Thursday 28 September 2023

Manchester - The 'Bee Network' Up and Running

Further to our recent posting on the forthcoming local control of bus services in Greater Manchester, the 'Bee Network' is now up and running. 

Bus services in the Bolton, Wigan, and parts of Bury, Salford and Manchester areas are now under local public control.

A large fleet of new battery powered buses is being introduced, alongside large numbers of  existing diesel powered vehicles which are being re-painted in the new yellow Bee livery.

A vehicle from the Diamond Bus fleet, which has received the new Bee livery

Local councils and their residents will now contribute towards the costs of the new arrangements that will favour the return of services that have ceased, due to low demand.

The bus companies who previously ran the services and who had to balance the books between running services that were not viable and those that were, now operate the services but won't take the hit if a service is under used.

The bus operators are now being paid directly to run the buses, with Transport for Greater Manchester and the local councils providing all funding together with massive funding from central government. Route options, timetabling and fare revenue are managed by TfGM.

During the lead up to 'Taking Back Control of Manchester Buses' the London method of running buses has been used as the example to follow, whereby TfL pick up the costs of running the services and the bus companies just run the buses where they are told, with no financial risk if passenger revenue doesn't cover the costs. 

Unfortunately over the past couple of years or so TfL haven't been able to balance the books. 

There is a limit to what central government can or will provide in subsidies and as a result TfL have cut back on services, see here so it's not a particularly good time to be trying replicate the London method.

Hopefully, there will be more incentive for the local councils to assist in buses being given priority in order to keep to time, otherwise nothing much will change other than the colour of the buses.

Roger French has visited Manchester to observe the new scene and has posted a detailed summary of the situation. Read his report herestay with it until the end - it makes some very interesting reading.

Also see a TfGM press release with an interesting video at the end here showing a brief glimpse of buses masked up ready for spraying into the yellow livery.