LONG-SUFFERING bus passengers from Stalybridge and Mossley are to get the chance to put their grievances directly to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and First Bus.
Drop-in sessions are to be held in each of the three local wards – Stalybridge North, Stalybridge South and Mossley – when they will have the opportunity to face TfGM and First Bus officials directly.
The decision to hold the drop-in sessions came about following a meeting involving Stalybridge and Mossley councillors along with officials from TfGM and First Bus to discuss “poor bus services across the towns”.
Mossley’s Cllr Tafheen Sharif, who worked with TfGM to set up the meeting, was pleased with the outcome.
She said: “They took us very seriously and, while we were looking initially for a public meeting, the drop-in sessions were a compromise.
“It will give the public an opportunity to give their experiences. They need a voice and the drop-in sessions will enable them to speak directly to TfGM and First Bus.”
TfGM provided minutes of the meeting and here are some of the other points raised:
• Role of TfGM
They explained approximately 80 per cent of the county’s bus network (such as the daytime 348 and 350) is provided commercially by bus companies.
They monitor the network and where a gap is identified they (considering factors such as need, budget, availability of alternatives etc) decide whether to fund replacement.
• Punctuality/reliability of First’s Service 348/350
Paul Townley from First Bus spoke about efforts to improve services. They meet regularly to discuss performance issues and will pay particular attention to local services.
• Cuts in funding for subsidising bus services
In recent years the budget has reduced by 20 per cent (or £7million a year). This has led to some difficult decisions that, locally, have affected services 353/354 (evening service withdrawn in 2015) and service 340 (evening service withdrawn, Sunday service reduced in April.
• Forthcoming tendered network review
Many of the local tendered service contracts (353/354/355, 387, Ashton local evening/Sunday services) will be renewed in April 2020. Tenders must be issued to operators in September/October so now is a great time to understand local issues which can be fed into the review of the services due to be retendered. They will consider different approaches – such as smaller vehicles or shared resources where appropriate.
They want to use the April 2020 network review as an opportunity to simplify the network and to make it more sustainable.
• Fares and ticketing
It was clear that more needs to be done to advertise the System One range of multi-operator tickets, particularly important if a different operator runs the evening service or where
interchange is necessary. Most in the room were not aware of this range of tickets and recent
research shows 60 per cent of residents were not aware either. www.systemonetravel.co.uk
• Other points
There was a brief discussion about the Clean Air Act which would require a massive upgrade
to the current bus fleet (either via retrofitted clean exhaust technology or fleet replacement),
the Bus Services Act which could bring greater co-ordination of the county’s bus network and
ticketing and the new Opportunity (16-18 free travel) pass which will be introduced in September 2019 and aims to encourage increased bus usage among young adults.