Better bus partnership raises the game for Greater Manchester

18 February 2013  •  Source: Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM)

A Quality Bus Partnership (QPS) that has delivered benefits for millions of passengers is to be used as a blueprint for better bus services across Greater Manchester.

Bus services on the A6 bus route between Stockport and Manchester – one of the busiest in the country – have met high levels of service regularity, punctuality, reliability, vehicle quality and customer service.

The route improvements have been spearheaded by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) with partners Stagecoach Manchester, and Manchester and Stockport Councils.

Along with improved bus services, the scheme has met high targets for passenger information, highway and shelter repairs, and bus lane enforcement.

Further partnerships schemes are now being developed for key routes in Manchester, Salford, Rochdale and Wigan, aimed at improving services and boosting bus use.

A Voluntary Partnership Scheme is planned for the A579 between Bolton and Leigh in spring this year. Bolton and Wigan Councils are on board and discussions are underway with bus operator First, who has invested in new vehicles in the 582 route.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee said: “In Greater Manchester we have an excellent history of partnership working and the results along the A6 bus corridor just go to show what we can deliver working together.

“As well as improving the passenger experience, better bus services reduce the impact of traffic congestion on economic growth and people’s health and the environment.

“Over the next few years TfGM will be delivering some major schemes to improve bus services across Greater Manchester, with a multi-million pound investment in bus priority and facilities.

“Quality Partnership Schemes will be crucial to capitalise on and protect the level of investment in those routes, so I look forward to seeing more being introduced across Greater Manchester over the coming years.”

Stagecoach Manchester’s 192 bus service calls along the A6 route every 5 minutes in the peak, and carries around 10 million passengers a year. Stagecoach is currently delivering 40 new hybrid-electric vehicles on the 192 route, equipped with free Wi-Fi for passenger use.

The operator has introduced more inspectors on the route to help improve the regularity of bus services, and manage any gaps in service. Buses are also being cleaned mid-service at Manchester Piccadilly while they wait for their scheduled departure.

Christopher Bowles, Managing Director of Stagecoach Manchester said: “The A6 Quality Partnership has considerably improved the overall travel experience for our passengers along this route.

“As well as the £11.3m investment into 40 new eco-friendly hybrid buses, we have also been focusing on ensuring our service is reliable, punctual and clean, and as a result we have seen a rise in passenger numbers.

“As a transport provider we have great respect for the area that we operate in and the introduction of 40 hybrid buses, which emit 30 per cent less carbon than a standard vehicle, demonstrates our commitment to environmental issues as well as providing an excellent service.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work in partnership with TfGM to maintain the excellent service offered along this and other routes.”

Through the Quality Partnership Scheme local councils have a legal obligation to protect the bus priority measures for the following five years. On a voluntary basis they are also measured on the enforcement of bus priority measures such as bus lanes, and highway inspections.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “The A6 is one of the region’s busiest bus routes, bringing tens of thousands of people into the city centre, and the improvements that have been made over the last 18 months have already improved services, relieving congestion along the route and making sure buses using it are reliable, clean and safe.

“The scheme has helped us raise the bar for bus services and passengers elsewhere in Greater Manchester will soon be able to expect better standards as a result of this.”

Councillor Iain Roberts, Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development at Stockport Council, said: “It’s great news that the Quality Bus Partnership in Stockport is being held up as a shining example for other routes. We’ve worked hard, alongside our partners, to maintain and improve the route along the A6 for the benefit of passengers.”

A new bus turnaround will be built south of Stockport town centre by the end of April, with funding secured by TfGM from the government’s Better Bus Area Fund.

Stagecoach also plans to build a new passenger Park and Ride at Hazel Grove with space for just over 400 vehicles.

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