A month into the operation of the first tranche of Bee Network franchised services in Greater Manchester, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) says that patronage has growth up by around 8% on Bee Network buses on weekdays, and revenue generated from fares is above forecast by 10 to 15%. Services are operating ‘at level[s] at least the same or better than de-regulated services,’ TfGM says, highlighting that the V1 service, formerly operated by First and branded Vantage, between Leigh and Manchester is now performing better than before, when comparing on time departures from Leigh for the same period last year.
“Given the scale of change, the first few days brought operational challenges as the new arrangements bedded in,” TfGM says, adding that it has worked with the operators to identify and resolve issues, such as additional route familiarity training for some drivers. Bus punctuality has risen from 70.7% to 74.4%, against a target of 80%, figures showed.
TfGM says that large numbers of people are also providing feedback on the new services, and having local control and accountability has enabled it to respond much more quickly and effectively than before, citing as an example that following complaints that the 575 was being impacted by road works, it worked with the council to provide a dedicated bus lane to help keep services moving, and that it has been able to adapt signal timings to help late services make up time and worked with the operator to increase capacity on the Ramsbottom local services ‘in a way that we would not have been able to one month ago’; CBW has asked TfGM to clarify why it would not have been possible under the previous regime to work with operators to reduce delays from roadworks and traffic light timings.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We moved to the first phase of a new way of running buses in Greater Manchester literally overnight, and the scale of change cannot be underestimated. There are already so many benefits to franchising. We brought in the £2 cap; we have earlier, later and more frequent bus services; the quality of our buses has improved; they are now integrated through multi-modal, cheaper ticketing with our Metrolink tram system; and passengers have a voice that will be listened to.
“We didn’t expect everything to be perfect, but everyone involved has rolled up their sleeves and has been working hard to make things better. I would like to thank customers for providing their feedback about their journeys. This has meant we’ve been alerted to issues much quicker than before and further enabled us to respond quickly. Pleasingly, we have already seen an increase in passenger numbers on franchised services too.
“I’m pleased to say we are seeing improvements day-by-day; performance and reliability is up with busway services operating at a higher-level year on year, and I’m confident this will soon be mirrored across other services. This is just the start, and there is much more to come and much to be excited about. I have no doubt the Bee Network will be transformational for everyone living, working and visiting Greater Manchester.”
Over the next few years TfGM plans to invest more than £400m to further improve bus services, with new bus lanes and other priority measures being developed alongside more electric buses and better passenger information.