The first Bee Network-branded buses have been placed into service as Greater Manchester marks six months until start of its first bus franchises
With six months to go before Greater Manchester’s first bus franchises take effect, the city’s Mayor and other leaders unveiled the first of the Bee Network co-branded buses, due to enter service in the coming weeks. The bus belonged to Diamond North West, which, along with Go North West, will run the first franchised services in Wigan and Bolton and parts of Salford and Bury from 24 September.
In preparation, and to mark the countdown to the start of the new regime, Diamond, which currently runs services in Bolton, agreed to start transforming its buses into Bee Network yellow from now. The first branded bus entered service on route 8 route between Bolton and Manchester city centre via Salford.
When franchising begins in September, TfGM expects 50 new electric Bee Network buses to be introduced on day one, alongside new ‘Euro VI’ vehicles and dozens more co-branded buses from the existing fleet, including the buses used on the premium Vantage route. A further 50 electric buses are also planned to be introduced onto the network in March 2024, when the second stage of franchising starts.
An order has also been placed for a further 170 electric buses that will operate in and around Stockport by 2024. The buses will be jointly funded by Stagecoach and local and national government, with Stagecoach’s £37.2m investment match-funded by £35.7m from Greater Manchester’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) fund and a local contribution of £12.5m.
Welcoming the early introduction of the first Bee Network co-branded vehicles and the order for the new electric buses, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Today is a significant day on our journey towards the Bee Network – marking six months until we start to bring buses back under public control for the first time in decades. To get ready for the change – and I hope start to build some excitement – we’re working with Diamond and other operators to introduce co-branded Bee Network buses onto those services that will be amongst the first to come back under local control.
“I am also delighted to announce that by working closely with Stagecoach we will have another 170 brilliant new buses running on our network from next year, with a brand new, world-class electric bus depot. This is very much the start of our journey that will ultimately deliver a greener, integrated and more inclusive transport system that will transform how people travel around our city-region.”
To support the roll out of its new fleet, and to support its aims to have a fully green fleet by 2032, Greater Manchester has been awarded £7.5m from the Department of Levelling-Up Housing and Communities to buy land for a new electric bus depot. The transport authority said that a potential site has been identified that would hold up to 250 electric buses and provide new jobs in the area, as well as support ongoing regeneration.
In order to facilitate the move to a franchised regime, TfGM is also looking to take control of existing bus depots by buying or leasing them, before refurbishing and transforming them into what it says will be modern, high-tech, sustainable facilities.
Transport Commissioner Vernon Everitt added: “This preparation of the bus fleet for franchised operation in six months’ time marks a further significant step towards the integrated Bee Network and transformation of public transport and active travel in our growing city-region. From September we’ll also have dozens of new, state-of-the-art buses serving passengers in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Salford and Bury. These will be the first of many across Greater Manchester that will, alongside the new lower fares – which are already increasing ridership – and improvements to travel information, improve bus travel for everyone who lives and works here.
“All buses will be operating under franchised arrangements by January 2025, which will for the first time enable effective planning of the network alongside Metrolink and active travel facilities. Under the recently announced Trailblazer deal, we will then work towards integration of local rail services into the Bee Network by 2030.”