First has been successful in winning the contract to operate services on a new flagship bus priority route between Leigh, Salford and Manchester – including the region’s first guided busway.
Following a comprehensive procurement process, First was selected by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to run the high frequency busway services, which are due to start later this year.
The 14-mile route will link Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley and Salford to Manchester city centre and through to the universities, Central Manchester Hospital site and businesses along Oxford Road.
The route includes a 4.5-mile guided busway currently under construction between Leigh and Ellenbrook. Regular services will continue along new and existing bus lanes on the East Lancashire Road and dedicated bus routes into Manchester city centre – ultimately expected to cut the overall journey time between Leigh and central Manchester to around 50 minutes.
First has committed to running a premium commercial service – with no direct public subsidy – at normal network prices. All TfGM concessionary passes and permits will be valid for travel.
The service will be use brand new double decker buses which will be replaced every five years. They will include AV announcements and CCTV, alongside free WiFi, climate control and high quality seating.
Cllr Andrew Fender, Chairman of the TfGM Committee, said: “This is great news not only for bus passengers – but also for the communities along the route who will have a high quality, reliable and affordable alternative to the car right on their doorstep.
“The process we’ve followed and standards we’ve set mean quality is built into the busway services contract. First has a strong presence across the wider bus network and are well placed to bring this fantastic new corridor into service.
“We will work closely with them and other operators to ensure that the very best bus services are in place for residents and businesses.
“This is a flagship transport scheme and I very much look forward to seeing it coming into service.”
Teresa Broxton, MD for First in Manchester, said: “First has a great track record of delivering high quality, reliable services and we look forward to working in partnership with TfGM and local councils to provide innovative travel solutions for our new and existing customers.”