Buses ‘cherry picking’ stops and ‘stranding’ passengers

Date published: 12 November 2019

Bus drivers have been accused of ‘cherry picking stops’ and leaving passengers ‘stranded’ between northern and central parts of Greater Manchester.

Councillor Phil Burke claims the performances of the 163 and 17 bus routes have ‘gone downhill’ in recent months.

The 163, operated by Diamond Bus, runs from Bury to Piccadilly Gardens, via Heywood and Middleton, while the 17, managed by Go North West, runs between Rochdale and Shudehill.

At a meeting on Friday 8 November, Diamond Bus told the Transport for Greater Manchester committee that performance ‘hasn’t been where it needs to be’, while Go North West said congestion in the centre of the city region had impacted on services.

According to Councillor Burke, the 163 was a ‘good service’ before Diamond Bus took over from First after buying the firm’s Bolton depot in August.

“When First had [the 163], it would come every 10 minutes but now you’re lucky to see it,” he told the regional transport committee.

“They don’t even turn up at times, people have been left stranded at bus stops with no information whatsoever. It’s just gone downhill.

“In relation to the 17 service the drivers tend to miss stops out. I think they’re cherry-picking which stops they’re picking people up at.”


Councillor Phil Burke, the council's transport representative on Transport for Greater Manchester
Councillor Phil Burke is Rochdale Council's representative on the Transport for Greater Manchester committee


Councillor Burke added that he was ‘fed up’ of attending transport committee meetings only to ‘have a go’ at bus companies operating in Greater Manchester.

Addressing Matt Rawlinson, operations director for Diamond Bus, he said: “You knew what you were taking on and you should be able to provide a half-decent bus service for people that rely on the buses.

“It’s not fair for the people in north Manchester missing out on bus services because the operators can’t get their act together.”

Mr Rawlinson said the company had struggled with staffing but said: “Our performance hasn’t been where it needs to be, I can’t hide behind anything else other than we’ve not performed to the standards we want.

“The 163 is one of our best routes, so we don’t want customers disgruntled. We want to operate the service that we’ve purchased not so long ago.”

Nigel Featham, managing director of Go North West, said he ‘completely accepted’ that bus reliability and punctuality were important issues for customers, and that issues should be communicated better.

The meeting heard that for every 300 journeys operated by the company, around two stops are missed on average, with buses arriving more than five minutes late on 85% of occasions.

A report to the committee said congestion and roadworks had hampered some bus services running in and out of Manchester city centre ‘given the limited space available for vehicle layover’.

Mr Featham added: “The level of congestion in Manchester is tough to contend with and I think our job is to work with Transport for Greater Manchester as best we can to tackle that.

“It goes beyond franchising or deregulation; we’ve got a tough gig dealing with it.”

Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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