A revamped – and later running – free city centre bus service is set to launch this Sunday, helping to tackle congestion, reduce air pollution and easily get people from stations and stops to theatres and shops.
‘Free bus’ will replace the existing Manchester Metroshuttle service and will be operated by First Manchester, who were awarded the three-year contract following a competitive procurement process.
The new service will maintain the existing ten minute Metroshuttle frequency* while boasting a number of improvements, such as later running times up to 10pm Monday to Saturday and an extended route to Salford Central station during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Councillor Mark Aldred, Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Free bus provides an excellent high-quality, free bus service that links key public transport locations with shops and leisure destinations across the city-centre.
“It provides a brilliant option for people to travel the last stage of their journey for free if they have used trains, trams or buses to get into the city centre – or simply for people to get about between one part of town and another if they are out shopping or simply having fun.
“The fact services will now be running later will help to support the night time economy and perhaps it will also encourage people to give buses and public transport in general a go – helping us to tackle congestion and air pollution in the city centre.”
The buses will also be more recognisable as they travel about the city centre. All will feature a notable fact about Manchester and a vibrant and colourful new livery, with an abstract pattern that weaves in elements of Manchester’s rich heritage such as graphene, cotton, bees and music, amongst other things. All buses have audio-visual passenger information screens, providing audio and visual announcements on various aspects of the journey, such as the route plan and the next stop, as well as places of interest and nearby businesses.
Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for the Environment, Planning and Transport, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, said: "The new 'free bus' is going to provide a service that will benefit everyone who works, lives, socialises and shops in the city centre.
“By connecting people to points of interest and other modes of transport across the city, it will lessen congestion and provide a great addition of environmentally friendly vehicles to our city."
Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord, said: “Free bus has a really important role in helping visitors to Greater Manchester and people who are less mobile get from A to B. It’s fantastic to see public sector partners working together to extend this service, making it easier for people to access the amazing events and venues that form an important role in our night time economy.
“It will now be much easier to move around as part of an evening out, whether that’s connecting existing transport links, like getting the train to Salford Central and then the free bus to the Northern Quarter, or going from a restaurant on Deansgate to an event at the Manchester Arena. This is a really positive addition to our night time transport offer in Greater Manchester and most importantly, it’s free and accessible for all our residents.”
As a result of the changes the existing Metroshuttle fleet, comprising three electric and 17 low carbon diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, requires seven fewer operational vehicles, helping to reduce congestion on inner city roads.
The remaining seven buses are also set to be refurbished and introduced onto the regional bus network, replacing less environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Free bus will replace the existing city centre Metroshuttle service, which has been operated by First Manchester since 2010.
Adrian Worsfold, Operations Director at First Manchester, said: “We’re pleased to have been chosen to be the preferred operator for this service.
“We welcome the changes being made, including the extended hours, which will enable more people to enjoy the city later into the evenings and look forward to welcoming everyone on board.”
The new routes are detailed below:
Piccadilly Rail Station via Station Approach, Piccadilly, Portland Street, Charlotte Street, King Street, Cross Street, Market Street, St Mary’s Gate, Deansgate, Quay Street, Byrom Street, Hardman Street, Deansgate, Peter Street, Mount Street, Albert Square, Cross Street, King Street, York Street, New York Street, Portland Street, Chorlton Street, Aytoun Street, Auburn Street, Station Approach to Piccadilly Rail Station.
Route 2 (including Salford Central Rail Station during AM/PM peak)
Piccadilly Rail Station via Station Approach, London Road, Fairfield Street, Whitworth Street, Whitworth Street West, Deansgate, Quay Street, New Quay Street, Irwell Street, Trinity Way, Chapel Street, New Bailey Street, Bridge Street, Deansgate, Victoria Bridge Street, Chapel Street, Victoria Street, Hunts Bank, Victoria Station Approach, Todd Street, Corporation Street, Withy Grove, Shudehill, Thomas Street, High Street, Church Street, Dale Street, Ducie Street, Victoria Station Approach to Piccadilly Rail Station.