternative option has been identified and is being put forward so quickly.

“What this saga once again painfully demonstrates is the absolute need to reform the bus market in Greater Manchester, so that the public’s interests are put first.

“That’s why I will be using the new powers available to mayoral combined authorities through the Bus Services Act 2017 to drive major improvements for passengers as soon as possible.”

For information on public transport across Greater Manchester visit www.tfgm.com.

Tom Harrison

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