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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Lyell Tweed

Greater Manchester's new fleet of Bee Network yellow buses spotted on Leigh guided busway

The first yellow buses set to be rolled out completely across two boroughs later this year have been spotted on the famous Leigh guided busway route.

The 'Bee Network' is set to be rolled out initially in Wigan and Bolton from September 24 this year with a new fleet of electric yellow buses. This is part of the plans to bring all buses in Greater Manchester will be under public control by January 5, 2025.

While the buses that eagle eyed passengers may have spotted on the Leigh guided busway recently aren't the brand new electric fleet set to be rolled out in September, operators have already started to introduce Bee Network co-branded yellow buses onto the network, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) confirmed. The distinctive purple buses that run from Leigh and Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary, run by First Bus, have recently turned into the Bee Network yellow.

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From September 24, 2023, all buses in Wigan and Bolton will be run by Go North West and Diamond, who are the first to win contracts under the new franchising system. First Bus said they are ‘disappointed’ not to have won the contract to continue operating the route.

The guided section of the route, that runs between Leigh and Ellenbrook, requires a bus to have a guide wheel that steers it via the kerb. Only a small portion of these buses were leased from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) by First and will be given back to TfGM.

The Vantage purple busses have been running on the guided busway since 2016 (Manchester Evening News)

TfGM announced in March that 50 brand new electric Bee Network buses will be introduced on day one of the new franchising, alongside new ‘Euro VI’ vehicles and dozens more co-branded buses from the existing fleet, including Vantage buses, which operate on the guided busway. The new electric buses are set to be fully accessible, with wheelchair bays, hearing induction loops, audio and visual announcement systems and anti-slip flooring.

Unveiling the new buses back in March, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, who was one of the orchestrators of the Leigh Guided Busway launch in 2016, said: "To get ready for the change – and I hope start to build some excitement – we’re working with Diamond and other operators to introduce co-branded Bee Network buses onto those services that will be amongst the first to come back under local control.

"This is very much the start of our journey that will ultimately deliver a greener, integrated and more inclusive transport system that will transform how people travel around our city-region."

Transport Commissioner, Vernon Everitt, added: "This preparation of the bus fleet for franchised operation in six months’ time marks a further significant step towards the integrated Bee Network and transformation of public transport and active travel in our growing city-region.

"From September we’ll also have dozens of new, state-of-the-art buses serving passengers in Wigan, Bolton and parts of Salford and Bury. These will be the first of many across Greater Manchester that will, alongside the new lower fares – which are already increasing ridership – and improvements to travel information, improve bus travel for everyone who lives and works here."

While the Leigh and Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary service may have changed colour, as the number 8 route connecting Bolton and Manchester city centre via Farnworth and Salford did months ago, the services otherwise remain as they are, and no further changes will take place until September.

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