Friday 23 February 2024

The Numbers Game

Manchester Style

Strange diseases can affect bus managers, even local authorities, and they do seem to be "catching". One disease is "we must refresh our livery"; another is "it's all on Line", but occasionally there is an outbreak of "route-number-itis".

Sometimes the virus is released in a controlled form for a positive purpose. So about 50 years ago SELNEC (the Manchester PTE before an ongoing series of renamings) needed to do something about duplication, nay octification, of its inherited single and double digit route numbers. 

The whole PTE idea was received with varying degrees of anger, frustration and relief by the constituent municipal bus operators.

But the public did not like their long standing traditional route numbers being removed in favour of a SELNEC-wide system. So here is a typical Rochdale Corporation bus of old.

... and here in later cream-dominated colours.
There was a simple one-track number blind with special extras to include suffix letters. 

fbb has no idea what a 17T did that was different from a 17!

For a while, and well into PTE livery days. the historic route numbers remained ...

... until numerical standardisation happened.
New 3 digit numbers were brought in which meant new blinds for old Corporation buses.

Things were much the same along the road at Bury which had a distinguished but "stolid" green livery.

There were many varieties of blind arrangements ...
Again, in the first flush of PTE life the simple local numbers remained ...
... but history was soon expunged.

Then came privatisation and the northern group of operations became part of First Bus.
First did not do anything with route numbers which remained as stable as anything under First's ownership.

But then First withdrew from some of its former Greater Manchester North operations, opening the way for a more publicity conscious Transdev.

There was route branding with dedicated liveries for many of the longer distance links.
Then along came a major re-jig and rebrand of the Rochdale "town" services with a prefix letter R.
Something similar happened in Bury, just down the road ...
The R routes are branded Rochdale Runners ...
... and they look VERY smart and VERY attractive.
But "numbers game" Andy Burnham wants none of that. For him, all the buses must be under his control, in a very boring and pallid yellow livery and called the Bee Network ...
... and it is definitely a "weak" colour!

But, as Chris Tarrant was wont to say to his potential millionaire contestants, "But we just don't want to give you that!"

The PTE has announced that all these lovely routes with their helpful prefix letters will be renumbered into the 400 series.
Note that MrB has also renubered the Bury Bs so they too will become boring Bees.

Well done Andy! 

Oh, yes., he is also renumbering all the Wigan area route in the 600 series (AGAIN)..

Just think of the bus stop flags that need to be updated ...
... then there is Rochdale bus station ...
... and all the on-line publicity including the journey planner.

But ...
... it will be better than the first batch of Bees, won't it?
It couldn't he much worse than last time, Andy!

But there is one final irony for poor Rochdale. It will lose its pretty buses; it will lose its local route numbers but it will gain a new operator instead of Transdev.
Yep! You couldn't make it up. First Bus has won the contract to run Andy's Rochdale buses, and that is the same First Bus that walked away a few years ago.
Good innit?

The dept certainly needs an upgrade!
It appears to be a Definitely Unsatisfactory Maintenance Place.

In tomorrow's blog we will meet another massive (and rather pointless) renumbering scheme not too far away from Rochdale.

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 24th Feb 


  1. The "Ainsworth" bus reminds me of some Lisbon Regal and Regent double-deckers in the late 70s/early 80s, where the destination blind aperture was only just big enough for the lettering. The blind had to be in exactly the right position but often wasn't! BTW I wonder if the widespread adoption of digital "blinds" makes it more tempting for operators to change route numbers?

  2. The 17T was a short working of the trunk 17 Rochdale to Manchester route. It ran from Rochdale to Castleton and ran via Tweedale Street rather than the direct Manchester Road and the Town Hall. An extension along Chesham Avenue was proposed in 1949, but the road was deemed to be unable to take the
    weight of a bus and the plan was never carried out.