Response from First to concerns of bus passengers in Bury North

Bury North MP James Frith sent a list of detailed concerns raised by bus passengers in Bury North to First bosses. Read their response below.

Dear James

Thank you for your email and for sending us a summary of the concerns that have been raised by your constituents.

I fully understand the disappointment felt by a number of customers with the changes to the X35. Unfortunately as a consequence of changes with an associated school bus contract we are no longer able to operate the X35 journeys. Until now we’ve been able to operate the X35 service in a combined way with this contract, however, our submission to continue operating the school contract was unsuccessful and TfGM have awarded the contract to another operator.

Although customers wanting to travel to Manchester have the option of the 135, being our more regular service with buses running every 10 minute or less, I do appreciate journey time for some existing x35 customers will be longer. Despite our efforts to look at other options including fares and service diversions, we’ve been unable to find an alternative viable solution to keep the X35 journeys running. We do apologise that we were not able to give our customer’s more notice of this change, we did however give the required notice period to the Traffic Commissioner and the Local Authority (TFGM). We’re also advertising this on our buses with posters and the information is available on our website. Of course we will continue to review network options for the area in future.

A number of constituents have made reference to the service performance of the 472/474 including Janice from Bury and Jim. I recognise this service has not been been operating at the reliability levels we expect for our customers for which I apologise. Running our buses on time is crucial for our customers so that they can plan according to the timetable. Unfortunately we are currently experiencing challenges with staff availability which is impacting on service performance. We are working hard to address this by close management of our driver schedules including the use of overtime but in some cases we have had to cancel some journeys as a last resort. We’re also investing heavily in an acelerated recruitment drive. The training programme is very extensive and includes customer care and safety modules as well as driving instruction and can take up to 12 weeks for completion although this can be quicker where we successfully recruit existing PSV licence holders. I appreciate this doesn’t immediately help the current staffing challenges but we are doing all we can to manage any gaps in service and expect to be able to improve staffing flexibility as our new recruits join the team shortly.

With regards other specific comments, these are partly addressed by the comments above with some service / route suggestions noted and forwarded to our network team for consideration. In addition I hope the points below may help further and if I can assist with any specific issue you feel has not been addressed please let me or Ian know. 

  • For customers that will no longer have use for their monthly tickets, once this change has taken place we will be happy to refund the remaining time left on the ticket if they send this in to our Wallshaw Street office in Oldham
  • There is now a bus/tram combination day ticket valid before 0930hrs, only a recent addition and on the getmethere platform for £8 (Zoe, Ramsbottom)
  • Please note the 154 withdrawal was not a First decision, this was a TfGM tendered service (Gary, Bury)
  • The Ramsbottom area did once have a half-hourly service to Manchester (bus 90), this was withdrawn in 2004 and replaced in part by peak time X35 journeys (John, Ramsbottom)
  • Most bus services in Greenmount have been withdrawn – but these were operated by Rosso. The village is now left with an hourly service to Bury and Bolton (Chloe, Greenmount)
Kind regards
Brandon Jones

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