Saturday, 2 April 2016

Manchester Madness Part 3

The Vantage Advantage?
But this is what it was all about. The launch for press and politicians of the £68 million Leigh guided busway plus £7 million worth of new (and ugly) buses. Everyone was there, as shown in this "official photo":-
Note First bus Fearnley (back left), Transport Committee chairman Andrew Fender (front left) and MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham. He is behind the two token genuine passengers.

Journalists had a secondary bus whilst many of the bigwigs scuttled off (for a free lunch?), but, impressively, Mr Fender stayed with the fourth estate for their sample ride.

There was, sadly, a distinct lack of organisation; but this attempt (akin to being unable to provide pea soup in a brewery) did at least allow fbb to take a look at Leigh Bus Station.

Toilets, clean and in good nick ...
... but at four bob a pee, scandalous; especially compared with £68 million for the busway!

Enquiry office, well stocked ...
... with attractive Arriva booklets and ...
... very unattractive TfGM productions. What was even more disappointing was that the leaflet for the new busway services was equally boring and univiting.
Very poor; perhaps TfGM don't want to admit how good it is? Perhaps it isn't as good as the hype says it is?

After a significant delay, the press gang finally got their ride. fbb grabbed top deck front off-side and was joined nearside by Alan Millar, editor of Buses Magazine who had travelled down from Markinch (in Scotland).
But at last (yawn) we were off. If you like busways, then this one was impressive.

Each junction with real roads was traffic light controlled with priority for the buses.
busway begins, near the site of Leigh station

There was the obligatory car trap, to ensure that errant motoring Mancunians would sink into the pit and gum up the whole service for hours until someone came to haul them out.
But the guideway stretched impressively into the distance ...
... undulating like some mythical beast from Chat Moss. Stops were, of course, all shiny and new ...
... but only scantily "covered" thus offering very little protection against Manchester's famous diagonal rain. It is a mildly amusing fact that the designers of street (and thus busway) furniture only believe that rail descends vertically; a drenching diagonal downpour is not considered.

The comfy bus, equipped with WiFi, USB chanrging points, tanning parlour, massage room and seat back alarm clocks in case the ride is so restful you nod off, sped happily along the full length of the concrete track. Smooth and slick.

Then out on to the East Lancs Road (A580) where much fine gold has been spent on long bus lanes ...
... clearly unnecessary at 1345 on a damp Tuesday. There has been much grumpiness about the effect of these lanes on peak hour traffic to and from the city centre. Perhaps those who grump will decide to use the bus instead?

And then the final travelling treat (?). Our Vantage-mobile pulled into the Park and Ride site at the A580 M60 junction.
Access is only from the A580 as such ...
... and about 350 parking places are threaded cleverly between assorted bits of road. The assembled multitude took lots of pictures of the bus whilst fbb snapped one shot of the (empty) car park areas and consumed a bottle of fruit squash.
It will be interesting to see how this facility develops. Car parking is free.

Then it was back to Leigh but with a stop at the Tyldesley bus stop and interchange.
Under a raincloud lowering sky the picture is in true Mancunian grey, but on the left is the "to Manchester" busway stop and on the right is the layby for ordinary buses arriving to connect with the "fast" service. No-one seemed to have any idea what was to happen here, but the committee chairman did agree that connecting buses would serve the stop. Presumably First's service 35, an hourly service mopping up some of the bits from withdrawn non-busway routes, will use the layby.
But Astley Street (south of Tyldesley and the site of the lovely layby) just has a cursory "Busway stop" added to its map. According to the poster at the "to Leigh" stop, other routes are being diverted there. But nobody seemed to know anything in any detail.
What does the red line actually mean?

More investigation needed. Certainly more services were shown on the under test "real time" displays. fbb hopes something will be done to make these legible. The text was very small ...
... and, even on a very grey day, the information was well-nigh impossible to read because of reflection from the brooding heavens.. The screens need hoods!

fbb had a nice chat with a lady from BBC Radio Manchester, seen here interviewing the MP ...
... in a few precious moments of sunshine.

"Was it a good idea?" she asked the bulbous and opinionated one, thankfully off-air. "£68 million is a lot to spend to save a bit of running time," your blogger opined, "and eight buses an hour is a lot of extra bums on seats needed to make it all work." She dutifully wrote something down in her notebook and moved on.

But, to their credit, First Bus are showing a commercial determination to make a go of it


Customers travelling on the busway service, branded Vantage by operator First Greater Manchester, will pay a maximum of £1 for any single journey between Leigh/Atherton, Tyldesley and Ellenbrook (Newearth Rd, Worsley). The promotional fare will be available for at least 6 months from the start of services on 3 April.

When fbb first read this, he was astounded at First's generosity, but on reading more carefully, the £1 offer is for rides on the busway only and locally between Tyldesley and Atherton. A somewhat less attractive offer is for a free day trip busway ticket ...


Customers can also claim their complimentary free taster ticket. Up to and including 2 April ...

Boo. Today's your last chance!

... customers can register at for a complimentary day mobile-ticket.

Boo. Only on your mobile phone.

Possibly the last word belongs to celebrated transport guru Barry Doe.
fbb emailed Bazza with a report that his trip had been "interesting".

To which the great man replied "I am amazed that any busway could be described as interesting. It's just a poor excuse for not building a railway or a tram which would be much better."

Plenty of folk in Leigh would agree with him.

 Next Henrietta blog : Sunday 3rd April 


  1. It is unfortunate that the great and the good were not armed with the information that Tyldesley Interchange will be served by the Monday to Sunday daytime 35 (Leigh - Swinton), Monday to Friday peak X39 (Leigh - Manchester) and the evening & Sunday 33 (Wigan - Manchester) in both directions and the daily evening 35 (Manchester - Tyldesley) which will terminate there.

    However, it is understandable that they would be more reticent about what will serve the big Park & Ride site on the East Lancashire Road. Incredibly, the new Vantage buses will not be entering the site, but will pass on the main road, leaving access to the site to the Monday to Friday peak only X39 and the Stagecoach operated X34 (Ashton - Leigh - Manchester) and the hourly Stagecoach operated 32 from Wigan and Atherton - which actually terminates at the Park & Ride site.

    You couldn't make it up - but there's your real story FBB

    1. not sure where you have got that idea from prescotian? All the timetables show Vantage buses stopping at the Wardley Park and Ride.

    2. Are yes; went to have a gander for myself. There are three bus stops for the Park & Ride; one for the terminating 32 service, another for the 34/X34 service; and a third (stopping at a bus-bay off the main A580 buslane) for the V1/V2. Which is fine and dandy, except that there is no PID as yet to tell you which serivice may be expected next.

      Against that; it is only 20 minutes from the Park & Ride into Albert Square - a distance of 7 miles (which is going some for a bus however described). A good 5 minutes ahead of the timetble. It then takes another 20 minutes to negotiate the route to the temporary terminus out at Stevenson Square.

  2. So it really isn't as good as the hype says it is! That is such a surprise.

    Remember also that the initial publicity for the busway assured us all that the services would run through central Machester to the Hospital and University.

    So it really isn't as good as the hype says it is!

  3. This was a blog that was a follow on from a distinctly one sided appraisal. Was FBB to have some form of conversion... of course not?

    As you have been told already "works on the bus priority schemes south from Manchester towards the universities are still in progress" - so do they extend through before it's done and jeopardise the reliability and incur FBB's wagging finger? Or do they delay and incur FBB's wagging finger? Damned whichever way?

    As for mention of Barry Doe, I'm sure he's a nice gentleman but he's long since ceased to be relevant in the bus industry. Yes, we'd love a tram or train but.... oooh, I don't know? The cost. When Borders rail cost £330m and Edinburgh Trams £776m, it's apparent why they went to this route and at least it protects the route in future.

    And of course, "£68 million is a lot to spend to save a bit of running time," but how much time? In peak, the V1 from Leigh to Manchester takes 1h 05. The X34 takes 1h34 to 1h 42 in peak. If you (as I have) tried to drive from Tyldesley to Manchester, you might appreciate why it's quite a smart idea

    1. Its a good point that the busway, as now opened, lacks the run through all the way to Central Manchester Hospitals and Manchester Uni. Apart from anything else, this inner stretch may answer FBB's query about how eight services per hour may be filled with passengers. In its final form, theb busway will have two personalities; a short-trip link from Salford Uni to Manchester Uni through St Peters Square (and connecting with the trams there); and a longer distance BRT route along the East Lancs Road for commuters from Swinton, Atherton and Leigh. Which is why the characters of upper and lower decks on the Vantage buses differ so much; a point that FBB may have been puzzled by.

  4. All in all, I found this post very disappointing. Yes, it is a blog and fbb can express whatever opinions on it he likes, as one-sidely as he likes. Nor was I expecting a gushing report (after all, it is run by F***t). But a little bit of objectivity would have been nice, and I am left with the impression that fbb was going to review it negatively come-what-may.

    Sheffield gets a regular pasting for not producing timetable leaflets. TfGM produces a leaflet for everything (or makes sure one is available). Yes, they are hardly exciting, but at least they are there. But they still get a pasting. (And note the Arriva leaflets are for services that enter the TfGM area from Merseyside...)

    Yes, the toilets do cost 20p (having been refurbished only last year, before which they were free). But TfGM's toilets are some of the nicest, smartest public toilets in a bus station I think I've ever been in.

    If fbb thought the proceedings were going to be boring, why bother to travel for hours each way from Seaton?

    Given it was the launch day, why would the car park be anything other than empty or mainly empty?

    The red line seems fairly obviously to be the diversion route to me.

    And finally, it is worth pointing out that TfGM has been criticised for being overly tram-friendly, investing in that 'at the expense' of other modes of transport. The fact that a busway was chosen here seems to be telling us something: a tram wasn't suitable, or would cost too much.

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