First Manchester Wright Eclipse Gemini in new livery in Manchester city centre.
|Slogan||We believe the Buses are the Future|
|Founded||1996, formerly GM Buses North|
|Headquarters||Wallshaw Street, Oldham|
|Locale||North West England|
|Service area||Greater Manchester (some services overlap into other counties)|
|Hubs||Manchester, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford.|
|Depots||Wallshaw Street, Oldham
Queens Road, Manchester
Rochdale Road, Bury
Weston Street, Bolton
First Greater Manchester (formerly First Manchester) is one of the bus companies serving Greater Manchester, a metropolitan county in North West England. It forms part of FirstGroup, a company operating transport services across the British Isles and in North America. The company operates within the area covered by Transport for Greater Manchester, a public body responsible for helping to co-ordinate public transport services in Greater Manchester. Along with Stagecoach Manchester it is one of the two major bus operators in the city region.
Before bus deregulation in 1986, buses in the Greater Manchester area were publicly funded and went under the name of Greater Manchester Transport. In 1986, with de-regulation, Greater Manchester Transport became known as GM Buses, which were effectively owned by the metropolitan borough and city councils of Greater Manchester, but were at arms' length from the local town halls. During the mid-1990s GM Buses was divided into two compaines: GMN (GM Buses (North)) and GMS (GM South Buses). British Bus looked set to acquire GM North, but eventually both were bought out by their management and employees. Within a year, however, GM South Buses were bought by the Stagecoach Group and rebranded as Stagecoach Manchester.
When GM Buses North were eventually bought by First the whole GMN fleet was rebranded as Greater Manchester. This was just a trade name as legal name of the company remained GMBuses North however in 1998 the company was renamed First Manchester Ltd and likewise the trading name also changed to First Manchester.
After a period of experimentation with the livery, a lighter shade of orange was adopted and all other colours were dropped, leaving a fleet of plain light orange buses.
First Manchester soon ended up managing two other First subsidiaries: First Potteries and its sister First Pennine. That even included many GM Standard Atlanteans making their way to those two fleets. Eventually the First Pennine and Manchester subsidiaries were merged, adding a number of routes in the Tameside area to First Manchester. A new management team was put in place and First Manchester was relieved of its responsibility for the Potteries subsidiary.
Several years on and many of the old orange fleet have been replaced by new vehicles in the white, magenta and blue livery featured on most other First Bus fleets.
The fleet over the previous years has been of interest and initially consisted on First's takeover of Dodge S56, Mercedes-Benz 709D and 811D and Iveco 59.12 minibuses, Dennis Dart, Volvo B6 and a solitary Volvo B6LE midibus, Leyland National, Leyland National 2, Leyland Lynx and Volvo B10B single-deck vehicles and Leyland Fleetline, Leyland Atlantean, Leyland Olympian, MCW Metrobus and Volvo Citybus double-deck vehicles. Most of the double-deckers were to the standard GMPTE body design with Northern Counties coachwork.
Over the course of the early years the fleet had new vehicles introduced in the form of further Dennis Darts, Volvo B6-50s, Volvo B6LEs and new types consisting of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro O530, Optare Solo, Volvo B6BLE, Volvo B10L, Volvo B10BLE, Volvo B7L, Volvo B10LA and Scania L94UA. The policy was to swing away from buying any more new double-deck vehicles at this stage however second-hand vehicles came mainly from other FirstGroup subsidiaries or via takeovers, these consisted of further Mercedes-Benz minibuses; Volvo B10B, Scania L113CRL and L94UB, Volvo B10L, Volvo B10BLE and Mercedes-Benz O405 single-deckers; MCW Metrobus MKII, Leyland Olympian, Leyland Olympian tri-axle, Volvo Olympian, Volvo Citybus, Dennis Dominator, and Scania N112DRB and N113DRB double-deckers. Many of these vehicles have subsequently moved away including all Volvo B10Ls, most Scania L94UBs, all Volvo Citybuses, all Leyland Olympians and tri-Axle Leyland Olympians, all Dennis Dominators, all Scania double-deckers, some Volvo B10BLEs (some of these even came back again), all Volvo B7Ls (most of which had been purchased for use during the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and were never used in normal service) and all Mercedes-Benz minibuses. Withdrawals of Mercedes-Benz 0405s recently commenced as have withdrawals of Volvo B10Bs. All non-low-floor Dennis Dart and Volvo B6 midis have also been withdrawn and scrapped.
In 2005 a start was made on renewing the fleet. Phase 1 involved the purchase of 256 Wright Eclipse Urban bodied Volvo B7RLE saloons and 18 Scania CN94UA OmniCity articulated buses. These were delivered throughout 2005 and 2006. In 2007 a fleet of 36 Volvo B9TLs with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork followed. These were the first new double-deckers for some years. In 2008 a new Phase commenced of replacing Volvo B7RLEs bought in 2005 and 2006 along with about 100 older saloons with 110 Volvo B9TLs with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork over a two-year period of 2008 and 2009, expected in 2011/2 are a fleet of 14 Hybrid Vehicles of an unknown type for New Cross City Routes.
Over the years several fleets have been taken over; these have included Timeline Travel (Leigh) (North GM Area Bus Operations), Pioneer (Rochdale) (Bus Operations), Coachmasters (Rochdale) (Bus Operations) as well as the transfer of First PMT's Dukinfield fleet to First Manchester control.
Various depots have been closed over the past 12 years including Atherton (1998), Bolton Crook Street (2004) (replaced by a new depot at Weston Street), Knowsley (2008), Rochdale (2004) and Trafford Park (2005) sites at Lowton, Bolton and Manchester Piccadilly have also been used temporarily for either acquired fleet (Lowton/Bolton) in 1998 or for the Commonwealth Games in 2002 (Manchester Piccadilly).
As of September 2010 First Manchesterhas taken over the management of the Cheshire and Merseyside depots of First Potteries with the Staffordshire depots transferring to the management of the new First Midlands division. The Cheshire and Merseyside depots fell to a First Manchester license.
In February 2012, the company came under fire from Department for Transport North West's traffic commissioner Beverley Bell after a performance survey found an average of 26% of First Manchester services were not running on time. The company were fined £285,000 in March 2012 for their poor reliability.
In Spring 2012 First Manchester revised its name to First Greater Manchester.
In June 2012, it was announced that First Group were looking at selling off some of its operations, which included First Manchester's Wigan depot. On 31 October 2012, an agreement was reached by First Manchester Ltd and Stagecoach Group for Stagecoach Manchester to acquire the Wigan operations, including the depot and buses, for £12m. The deal will see the 300 employees and 120 vehicles (although 20 are owned by Transport for Greater Manchester) to Stagecoach's Greater Manchester East Buses Ltd subsidiary, which was also used for Stagecoach's takeover of Mayne in 2008. The transfer of operations from First to Stagecoach took place on 2 December 2012.
Types operated from Bolton
30000s: Enviro 400s, Volvo B9TL, Volvo Olympian
40000s: Optare Versa Hybrid
60000s: Volvo B7RLE, Scania L94UB, Scania L113, Iveco Vehixel Scolabus
Types operated from Bury
10000s: Scania OmniCity CN94UA artics, plus one Scania L94UA/Wright
30000s: Volvo B9TL, 60000s: Mercedes-Benz Citaro, Volvo B7RLE,
Types operated from Dukinfield
30000s: Volvo B9TL, Dennis Arrow
40000s: Dennis Dart SLF, Optare Solo
50000s: Optare Solo SR Hybrid
Types operated from Manchester Depot
30000s: Volvo B5L Hybrid, Volvo B9TL
40000s: Volvo B6BLE, Optare Versa Hybrid
50000s: Optare Solo SR Hybrid
60000s: Volvo B10BLE, Volvo B7RLE
Types operated from Oldham Depot
30000s: Enviro400, Volvo B9TL, Volvo Olympian
40000s: Dennis Dart SLF, Optare Solo
60000s: Volvo B7RLE, Iveco Vehixel Scolabus, Mercedes-Benz Citaro
First Greater Manchester's fleet consists of around 860 active vehicles. Over half are of Volvo manufacture.
As with all FirstGroup Fleets a 5 digit Numbering System is used which groups types of vehicle to fleetnumbers, these are:-
20000 Coaches (None currently Operated)
30000 Double-Deck Buses
60000 Single-Deck Saloon Vehicles and Single-Deck Yellow Schoolbuses
80000 Ancillary Vehicles not based on buses
90000 Ancillary Vehicles that have never been operational buses
The series are not always applied consistently, for example First Greater Manchester's longer Optare Solos are numbered in the 50000 series (nominally for minibuses), whilst the shorter ones are numbered in the 40000 series (midibuses).
First Greater Manchester followed the lead of Travel West Midlands in using low-floor articulated buses in the United Kingdom with the delivery in 1998 and 1999 of fifteen Volvo B10LAs with Wright Fusion bodywork. These were initially used on service 135 between Manchester and Bury, these then transferred to Bolton and have been used on the 8 Bolton - Manchester and more recently on the 582 Bolton - Atherton - Leigh services. Their introduction on the 582 was somewhat controversial, with users claiming that the reliability and frequency of the service had suffered. In April 2009 these Volvo artics were placed into storage, with the possibility of them being cascaded within First Group.
In 2005, eighteen new Scania OmniCity articulated buses arrived to take over operation of the 135. A single Scania L94UA / Wright Solar Fusion bendybus is also owned and was again initially used at Bury but has been used since on services 8 and 582 from Bolton. It is now reallocated back to Bury.
Double-deckers were once the mainstay of urban bus services in Greater Manchester and many other UK cities. After a period out of favour, they are now becoming popular again due to rising passenger numbers, to the extent that the Wright Eclipse Gemini is now the most numerous vehicle type in the fleet. The first 36 were delivered in 2007 followed by a further 110 of a similar type in 2008/2009. These are mainly used on services 8, 12, 17/18, 33, 36/37, 58/59, 67, 83, 100, 135, 162/163, 180/184, 350, 409, 471 and X34. First Manchester also have 14 Hybrid buses, which mainly serve the red 17 and 18 overground routes between Manchester and Rochdale (17) and Manchester and Langley (18) via Middleton. Beginning in August 2012 First Greater Manchester took delivery of new Enviro 400 vehicles which operate on routes 8, 36/37, 83, 180/184 and 409.
A small fleet of Volvo Olympians is maintained at Bury and Oldham Depots along with a fleet of Dennis Arrows which are primarily for the schools fleet at Bolton and Dukinfield depots, although they regularly appear in normal service.
The Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse delivered in 2005/06 still form the majority single-deck type, although about 40% of the original 256 have already been cascaded to other FirstGroup fleets. Other low floor types present in significant numbers include Volvo B10BLE/Wright Renowns and Mercedes-Benz Citaros. Step entrance single deckers are limited to eight Mercedes-Benz O405 with Optare Prisma bodywork used on school/college services from Birkenhead (Rock Ferry) depot. The last remaining Volvo B10B with Wright Endurance bodywork have been withdrawn from service, apart from examples that are used for driver training.
Also operated are a fleet of Vehixel bodied, Iveco Scolabuses that are operated from Dukinfield and Ince Depots on behalf of GMPTE who also own these vehicles.
These are primarily Dennis Dart SLFs with Plaxton Pointer or Wright Crusader bodies, also operated are a fleet of Volvo B6LE and B6BLE low-floor midibuses with Wright Crusader and Crusader 2 bodies from Manchester depot.
A small fleet of minibuses is operated on MetroShuttle Contracts and one or two other routes based on Manchester, Oldham and Dukinfield depots. The entire minibus fleet consists of Optare Solo integral models.
The support fleet is quite a varied one and consists mostly of Volvo B10B driver training buses with bodies by Alexander (Strider model) or Wright (Endurance). Aside from training vehicles it also includes five recovery lorries: three Volvo FL6, a Leyland T45 and an ERF. A large fleet of vans and pick-ups are operated, these are usually Vauxhall Combos or Corsas (smaller vans) or Ford Transits (bigger vans and pick-ups). Also owned are various fork lift trucks, and garage floor cleaning equipment known as 'Floor Scrubbers'.
As of March 2013, the First Manchester fleet is as follows:
TOTAL: 389 VEHICLES
TOTAL: 280 VEHICLES
MANCHESTER TOTAL: 669 VEHICLES
First Greater Manchester mainly run services in central Manchester and the northern area of Greater Manchester including Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Tameside and Salford. However, some services do run outside of these areas. These services are the 18 (Langley - Rusholme), 22 (Bolton – Stockport) which is shared with Stagecoach and Arriva, the 53 (Cheetham Hill - Pendleton), 100 (Warrington / Irlam - Manchester), X35 (Walmersley - Manchester via Edenfield) and the 184 (Huddersfield - Manchester).
First also operate services in the Wigan area, although following the sale of their Wigan depot to Stagecoach Manchester in December 2012, First only serve Atherton, Leigh and Tyldesley, which are served by services 12, 25, 26, 39, 516, 582, 584 and X34 (jointly operated with Stagecoach) from their Bolton and Manchester depots.
First Greater Manchester runs the three Metroshuttle services that operate around Manchester city centre. These services are free for passengers.
First Greater Manchester originally branded their frequent services as an 'Overground'. Based on the London Underground network where each frequent service is given a recognisable colour, each Overground service was also allocated its own colour line. The concept was a prominent fixture on network maps and coloured vinyls applied to the buses frequently serving those routes. However, the brand "overground" has largely been dropped from the route branding. The colours still remain on network maps but the vinyls for the most part have disappeared from the fleet's vehicles, apart from buses serving the 17/18 routes between Rochdale/Langley and Manchester. The coloured routes are those with Monday - Saturday daytime frequencies of 15 minutes or better. This has allowed services such as the 67, 98, 519, 540 and 598 to keep their coloured line despite the frequency of the service dropping under the 10 minutes minimum frequency.
Usually, the colours are allocated randomly. However, the 180/184 was allocated the Purple line when the services was made into an Overground route in 2004 and the 184 was extended to Huddersfield replacing service 365. The extension also saw the 184 service incorporated into the Huddersfield Overground with services 348, 350 and 352 (which was later re-numbered 181, 182, 183 and 185 to fit in with the 184) already branded as the Purple line (as had the 365 previously).
Due to ongoing fleet modernisation most Overground services are currently unbranded, with only the 8, 17/18, 36, 37, 82/83, 135, 163, 180/184 & 582 having significant route branding along with route 100 which is branded as "unmissable" & X34 branded as "Spinning Jenny" (this services is not frequent) rather than with a colour line.
In Spring 2006, First Manchester re-routed its 67 service between Cadishead and Manchester to run direct along Liverpool Road during the day. This was designed to speed up the service running between Eccles and Cadishead. As a result, buses were withdrawn from running via Merlin Road and surrounding areas in Irlam. To help passengers, First introduced OvergroundLink, which is described by First as a feeder service.
The 67L service, which uses a small bus or vehicles with low floor access for wheelchairs and pushchairs, runs a clockwise circular service from the White Lion pub on Liverpool Road, running via Cutnook Lane, Merlin Road, Morillon Road and Silver Street, returning to the White Lion, where the service connects with the 67. The service takes 5 minutes to complete its route and runs Mondays to Saturdays with a frequency of every 10 minutes from 0640 (0800 on Saturdays) until 1900.
This service was the first one introduced by First and still runs today. Other attempts were not so successful. Another 67L service was introduced in July 2006 to serve the Brookhouse estate. The service was designed so that passenger could board or alight the bus at any point along the route in Brookhouse, also known as 'Hail and Ride' before alighting the service at the Unicorn pub in Peel Green to connect with the 67. This service was withdrawn in January 2007. The main reason for the service not succeeding is probably down to the fact that the estate is served by the 10, which is run by First, and the M10, which is run by Arriva. Both services run services from Brookhouse to Manchester without the need to changing buses.
Another OvergroundLink service was introduced in July 2006 and withdrawn in January 2007 was the 98L. This was designed to link up with the 98 service running between Bury and Manchester on Bury New Road at the junction with Butterstile Lane. The 98L would operate around the Carr Clough area using Hail and Ride. Like the 67L Brookhouse service, the 98L was probably withdrawn because another service already links Carr Clough and Manchester, the 93 which runs between Bury and Manchester.
In April 2007, First introduced the 598L, which was introduced when First replaced its 593 daytime service with a new Overground route, the 598. However, while the 593 ran via Castle Hill and Belle Green, the 598 runs direct between Hindley Green and Wigan. Castle Hill was still served by the 540, whose frequency increased from every 30 minutes to every 10 minutes and the 32 was re-routed to serve Castle Hill, the 598L was withdrawn in 2009 and replaced by rerouted 598 buses directly serving the Estate.
In May 2007, First introduced another 67L service in Irlam. Starting at the White Lion, the service runs via Fiddlers Lane, Mond Road, Princes Avenue, Addison Road and Liverpool Road to the White Lion. The service was re-routed at the end of July 2007 to run via Boundary Road instead of Princes Avenue and Addison Road. This route was withdrawn at the end of August 2007. Another 67L route was introduced on 2 September 2007 running via Liverpool Road, Vicarage Road, School Lane, Parkston Road, Cutnook Lane and Silver Street.
In August 2008, service 67L was extended to serve the local Tesco superstore in Irlam with buses running to the store between 9.45 am and 2.45 pm, whilst reducing the number of journeys running around Irlam from every 10 minutes to every 30 minutes. The link was withdrawn in January 2010, when the 67L was withdrawn and replaced by a re-routed 100 service, which would cover the route. The withdrawal saw the end of the Overground Link services.
First Greater Manchester offer several night bus services in Manchester every Friday and Saturday night to help people get home from a night out. The routes are mainly the same as the normal routes with some exceptions. Services 8, 17 and 67, which during the day start from Shudehill Interchange, start their journeys from Piccadilly Gardens. Services 82 and 135 leave from different stands in Piccadilly Gardens, with the 82 leaving from stand D instead of stand A, while the 135 leaves from stand N instead of stand E. The 135 also serves Shudehill, which it doesn't do during the day, while the 67 doesn't serve Shudehill.
The services run every 30 minutes or every hour from midnight to 3am. The fare system on the night bus services are different to the normal fares offered by First, as there is only a flat fare offered. For passengers travelling from Wigan, the price is £2.00 while in Manchester, it is £3.00. A FirstNight ticket is priced at £4.00 for passengers who uses the Nightbus in both directions.
Until December 2012, First also operated the Nightbus network in Wigan town centre, providing a number of services to the various area in the Wigan area plus the 598 to Leigh, which allowed connection with the 39 to/from Manchester. The services were mainly a replicated route of its normal services with a few exceptions. The 600 normally runs from Wigan to Leigh while the night bus runs a circular service to Ashton-in-Makerfield before returning to Wigan via Platt Bridge. The 629 Nightbus service was based on the former daytime service between Wigan and Castle Hill. The 631 & 632, which normally run circular services from Wigan to Highfield Grange are re-routed to serve Pemberton and Hawkley Hall. The 635, normally run by South Lancs Travel from Wigan to Shevington Vale, while First's night bus service 635 runs a circular service to Shevington, Shevington Moor and Standish. The 695 service, which was not based on any First route, ran to Upholland along Arriva North West's 375/385/395 route.
First also ran Arriva's 362 service to Standish & 385 service to Orrell and Maytree Travel/Wigan Buses service 612 to Wrightington Hospital on New Year's Eve evening.
First Greater Manchester operate to a different timetable during the Easter weekend with Sunday services used on most services. The following usually apply to First Manchester services during the Easter holidays:
Due to a reduction of traffic on the roads of Greater Manchester during the summer holidays, First Greater Manchester changed some of the timetables on busier services. The period that the summer timetables are introduced coincide with the school summer holidays, starting in mid-July and ending in late-August/early-September. Usually, buses are retimed to run to similar times to the off peak timetable, while some service introduce additional journeys, as buses that would be used for school services are made available.
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