Next phase of Greater Manchester’s Bee Network begins operation

Posted: 27 March 2024 | | No comments yet

Marking the completion of the next phase of the Bee Network, bus services in Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Salford and north Manchester are now under local control.

Next phase of Greater Manchester's Bee Network begins operation

Credit: Transport for Greater Manchester

Millions more trips will now be made on Bee Network buses every month after services in Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Salford and north Manchester were brought under local control on 25 April 2024. 

Two hundred years since Greater Manchester launched a first-of-a-kind horse bus service between Pendleton and Manchester in 1824, the city-region continues to lead the way in transforming public transport by pioneering the return of locally controlled bus services.  

Passengers will benefit from new and better buses; more frequent, earlier and later running services; better connections to first and last trams; improved customer information – with new features added to the Bee Network app including journey planning and bus tracking – and new TravelSafe Support and Enforcement Officers (TSEOs). 

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We have a great and pioneering history when it comes to transport, as the birthplace of buses and the modern railway, so it’s fitting to once again be leading the way by bringing buses back under local control. 

“This truly is another historic moment for Greater Manchester, and I am absolutely delighted to see the Bee Network rolled out to Oldham, Rochdale and parts of Bury, Salford and north Manchester.” 

Andy Burnham, Bee Network

Credit: Transport for Greater Manchester

The Bee Network is Greater Manchester’s vision for an integrated, accessible and affordable ‘London-style’ transport system, which will change the way that people travel across the city region. It launched on 24 September 2023, with the successful implementation of the first phase of bus franchising across Wigan, Bolton and parts of Bury and Salford.

Reports published weekly show that Bee Network bus services continue to be more reliable than before bus franchising and are outperforming services elsewhere in Greater Manchester. Between 1 January 2024 and 19 March 2024, 74.3% of Bee Network buses were on time, compared to 67.62% of commercial services and 62.75% for the same period in 2023 prior to franchising.

The number of people using Bee Network services has also increased. Between 5 November 2024 and 18 November 2024, average weekday patronage on Bee Network buses was 131,095, and this grew to 138,010 between 3 March 2024 and 16 March 2024 – an increase of 5.27%, with a Bee Network high of 141,720 on the 6 March 2024 and more than 17 million journeys so far. 

The Bee Network also means that Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has, for the first time, much more information about how services are performing and can prioritise improvements to the worst performing or most complained about services. Following changes to the first Bee Network services in January 2024, TfGM, in collaboration with Go North West, will introduce 20 additional buses from April 2024 to improve punctuality and make the timetable more reliable for customers. 

From 7 April 2024, five buses will be added to the V1/V2, 163 and 472/474 services; and, from 28 April 2024, a further 15 will be added to the 8, 10, 20/21/22, 501, 524, 575/576, 601-606, 607, 608/35 and 609 services. The changes will initially be on a 12-month trial basis, during which punctuality improvements and associated patronage/revenue growth will be monitored, measured and evaluated to inform a decision as to whether the arrangement is extended.

Mayor Burnham added: “If you look at how Bee Network services are performing compared to before or the rest of the network, then the proof really is in the pudding. 

“It’s clear from the performance data that we’re getting and the growing numbers of people using the Bee Network that we’re making a real difference, but we are by no means complacent – in fact, quite the opposite. As we start this next exciting phase and look ahead to all buses coming under local control, I want to be clear that we want things to be better still and have an unwavering focus to deliver a Bee Network that works for you.” 

Since launching in September 2023, passengers have also benefitted from 50 new zero-emission buses, with more coming from 24 March 2024 and around 120 others in January 2025 – with more still to follow – as Greater Manchester strives to deliver a fully electric bus fleet by 2032.  Data available for the first 50 vehicles currently in service show that they have travelled 925,000 miles, and this equates to a saving of 1,000 tonnes of CO2e.

The new Bee Network app has been downloaded over 315,000 times, and over 1.6 million journeys have been completed using app tickets. More than 13,000 customers have rated their journey, with customer feedback being used to make improvements. 

The Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Vernon Everitt, said: “Today marks another major milestone on the journey towards delivering the Bee Network – an integrated London-style transport network for the people and businesses of Greater Manchester. This is bringing together Metrolink trams, buses, suburban train services and active travel, all connected by simpler fares and ticketing and better travel information for customers.  

“Bus passengers in Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Salford and north Manchester will see new zero-emission buses and an upgraded Bee Network app from day one. Transport for Greater Manchester and our bus operators Stagecoach, First Bus and Diamond will then focus on progressively improving the punctuality and reliability of buses. They will also act on feedback from passengers who, for the first time in almost 40 years, have a voice in shaping their local bus services.”

The introduction of franchised services in Oldham and Rochdale comes 10 years since the tram network opened in the area, with around 51.5 million journeys having been made along the line in the intervening decade – many more than used the old train line.

Bee Network Phase 2 - Oldham

Credit: Transport for Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester’s vision for the Bee Network is to integrate buses, trams, trains and a growing active travel network connecting all parts of Greater Manchester, to enable journeys that are easier, cheaper, safer and more sustainable.

Since 2020, more than 109km of new walking and cycling routes, including new junctions and crossings to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians, has been delivered. Greater Manchester’s Starling Bank Bikes provides an estimated 200,000 residents with access to bikes, and there are now more than 76,000 active users who have completed in excess of 650,000 rides covering 1.6m kilometres. 

Greater Manchester has also been awarded more than £5.6 million from the Traffic Signal Obsolescence Grant and Green Light Fund to upgrade traffic signals. Using new sensing technology, the signals will better respond to changes on the roads to keep traffic flowing, helping to improve journeys for all road users.