Wilmslow Road bus corridor
The Wilmslow Road bus corridor is a 5.5-mile-long section of road in Manchester that is served by a large number of bus services. The corridor runs from Parrs Wood to Manchester city centre along Wilmslow and Oxford Roads, serving Didsbury, Withington, Fallowfield and Rusholme.
Several frequent routes combine to operate along the northern section, providing access to the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) and Christie Hospital. Many services along the route are provided by older vehicles (such as the Magic Bus brand operated by Stagecoach Manchester).
Busiest bus corridor in Europe?
- No authoritative comparison is available.
- The bus frequency on Wilmslow Road varies at different points. This will be true of other corridors and hence the busiest corridor is likely to depend on how short a road can be considered.
- Bus frequencies vary over the day so the busiest corridor may depend on whether the peak frequency or average frequency is taken.
- No qualifier is given as to what constitutes 'busy' - whether frequency of buses or total passengers carried and when.
The 3.7 mile stretch of route between Piccadilly Gardens and Withington has a timetabled average of at least one bus per minute in each direction on Monday to Friday daytimes during university term. However, particularly during rush hour, there are many buses which do not appear on the timetable and rather repeat the journey as frequently as possible.
Two competing bus companies are the major providers of services along the corridor: Stagecoach Manchester (including the Magic Bus brand) and First Greater Manchester. Both companies run frequent services the whole length of the route. The half mile stretch of route in the city centre between the RNCM and Oxford Road station has a timetabled average of nearly a bus every 30 seconds in each direction.
In 2006, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport was told:
The Wilmslow Road corridor, although enjoying a level of service that no other route in England has in terms of the frequency of buses, is chaos. This is because many companies are running the same route and competing for passengers. Various estimations of patronage have been suggested from research, one as low as 3.5 passengers per bus on average. In actual fact the exact figures are not available to us because of commercial sensitivity. Stagecoach prices along this route are high and smaller companies buy up cheaper, older and dirtier buses and carry passengers for as little as a third of the Stagecoach price. Some of them still carry London posters because they are rejected stock from London, where standards are higher. Observations reported to us suggest that they will wait to fill up with as many passengers as possible rather than sticking to a timetable and there have been reports of some companies waiting at a stop until another company's bus is just behind and then pulling off. Although one has to wait literally seconds for a bus, the congestion at certain junctions because of too many buses and the unwillingness of these buses to stick to timetables makes travelling on this route an unpleasant and stressful one.
Bus deregulation in 1986 allowed bus companies to run services wherever and whenever they wanted. Prior to this, most bus services along Wilmslow Road had been operated by publicly owned operator Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive.
In 1986 the bus operation was separated into a stand-alone company, GM Buses. Finglands Coachways started operating their own competitive bus services soon after, capitalising on the lack of capacity for students along the route, and were soon followed by other coach operators such as Wall's and Bullocks.
GM Buses fought back by reintroducing crew-operated buses to the route. Ten AEC Routemasters were acquired from London in 1988 and operated on route 143 to West Didsbury, branded as the "Piccadilly Line" after the London Underground line. They operated until June 1990 when they were replaced with standard vehicles. Larger operators also operated competing services along Wilmslow Road during the 1990s, including Bee Line and MTL Manchester.
The southern half of GM Buses was sold to Stagecoach in February 1996, who introduced the "no frills" Magic Bus services along the route in competition with their main routes. Intense competition from a new operator called UK North led to lower fares, with Finglands offering a £2 student weekly ticket in 2001. Competition has reduced in recent years: UK North was to cease operations in 2006 after an investigation into their safety records by the North West Traffic Commissioner, whilst Bullocks sold their bus services to Stagecoach in 2008.
Stagecoach introduced 30 new hybrid double-deck buses on services 42 and 43 in September 2010. The vehicles were funded through the Department for Transport's Green Bus Fund. Bullocks Coaches have also been awarded similar funding for 4 vehicles that are likely to be used on their Oxford Road Link route 147.
On 1 August 2013, First Greater Manchester announced that it had agreed to purchase Finglands. The deal was concluded on 9 February 2014. After initially using a combination of older buses from its own fleet and Finglands, it introduced a fleet of new Alexander Dennis Enviro400s and Wright StreetLites. On 27 April 2014, First Greater Manchester increased service levels and extended some route 42 journeys to North Manchester General Hospital under the Cross Connect banner.
In September 2014, Magic Bus introduced route 141 Manchester Metropolitan University to East Didsbury. From September 2015, the service terminated in West Didsbury.
These services run for the entire route, and beyond. Route 42 is a very frequent service operated by both First Greater Manchester and Stagecoach Manchester between Manchester and Parrs Wood, with some Stagecoach services extending to Stockport. Stagecoach services also use, along with route 43, hybrid bus vehicles, the first such on the Stagecoach Manchester fleet.
Service 42A operates from Reddish to Manchester during the weekday morning peak period, via Heaton Chapel, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Parrs Wood and to Manchester. In the late afternoon peak period it operates the reverse to Reddish. On Sundays it runs hourly between Reddish and East Didsbury only. It is operated by Stagecoach Manchester, and Arriva North West on Sundays.
Following their purchase of Finglands, on 27 April 2014 First Greater Manchester extended some route 42 journeys to North Manchester General Hospital under the Cross Connect banner.
Route 43 is operated by Stagecoach Manchester, every 10 minutes. It operates from Piccadilly bus station to West Didsbury, then on to Manchester Airport via Northenden, Benchill, Wythenshawe and Woodhouse Park. It is the only 24-hour bus route in Greater Manchester and, along with Stagecoach Manchester route 42, was the first Stagecoach route to use hybrid buses.
Magic Bus operate route 142 between Manchester and East Didsbury and also its sister routes 141 between MMU Birley Campus and West Didsbury; and 143 between Manchester and Sale (with some services terminating in West Didsbury). These high frequency services are operated by Stagecoach Manchester under the Magic Bus brand. Stagecoach use slightly older buses on these routes and ticket prices are cheaper than commercial Stagecoach services. Route 142 operates short journeys between Universities and Withington and extra journeys at peak times to cater specifically for students.
Route X57 is an express route stopping at certain stops (with the same stopping pattern as route X41 on the shared section of the route). It operates every 30 minutes along the entire route to from Manchester to Parrs Wood and continues on to Woodford via Cheadle, Cheadle Hulme and Bramhall. It is operated by Stagecoach Manchester and it is limited stop along Wilmslow Road. Evening journeys operate between Parrs Wood and Woodford only without using the Wilmslow Road corridor.
Route 18 is operated by First Greater Manchester runs every ten minutes from Rusholme to Manchester via the hospitals and universities, then crosses the city centre and continues to Langley via Harpurhey and Middleton.
Routes 23 and 23A are both operated by Stagecoach Manchester every 30 minutes, and run from Stockport to the Trafford Centre, via Heaton Mersey, Didsbury, Chorlton, Stretford, Urmston (23), Lostock (23A) and Davyhulme. Route 84 is operated by Stagecoach Manchester and Arriva North West, and runs every 30 minutes from Manchester to Reddish, via Old Trafford, Chorlton, West Didsbury, Withington, Didsbury, East Didsbury, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Moor and Heaton Chapel. Route 171 is operated by Stagecoach Manchester, running every 30 minutes to Newton Heath from West Didsbury via Didsbury, East Didsbury, Burnage, Levenshulme, Gorton and Clayton. Route 370, operated by Arriva North West, First Greater Manchester, and Stagecoach Manchester, runs every 30 minutes from Altrincham to Stockport, via Timperley, Baguley, Northenden, Didsbury, East Didsbury and Heaton Mersey.
Route 44 is operated by Manchester Community Transport every 60 minutes, and runs from Manchester Airport to Manchester, via Gatley, Cheadle, East Didsbury, Burnage, Fallowfield, Moss Side and the Dental Hospital. Route 145 is operated by Magic Bus and operates four northbound journeys in the morning during university term time only, from Burnage to Manchester via Fallowfield; between September and Easter two of these are extended back to start from Cheadle Hulme, relieving overcrowding on route X57.
Route 53 is operated by First Greater Manchester every 30 minutes, and runs from Cheetham Hill to Pendleton, via North Manchester General Hospital, Harpurhey, Gorton, Belle Vue, Rusholme, University of Manchester and Old Trafford. Route 178, operated by Arriva North West, runs every 60 minutes from Reddish to Timperley via Levenshulme, Burnage, Withington, West Didsbury, Northenden, Benchill, Wythenshawe and Wythenshawe Hospital. Route 179, operated by Stagecoach Manchester, runs every 60 minutes from Wythenshawe Hospital to Stockport, via Baguley, Northenden, Southern Cemetery, West Didsbury, Withington, Ladybarn, Parrs Wood Road, Burnage and Heaton Mersey.
Service 111 is operated by Stagecoach Manchester and runs every 7 and a half minutes during the day from the Southern Cemetery to Manchester, via Withington, Yew Tree Road, Rusholme, and then the rest of the route.
Several other routes operate on the route, such as school services, which are unmarked.
Transport for Greater Manchester plans to further develop bus priority measures along Wilmslow Road in order to enable the provision of cross city bus services. This scheme will include the section of Oxford Road in the vicinity of the University and Hospitals becoming limited to buses, cycles and hackney carriages only, as well as a new section of bus lane in Withington and a revised layout at Parrs Wood terminus.
- "Eyewitness in Manchester - Picture Update". Eyewitness in Manchester. Manchester Online. Archived from the original on August 20, 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
- "Memorandum submitted by the Longsight Transport Project". Select Committee on Transport. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- Pidd, Helen (2007-03-06). "Where cyclists dare". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- O'Rourke, Aidan (2006-10-26). "Oxford Rd Manchester with Stagecoach bus". EyeOnManchester. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
- Millar, p.25
- "Walls of Fallowfield". Flickr. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
- "Bullock, Cheadle A301 JFA". Flickr. 17 July 1995. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
- Brown, p.128
- Victorians on the Mancurian line Commercial Motor 5 July 1990 page 21
- "GM Buses 2207". Flickr. 7 April 1991. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
- "Bee Line 656 PFM129Y". Flickr. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
- "MTL Manchester ex-Maidstone & District Leyland National VKE570S". UK Bus Photos from the 80s & 90s. Fotopic. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
- Pensioners lead protest at £41m Stagecoach takeover The Independent 26 February 1996
- Millar, p.26
- "Bus companies banned from roads". BBC News Online. BBC. 22 December 2006. Retrieved 19 May 2009.
- "Stagecoach Announces Bullocks Acquisition". Stagecoach Manchester. 8 August 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
- "Hybrid Enviro400Hs arrive in Manchester". Bus and Coach Magazine. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
- "£30 Million for Green Buses to save jobs and reduce CO2". Department for Transport. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
- FirstGroup plc Agree To Acquire Finglands Bus Operations In Manchester FirstGroup 1 August 2013
- Jobs saved as famous bus firm gears up for takeover Manchester Evening News 2 August 2013
- First take over Finglands bus services Transport for Greater Manchester 7 February 2014
- New bus route to link north and south of Manchester Manchester Evening News
- Route 141 timetable Transport for Greater Manchester 15 September 2014
- All aboard! New bus route for Birley Manchester Metropolitan University 31 October 2014
- "Bus Times Bus X41" (PDF). TfGM. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- "Bus Times Bus 41" (PDF). TfGM. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- Martin Bryant (7 October 2012). "The revival of cross-city bus services in Manchester". Manchester Transport. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- "Bus Times Bus 18" (PDF). TfGM. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- "Bus Times Bus 44/145" (PDF). TfGM. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- "Oxford Road bus priority scheme proposals". Tfgm.com. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
- Brown, Stewart J (1995). Greater Manchester Buses. Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-174-0.
- House of Commons Transport Committee, Great Britain (2006). Bus Services Across the UK. The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-215-03092-3.
- Millar, Alan (July 2007). "A touch of Yorkshire in south Manchester". Buses. 59 (628): 24–27. ISSN 0007-6392.
- Media related to Wilmslow Road bus corridor at Wikimedia Commons