Go North West and First Manchester to run school bus services in phase two of the Bee Network roll out

Date published: 11 November 2023

The latest round of Bee Network bus contract awards has seen Go North West and First Manchester appointed to run school bus services in phase two of the network.

Go North West has been awarded three contracts and First Manchester six contracts, covering a total of 11 schools in Oldham, Rochdale, Manchester and Bury - with franchised bus services beginning to operate in March 2024.

As part of the Bee Network buses in Greater Manchester are being brought back under local control through franchising in three phases. The first phase, covering Bolton, Wigan and parts of Manchester, Salford and Bury went live on 24 September 2023 – and was the biggest change to the way bus services operate in the region for almost 40 years.

The second phase of franchising will be launched in Oldham, Rochdale, and parts of Bury, Salford and north Manchester on 24 March 2024. Go North West and First will operate school services and other general Bee Network bus services will be run by Stagecoach, First and Diamond – as announced in June 2023.

There will be no changes to the schools served or the numbers of buses used under the new contracts. As with other Bee Network services, ensuring a reliable service is a key part of these contracts, and operators will be subject to financial penalties for poor performance.

Anne Marie Purcell, TfGM’s bus franchising director, said: “There continues to be a high level of interest in the Bee Network bus contracts and we saw a strong response from operators to run school bus services.

“Regular, reliable school bus services are vital for young people getting to and from school and we made performance and reliability a key part of the contract award process to make sure that is the case.

“Both Go North West and First Manchester provided extremely strong submissions and we are looking forward to working with them over the coming months and years as the Bee Network continues to develop and we work together to provide the best possible bus services we can for everyone in Greater Manchester.”

The move to a franchised network, including school bus services, means Greater Manchester can:

  • Better plan and integrate services with the wider Bee Network
  • Improve the performance of services with a consistent monitoring regime, fleet specifications and on-board equipment
  • Improve customer services through the Bee Network Customer Contact Centre
  • Provide access to integrated ticketing products.

Go North West managing director Nigel Featham said: ‘We are delighted to be awarded additional work, and look forward to working closely with TfGM to deliver “best of class” school bus transport.

“This adds to the large franchise work we already operate based at Bolton and Wigan depot. We have an exceptional team at Go North West and proud of the quality of services we provide for passengers."

The launch of the Bee Network has boosted the number of people travelling by bus and driven an improvement in bus services. With routes and fares set at a local level for the first time in almost 40 years, it also ushered in earlier and later, more frequent and better integrated bus services, cheaper multi-modal fares and 50 new electric buses.

Zoe Hands, managing director of First Bus in Manchester, said: “First Bus is delighted to be awarded these franchise contracts for school services in Greater Manchester.

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and Transport for Greater Manchester in building the Bee Network and are thrilled to be serving new communities in the region.

“Our absolute priority will be to deliver a reliable service in partnership with TfGM with a best-in-class, customer-first approach.”

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