All the Greater Manchester bus services being cut after operator misses out on major contract
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Bus services in Bolton and other surrounding boroughs are being cut after the operator which currently runs these routes missed out on a major contract. A dozen services – almost all of which are currently run by Diamond – will have a reduced timetable from April, five months before Go North West takes over.
This includes reducing the frequency of services from Bolton to Manchester city cente and withdrawing daytime routes serving Salford, Bury and Leigh. However, some of these services could be saved if subsidies are offered. It comes as buses are brought under public control in Greater Manchester with the first contracts under the new franchising system awarded late last year. Go North West won the two major contracts in Bolton and Wigan while Diamond won seven smaller contracts which includes services in Salford and Bury.
Announcing the winning bids in December, Mayor Andy Burnham said there would be no changes to bus routes at first to avoid the ‘chaos’ that came when buses were suddently deregulated in 1986. However, Diamond said the news that Go North West would take over Bolton bus depot creates uncertainty.
Diamond bus owner Rotala, which took Mr Burnham to court twice over his decision to bring buses under public control, will now reduce the frequency of five routes and partially withdraw a further six routes. Vision will also withdraw one service, leaving just those journeys which are subsidised by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) running across the 12 routes which are affected.
The following bus services will be affected by the changes from 16 April 2023.
8: Bolton – Farnworth – Pendlebury – Salford – Shudehill
36 & 37: Bolton – Farnworth – Swinton – Salford – Piccadilly Gardens
524: Bolton – Burnden – Little Lever – Radcliffe – Bury
582: Bolton – Gilnow – Daubhill – Over Hulton – Atherton – Leigh
21: Agecroft – Clifton – Swinton – Eccles – The Trafford Centre
163: Bury – Heywood – Langley – Middleton – Piccadilly Gardens
520: Bolton – Deane – Westhoughton – Chew Moor – Gilnow circular
561/562: Bolton – Top O Th Brow – Withins – Breightmet circular
575: Bolton – Heaton – Lostock – Horwich
527: Bolton – Halliwell – Smithills – Hall i’ th’ Wood circular
Rotala commercial manager Thomas Calderbank said: “Now that the outcome of franchising is known, we know that Bolton depot will transfer to Go North West from September 2023. We are required to give 112 days’ notice to TfGM and other regulatory authorities of changes or cancellations to services.
“Given the possible uncertainty that this announcement has generated and will continue to generate for most of this year, we have taken the decision now to reduce the number of buses we need to operate in order to ensure our service delivery on what services remain is robust.
“Given the requirement to give 112 days’ notice, if we find ourselves in a position where we are short of staff later in the year, we would not be able to respond to that for another 112 days. So we are essentially having to take this action on a pre-emptive basis.
“We have been engaging with TfGM since before Christmas around these changes, and we will support TfGM in trying to mitigate the impact of them as best we can.”
All staff working for operators which will no longer run services in Bolton and Wigan will be protected under TUPE legislation which means they will offered jobs at the companies taking over. However, anticipating staff shortages, Diamond will definitely not be running the identified services after April.
TfGM already subsidises some services on these routes and is now looking at what it can do to limit the impact of Diamond’s decision. However, the bus firm said it would probably decline a subsidy to continue operating these services.
TfGM’s Director of Bus, Stephen Rhodes, said: “Our priority is to ensure bus passengers across Greater Manchester have access to a stable and reliable bus network and this is particularly important as we bring buses under local control and deliver the Bee Network.
“That is why we took the steps that we did last year to save dozens of bus routes and services that were set to be withdrawn or reduced and why we spend millions each year to subsidise services throughout the city-region.
“We are currently working to assess the impact of Diamond’s decision to withdraw a number of commercial bus services from April and what options there are available to us to limit any impact on passengers that use them before the franchised services start in September.”
Greater Manchester’s bus services sub-committee will meet on Friday (January 20) to discuss the changes. Vision, which is withdrawing all commercial journeys on the 527 route, has been contacted for comment.