Roberts introduced himself and explained that TfGM is responsible
for operational planning of transport, with accountability for
school services, Ring & Ride and non-commercial
services. Nick explained that TfGM hold
a £15 million budget, but advised that although this may
sound a lot the service has received a 20% reduction in funding and
find themselves facing many budget
Nick explained that the majority of bus services in Greater Manchester (GM) is operated commercially, so providers are themselves responsible for fares, routes and timetables. Nick advised that there is a regular meeting of the bus network committee, which Councillor Burke attends in his role as Transport Representative for Rochdale Borough Council. This committee considers changes and reductions in services and the views of the public are represented at this meeting.
Nick advised under the GM Mayor there are other options being looked at for the ‘buses bill’, which in London is a de-commercialised bus network. Nick stated that there is also a decline in public transport use, and this situation is having an impact on bus services.
Stey and John from First Bus introduced themselves, and they advised that the financial strain is also being felt by operators, with the current climate challenging and difficult. Also there are lots of changes coming including the sale of the Queens Road depot to a new operator. Over the last few years, First Bus have improved punctuality and safety of their bus services with lots of new technology being introduced, which is in part about speeding up the journey for customers resulting in less ‘loss’ journeys.
John and Stey advised that some of the issues they face relate to buses becoming clogged up in city centre traffic. This situation then creates a bottle-neck of buses which eventually are all ‘freed’ up at the same time, and causes issues for passengers.
Stey advised that in this area there has been problems with vandalism, which then causes issues throughout the whole network. Vandalism can result in a bus being withdrawn from the network, repair issues, loss of time whilst awaiting GMP, and dependant on the level of vandalism, can remove the bus from the network for around 24 hours. Both officers advised that there are not a huge amount of problems, but when these do arise they can affect the whole system, and can be very time-consuming.
Stey advised that if, for example, there is a problem in the city centre, which is going to cause a number of buses to be late, they have no way of relaying this information to customers on the ground quickly. A question was raised regarding the use of digitalised bus stops as Members knew there was a pilot some years ago. John and Stey advised that this never continued and any improvements to bus stops would come under the remit of TfGM.
Councillor Burke advised that current cuts such as the 415 will leave whole communities cut off from the transport network, and it was felt that issues such as road works are a poor excuse. Concerns were that when original discussions took place regarding the commercialisation of services, there were guarantees made that services would be safe, and this hasn’t been the case unfortunately.
John advised that for operators, services have to be commercially viable. Concerns were raised about the number of journeys recorded by drivers, and some drivers wave people on, to enable them to move off quickly. John and Stey advised that there is no incentive for drivers to not make passengers ‘tap’ on as this situation then allows TfGM to fund any subsidised passengers through the payment of lost revenue. There has been improvement in this situation through the installation of new machines and drivers are enthused to get passengers to tap on, and by using new technology there is an improvement in journey speed, which in line frees up buses to enable other journeys to be undertaken by operators.
Councillor Boriss presented a petition regarding the removal of the 415 and 58 bus service. Residents had concerns about the punctuality of the bus service, and felt that this situation could impact on the usage figures for services.
All felt that Nick should look into the service again, and it was agreed that he would investigate this matter further following the comments received this evening. He also agreed to look at whether the bus service could be retendered to see if there are any bus service providers willing to take the route.
A resident advised that he has had issues with travelling to hospitals, and this situation was echoed by others in the room. Examples were given of where people have missed appointments or they have had to pay for taxis to enable them to attend hospital appointments, which can be out of the area due to the structure of Pennines Trust.
A discussion took place about a resident who has complained to TfGM regarding the 415 and 163 service and bus shelters. A written complaint was made on 16 November 2018, and the resident advised that despite regular calls and visits he has made to TfGM Offices he hasn’t yet received a response. Nick apologised to the resident and it was agreed that this matter would be looked into by Nick to see why the resident hasn’t received a response.
A resident advised that Bowlee and Heywood Old Road have no effective bus service at all between 9.30am – 4pm, as the 167 only runs during rush hour, meaning residents living in this area have no other option than to drive.
A resident raised concerns regarding the ‘bottleneck’ at the motorway bridge on Manchester New Road and there can often be 3 or 4 of the same bus service clogged up in this area. Residents also advised that between 3pm – 4.30pm buses often don’t stop, as they can be full with school children.