Monday, 14 March 2016

The Add-Vantage of the Leigh Busway [1]

April 3rd 2016 - Nine Years Later!
Back in January, First Bus unveiled vehicles and brand for the new services for the much delayed Leigh Busway. See "Whatever You Do, Choose A Good Name" (read again).

Last week the routes and frequencies were duly revealed. To understand what is happening, we need a bit of geographical background. 
Leigh is west-ish of "M" for Manchester just to the north of the A580, East Lancashire Road

Historically a part of Lancashire, Leigh was originally the centre of a large ecclesiastical parish covering six vills or townships. When the three townships of Pennington, Westleigh and Bedford merged in 1875 forming the Leigh Local Board District.domestic spinning and weaving led to a considerable silk and, in the 20th century, cotton industry. Leigh also exploited the underlying coal measures particularly after the town was connected to the canals and railways. Leigh had an important engineering base. The legacy of Leigh's industrial past can be seen in the remaining red brick mills – some of which are listed buildings.
In recent years the main bus service between Manchester and Leigh was a X34 "joint" between First ...
... and Stagecoach.
Each operator ran every hour giving a 30 minute combined frequency.
The jointness came about when First sold off their Wigan operation to Uncle Brian. But even more recently, Stagecoach have broken ranks and upped their service (now plain 34) to every 20 minutes, leaving First with their hourly X34 as before.
And the difference?
The X34 stays a bit longer on the East Lancashire Road whereas the 34 nips into Worsley. The general feeling amongst Mancunian bus watchers is that Stagecoach were/are attempting a "spoiler" against First's exclusive use of the busway (a contract with Transport for Greater Manchester).

From April 3rd, the hourly First Bus X34 is withdrawn, replaced by a bus every 15 minutes via the busway.

In the simplest terms the new V1 runs, like an X34, via the A580 to ...
... Newearth Road from which wiggle the busway is accessed at Ellenbrook. V1 continues via the Tyldesley busway stop and runs fast to Leigh.
The terminus is a typical Greater Manchester bus station ...
... not pretty, but functional.

Leigh did once have a train service from Manchester run originally by the LMS.
In a cruel twist of fate, the closed line IS the Leigh Busway. Local campaigners wanted their train back, not cosmetically souped up buses!

This from an undated local press report.

A maverick businessman says he can save taxpayers more than £20m – AND give them a new railway station.
Telecoms boss Ged Tyrrell has called on transport chiefs to abandon plans for a £76m ‘guided busway’ linking Leigh to Salford and Manchester city centres. Instead he has identified a site for a new train station for the town and even got experts from Stobart Rail to work out how much it would cost. He says the total bill for linking Leigh to the national rail network would be £52m – a whopping £24m LESS than the planned busway. 

Clearly the V1 via the busway will offer a better frquency than the original half hourly X34 and, if Stagecoach maintain their present twenty minute 34, Leigh will have seven buses an hour from Central Manchester where once they had two.

There will need to be a huge growth in passenger numbers to make that lot work.

For the record, the 34 running time is one hour and four minutes; the X34 just one hour. The new V1 is scheduled to take 55 minutes. 
The authorities are coy about revealing the full cost of the busway project and its associated A580 "improvements"; but it seem a huge amount of money to save just 5 minutes.

Central to the changes is the new Vantage service providing quicker and more reliable bus connections between Leigh/Atherton, Tyldesley, Salford and Manchester on the North West’s first guided busway service. There will be four buses an hour throughout the day from Leigh (service V1) making travel easier and helping people reach key employment, healthcare, retail and leisure facilities more easily. Customers will benefit from a fleet of high quality, quiet, low-emission hybrid buses with free wi-fi, USB charging points, climate control and on-board “next stop” audio and visual announcements.


Tomorrow, Atherton and the rest.

 Next Vantage blog : Tuesday 15th March 

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