Just the ticket?

Stagecoach is just one of many bus operators running services in Manchester

I was understandably worried when the transport select committee of which I am a member discovered that although the number of bus journeys each year is more than 3 times the number taken by train, our local bus services are far behind the railways in terms of reliability, passenger satisfaction, and fares.

In a report published by the committee yesterday, we highlight the growing problems with local bus services; the destabilising effect to bus services of multiple operators competing over a single bus route, and the chronic under-staffing of the bus regulators, who often pull double duty as lorry licensers.

I believe that the ‘big five’ companies that dominate the British bus network – Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach – should act more in the long-term interest of passengers. They ought to pioneer the introduction of multi-operator smart cards that can be used across the different service providers in order to give customers a better, simpler trip.

I also believe that cities like Manchester should be allowed more power over their bus services, bringing the powers they have in line with those in London would be an ideal solution. The best way of achieving this would be to run services through franchises. Proper franchise agreements and comprehensive regulation, as enjoyed by the mayor of London, would enable the city to properly regulate its bus services and ensure a reliable, easy-to-use service that provides good value for money.

Along with campaigns to make Manchester a better city for cyclists, better bus services would go some way to improving the city’s green credentials as well as making travel easier for everyone by taking cars off the roads.

5 responses to “Just the ticket?

  1. It’s certainly a headache in Manchester when the same journey costs a different fare according ot operator. One particular problem is differnt companies running the same route at different times. If you use the 22 beteween, say Ladybarn and the Trafford Centre, First and Stagecoach run the route at differnt times. Hence, if you buy a Daysaver for one company you may end up waiting and hour or more until the same company runs the route as the ticket is valid for just that company. It’s worth knowng in advance to get an “Any bus” saver for the extra 30p if you don’t want to hang about or buy another single at £2 or more.
    By the way, do timetables ever faactor in longer journey times for peak periods? It would help.

    • This happened to me TODAY! The 22 route brought this situation to my attention, and I believe that the least that could be done is to put the information on the bus timetable at the bus stop. They should let us know which service provider is coming ahead of time, if they are not going to accept each other’s tickets. The real solution should be that if two providers want to share a route, they legally have to accept each other’s daily, weekly and monthly tickets.

  2. Agree with all of this, especially the part about different companies running the same route.

    I don’t know if it’s still the case (I’ve moved!), but I used to use the 15 service to and from work, and would buy a Stagecoach weekly ticket. After a certain time in the evening another company ran the service. This meant that if I worked late, or was out on a Friday evening, although I was catching the same bus number, running the same route, they would not accept my weekly ticket and I would have to pay again.

  3. Season tickets on the bus are *far* cheaper than similar tickets for rail only, and this year I’ve found the trains in Manchester Withington to be far less reliable than parallel bus routes. Any comments I’ve sent to bus operators have seen a speedy (and positive) response, whilst the train operators have been slow and officious, passing the buck or taking at least three emails before they begin to provide an adequate answer. So perhaps the bus is not lagging behind the train as much as one might think – or at all?

  4. My biggest complaint about Manchester’s bus services is how often the bus comes early. An early bus is worse than a late one, you miss it and have to wait for the next one, so many times I ask other people waiting at the bus stop and they tell me it just came a few minutes ago, only I showed up 5 minutes early! Number 2 complaint is lazy students getting the bus from Piccadilly Gardens to All Saints campus or Uni of Manchester, when it’s a 15 minute walk tops, and the bus is often too full to stop at any of the stops in between (especially the Palace hotel stop!). Number 3 How can a Magic Rider go from £2 to £7 in 5 years? That’s just ridiculous!

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