by timpickstone on August 23, 2012
My regular column in the Prestwich Advertiser this week.
Last month Manchester First Bus gave notice that it was withdrawing the popular 137/138 bus service. This month it has announced that it is pulling out of the 167 bus service leaving one road in Prestwich (Heywood Old Road) with no bus service at all.
The 137 was a popular bus providing the only link from the Bury Old Road â€˜sideâ€™ of Prestwich north towards Sunnybank and Pilsworth, and south towards Broughton. Many people relied on the service to travel to work, to see friends and family and for personal journeys like attending Church or the GPs. The alternatives offered by First Bus of changing buses at Besses, or in Crumpsall, might be fine for some people, but for many are not a viable alternative.
In Greater Manchester we have a two-tier system for buses. A small number of services are subsidised and paid for by local councils. The Simisterâ€“Tesco shuttle is good example. All other services are â€˜commercialâ€™ and left entirely to the decisions of commercial bus companies.
The danger is that commercial companies will only be interested in really busy routes (like the 135). Councils will only be able to afford to subsidise really difficult routes â€“ so anything in-between is at risk.
It seems too much of a coincidence that First have recently agreed to pay Â£5.5 BILLION to the Government to run the West Coast Main Line rail services â€“ clearly more important to them than providing a service for people in Prestwich.
In London things are different. There buses are more regulated by local councils who determine the route network to be served â€“ the buses themselves are still run by private companies â€“ but the local councils determine the shape and size of the network.
Why canâ€™t we do this in Greater Manchester? On the face of it because the Government would need to change the law to allow us to do this (the law currently applies differently in London). With this in mind Iâ€™ve already written to the Lib Dem Transport Minister with the suggestion. Other places (for example Sheffield) already do this by having a voluntary agreement with bus companies â€“ something we should perhaps look at in Greater Manchester.
Let me know what you think!