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Manchester DisUnited

Saturday 24th April 2021

It’s uncertain times for buses in Greater Manchester. Assuming Stagecoach and Rotala’s legal challenge against the Mayor and Combined Authorities’ decision to introduce franchising fails, the next few years are set to bring many changes, not least the current variety of liveries replaced by one unified brand.

If TfGM’s promotional media is anything to go by, this will be a yellow livery similar to that used on Metrolink trams and the city centre free bus shuttles – described by one renowned design expert recently as “heavily diluted cold school custard”.

It’ll be a shame to see two bright new brands recently introduced by Go North West disappear so soon after their initial impact including Middleton’s Minis being used on recently won tenders for routes 129 and 415….

…. and last year’s launch of the orbits brand for routes 52 and 53.

Still, we must all accept change. Nothing can stay the same, because nothing does stay the same.

But not everyone in Manchester is wanting to embrace change thinking what’s always been, always will be.

Unite the Union’s “all out strike” at Go North West is a classic case of not wanting to accept the inevitability of change.

Centred on the Company’s only bus depot at Manchester’s Queens Road the strike is now entering its ninth week. It’s looking no closer to resolution. Such is the entrenched position taken by the union even ACAS have given up trying to resolve the dispute.

Things took a disturbing turn this week with disgraceful acts of intimidation against drivers who’ve chosen to continue working. Unite deny any involvement blaming “activists” for daubing a front door with the word ‘scab’ and gloss paint poured over a car. 38 other incidents recorded by the company have included unpleasant verbal harassment and threats to a working driver’s wife, rocks thrown at buses and nails scattered at a depot. It’s getting nasty. And it’s all completely unnecessary.

Despite the industrial action Go North West have continued to operate some 80% of services in the city with around 130 drivers ignoring the strike and continuing to work as well as assistance from half a dozen or so other operators taking over some of GNW’s routes. It’s great to see such amazing efforts to minimise inconvenience for passengers.

Go North West’s highly capable and much respected managing director Nigel Featham has gone to great lengths to communicate the background to the issues.

It’s no exaggeration to say the dispute is over the commercial survival of the depot the Go Ahead Group purchased from First Group in 2019. “The depot is losing nearly £2 million annually due to outdated working practices” Nigel has explained, adding that proposals to turn the company round involve “no job cuts, guaranteed pay increases this year and next, and a £5,000 lump sum payment to all 480 bus drivers”. Following months of negotiations with the union, all drivers have signed new contracts of employment which, following a 12 week notice period given to every driver, irrespective of whether they were only entitled to a shorter entitlement, become legally effective from 9th May.

There’s no going back from that. The contracts are signed.

But Unite representatives are not happy and wish to prolong the strike, presumably thinking the company will back down and reinstate the old contracts. The union has christened the dispute as “fire and rehire” characterising Go North West as a profit hungry corporate exploiting its workforce to line the pockets of shareholders. It makes for a great headline for a union in the midst of an election for a new General Secretary but is far removed from reality.

Go-Ahead are the saviours of the Queens Road bus garage, not the villains. It paid just over £11 million to buy the operation two years ago and will have every intention of making it a success which will include securing jobs and paying decent wage levels – as all Go-Ahead companies do – and working constructively with trade unions. But it must be obvious to everyone involved, and you don’t have to be a chartered accountant to realise this, losses of £2 million each year are simply unsustainable.

Change must come, whether the union likes that idea or not. Things can’t continue as they did, year after loss making year, under First – and indeed, they haven’t. First decided it was so unsustainable it had to get out and quit.

Many of us with long industry experience never understood how First Bus could be making such losses running buses across north Manchester where passenger carryings and revenue are among the best in the country. Something just didn’t add up.

Now we know what. The operation is saddled with huge operating costs arising from outdated working practices. Most bus companies tackled such issues back in the late 1980s. GM Buses North then First Bus didn’t and both decided to quit rather than tackle the situation which has given the union and staff the impression slack working conditions are an acceptable way of bus operation in the twenty-first century. The brutal fact is union members have been on borrowed time. Slack scheduling and inefficient rota compilation together with bizarre outdated restrictive working practices ultimately have to be tackled. A £2 million loss each year can’t continue.

It’s not that Go-Ahead are a mean nasty employer. Take a look at its track record elsewhere in the country. Unite and its members at Queens Road have had it unrealistically far too cushy for far too long. The day of reckoning has come.

I highlighted one of the anachronisms in a recent blog, namely every duty being paid an extra four minutes as “blind turning time” even though no blinds have to be manually turned. Other practices include unnecessarily large amounts of rostered spare duties at non-productive times so in practice they can’t be used and a bizarre practice where drivers can insist on finishing their duties precisely on the scheduled time, meaning if a bus is running late, passengers are turned off the bus and it’s run out of service to the garage to ensure duties end on time. Other inefficiencies include duties with walking time allowances where they’re not needed.

One reason there’s no immediate sign of the dispute coming to an end is Unite the Union are paying striking drivers a cash sum of £350 a week meaning many are earning what they’d normally receive in wages after tax and they don’t have to work for it. This is costing Unite £112,000 a week (for 350 striking drivers) so the eight week bill is now approaching £1 million. With another ballot in the pipeline to extend the strike for up to a further 12 weeks when the current mandate runs out next month, that could bring the total spend to well over £2.5 million in strike pay for that duration – which interestingly is of a similar magnitude to the Company’s annual loss. Now I know Unite are a well resourced union, but I wonder whether bus driving members working on much less hourly rates all over the country will think that’s a good use of their weekly contributions to the union. Something they might consider in the upcoming General Secretary election perhaps.

I took a ride up to Manchester today to have a look at what’s happening on the ground.

It’s all quiet on Queens Road as Go North West have effectively now closed their garage and are using parking facilities elsewhere in the city to minimise flash points.

Much of the GNW fleet is being hired out to other operators who’ve taken over the routes.

There are some tell tale signs all is not as it seems, such as an old Almex manual ticket machine being spotted (see above), but passengers would be hard pressed to realise anything was different on Go North West branded buses.

The ‘orbits’ branded buses are appearing on other routes driven by drivers from other bus and coach companies. One I travelled on this morning driven by a driver from Red Rose Travel even had its leaflet racks full with explanatory leaflets about the strike and how the company are “keeping you moving”.

I got chatting to the driver and while he prefers coach work he was delighted to be actively employed having spent much of last year on furlough.

Some routes are being run by other operators using their own vehicles including, for example, Widnes Coaches on route 33 …

…. and perhaps most bizarre of all orbits branded route 53 is in the temporary hands of Edwards Coaches using its fleet of former National Express coaches.

Not really ideal for local bus work but a touch of luxury for Cheetham Hill and Sale passengers!

Today’s travels set me thinking the current situation gives rise to a funny merry go round of money. Passengers are back paying normal fares on most routes (the initial £1 then £2 flat fare arrangement has ended). That income together with concessionary fares reimbursement and the DfT paying Covid Bus Services Support Grant to Go North West means revenue is maintained. Small coach type companies which have been devoid of work for most of 2020 are earning some useful income from Go North West – at probably less cost to GNW than it was spending on paying its own drivers and using its own fuel. TfGM are happy that services are being maintained including tendered bus routes (for which they’ll be paying GNW as normal) and indeed might be delighted some small companies are getting a taste of running buses in Manchester, bearing in mind upcoming franchising opportunities. Drivers working are being paid normally and those striking are receiving the equivalent pay from Unite the Union for not working, the only shortfall being pension contributions, but I doubt many are worried about that.

As a consequence of all that, I reckon Go North West might even be financially better off with the strike than they were in pre-strike times. Which brings me back to Unite the Union. They seem content to use their funds to bankroll 350 of their members not to work. But that, it seems to me, is more of an unsustainable position than Go North West’s finances were in eight weeks ago. The unsustainable finances have shifted from GNW to Unite the Union.

Interesting times. Uncertain times.

Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

36 thoughts on “Manchester DisUnited Leave a comment

  1. £5000 pounds to sign a new contract, why dont they just do that it equals out at about a hundred quid a week for a year, then leave for another company, and work elsewhere or just leave and work elsewhere.
    At least Go northwest are still keeping services runinng, which is extrewmely important for those passengers who need to use the buses, perhaps the union thinks its drivers just turn up and drive fresh air around all day passengers pay their members wages and also pay for the new liveries and promotional material put out.
    I believe in striking if no alternative method is available, but i this case, the unions have fallen down, and shaking an empty bucket makes no noise, it just makes them look silly and attention seeking for all the wrong reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It must be tough running a union these days. With all the laws we now have around pay and conditions, health and safety, and workers’ rights, there are so few legitimate mass grievances left that they are forced to rely on manufactured outrage and denial of reality in cases like this to maintain any semblance of an appearance of relevance…

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  3. I will say that I have seen many buses around Manchester (mainly stagecoach) that are reaching their COVID capacities (this was around 5pm today) so that is very promising for the future of services, although I imagine it will annoy people for now to have to wait for the next bus.
    I also took the X57 snake bus and this was also quite busy – I think it looks like Hulleys have done well to get passengers on this service.

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  4. Received an election address leaflet from Andy Burnham. It says “I will create a fully integrated public transport system over bus and tram by 2025 with a single livery. It will be yellow and black and called the Bee Network”

    So now we all know. Suppose it better than going to public vote and being a 🦄 unicorn inspired livery and a name called busy mcbusface…. Hopefully any livery would be well designed so as not to be bland

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  5. So presumably after 9 May the striking drivers can be sacked, as they will be in breach of their new contracts? Unless they see sense, and return to work, of course.
    I recall, in the 1990’s, when London went through similar times, that the (then) T&GWU realised quite quickly that prolonged strike action wasn’t going to resolve anything, and decided that proper negotiation (with compromises) would be far better for their members (together with the one-off payments).
    I do fear that (as with the RMT currently), there are Union leaders with political agendas involved, and their members will see through them and withdraw their membership. In any industry involving large numbers of people, a properly organised Union that is prepared to work with management is essential; otherwise anarchy will rule.

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  6. One thing I can’t blame the drivers striking for is the right to finish bang on time. I insist on it in my job unless I, and I emphasis I, am willing to stop on. Why should I be forced to stop on? I should be entitled to finish exactly when my shift is due to finish so I can go about doing what I want or need to do in my own time. Parents responsible for picking kids up from school are allowed to finish exactly on time, so why shouldn’t that apply to everyone else? So what if people are turfed off mid journey, or a journey is cancelled, that’s life, learn to drive if you want reliability and stop the practice of forcing drivers to stop on.

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    • What a disappointing attitude. I understand that people have lives outside of work, but at the same time the unpredictable nature of our industry means that predicting an accurate finish time down to the minute is impossible. If you’re driving a less frequent service would you really want to turf your passengers off and make them wait 20, 30 even 60 minutes for the next bus? Of course there has to be a limit; I’d suggest any more than 15 minutes past finishing time should be at driver discretion, and of course every minute past booked finish time should be paid as overtime, but your post shows complete contempt and disregard for your passengers, who either rely on bus services for transport or choose to travel by bus for reasons of cost and sustainability.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If your duty is 8 HR 5 min why should you work 30 mins extra for poor sheduling I can’t arrive at work 30 min late but it’s ok to work 30 min extra no wonder there’s a driver shortage I could sort dispute in a week

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  7. I seem to remember a strike was how the then Grey Green got into bus work. I think it was Walthamstow garage that had all its routes go out to tender and Walthamstow retained all bar one of them but the garage would have to operate them under a new contract so all the drivers went on strike. Grey Green were awarded a temporary contract to operate the routes. They were operated by coaches without even ticket machines

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    • I am in the service sector looking after people, and I walk off shift when I am due to finish. I’m not a slave to the company and if the company don’t organise someone to take over when I am due to finish then that’s not my problem. Why should I have possible problems, e.g. re-arranging a night out.

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    • @Bob,
      Lots of people in the service sector *do* just walk off when their shift is due to finish.
      I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s been stood in a queue for the tills in a supermarket and watched staff close their till because they’re due to finish, despite the lengthening queues, as just one example.

      My own (railway) contract requires me to work up to one hours overtime in the event of late running, but only in the event of late running of the train I’m actually driving. There was a time that I would stay behind to help out in other circumstances but my goodwill has long since run out, having been drained by fairly low-level managers who apparently believe that all ground level staff are something they’ve trodden in and should be treated as such.
      Overbearing and even downright toxic management seems to be a thing nowadays, and over time it can easily grind down otherwise willing staff to a point at which they might be open to industrial disputes just to get their grievances across. There need only be a straw to break the camel’s back…

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  8. Franchising Bus Services

    The current free for all outside of London does not work in the interest of passengers well unless you have a free pass

    In London the franchise system works well and it is pretty much the only part of the country that has seen growth in passenger numbers elsewhere passenger numbers in general have been in terminal decline

    The only real problem in London with politicians in charge is in financial control, Another issue can be garages although London having so many garages it is less of any issue. Outside of London bus can end up being run from quite remote garages which pushed up costs and can result i poor reliability so should the franchise authority own the garages so that routes can be operated from the optimum garage ?

    Should there be a small charge for free pass holders as to improves bus services extra revenues have to be found or maybe an annual charge for the pass is introduced it of course would not be that popular but increasing parts of the UK have pensioners with free bus passes but no buses to use the pass on

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  9. Hi Roger. Don’t trouble yourself by researching both sides of the story. Makes it far easier to be biased, doesn’t it?

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  10. London, Reading, Brighton, Harrogate, Burnley, Nottingham and a few others haven’t done too badly in terms of passenger numbers.

    In terms of finishing shift dead on time I expect that there should be some buffer time built in to allow this 95% of the time. On the flip side the unforeseen can happen and I’m happy to stay late on occasion . If this is every day then there is an issue, once a month or maybe once a week would be acceptable. Turfing off passengers mid journey with no alternative is a bad marketing idea for any transport company.

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  11. Roger quite rightly highlights the intimidation that those drivers who continue to work have received, but whilst Go Ahead’s motive is to bring Queens Road operations to a sensible level of profitability , as far as Unite are concerned there are much larger issues at stake in this dispute.

    Unite is not surprisingly a strong supporter of Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor. Elections loom in May. Andy Burnham has decided as his vanity project that Franchising will happen in Manchester.
    Tfgm will inherit a mix of operations and in particular varied terms and conditions for the employees of those operations. Unless Tfgm just replicates the existing bus network from the existing depots, a very real possibility of course, then there will be strong pressure from Unite to harmonise terms and conditions across the franchised network, and its very unlikely that Tfgm will require anyone to take a pay cut, so remuneration is likely to be levelled up to be close to the best rates paid. And if all the bits and pieces at Queens Rd are consolidated into an hourly rate might Queens Road have the best pay rate in Manchester? So Unite are fighting a bigger battle here.

    Go Ahead have been caught in a political battle , not just one of logic and economics . I always thought Queens Rd an odd purchase, it was an open secret it was the worst performer in First Manchester in terms of financial return and the workforce was known not to be cooperative. It also ended up with all the odds and ends of services, Oldham and Bolton had networks where Go Ahead could work their usual magic in a defined territory and deliver improvements. But with Queens Rd they really did not purchase territory, just routes.

    I am unsure what will happen on 9th May when the new contracts are introduced. I am sure that none of the intimidation is sanctioned by Unite and is the work of a few hot heads, and past experience indicates that when this stage is reached the hotheads know they are losing, more drivers are returning to work and intimidation is a last gasp to keep the strike going.

    For everyone’s sake let’s hope there is an early resolution before anyone gets hurt,

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Whilst some of the Queens Road conditions are, at the very least, sonewhat bizarre (especially the “we must come off on time even if we have to turf the passengers off rule! I wonder how Comrade Burnham will react to that should GNW win a portion of his magical franchises kingdom!) I’m afraid I cringe inwardly whenever I see the term “modern working practices” because it always seems to mean drivers working more! As a bus driver of 23 years who has seen T & C’s gradually crumble around the edges, I can understand the bitterness!

    The really sad side to this is, irrespective of the result, I think it’s the writing on the wall for Queens Road, as I can’t see the striking and working drivers ever being able to forgive each other, meaning continuing to work together will be impossible!

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    • How is expecting to finish on time bizarre? If a journey is running late, it often get’s cut short to make up time, so I can’t see any problem with a journey getting cut short so the driver can finish on time. People have things to do outside of work you know, people have lives outside of work. We might as well go down the road of putting drivers on salaries so they are slaves to the company, i.e. don’t have set working hours and have to work when the company want, because that’s what salaried workers are in effect. Oh and before you ask if I’d be happy if my last journey was cut short, I’d not be stupid enough to rely on the last bus!

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      • Passengers also have things to do, so being throw off a bus isn’t going to endear the bus company concerned to them!

        You say they should buy a car but id that really the best way to ensure the bus industry’s future?

        I think not somehow!

        Of course, there are limits and in any case, RTA restricts how much extra a driver can work. But, unfortunately, especially in a big city, delays are a fact of life.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I have to confess that I am rather surprised that Go Ahead ever bought the First Manchester operations from Queen’s Road – were they not aware of the apparent restrictive practices when they undertook due diligence before parting with £11 million and no doubt other financial obligations regarding leases for vehicles etc? And then why has it taken them 2 years for this matter to come to this very unsatisfactory state of affairs? I remember Chris Moyes saying that one day he expected Go Ahead would e operating in Manchester but I doubt he ever envisaged this! If Go Ahead really did want to operate in Manchester why didn’t they spend £11 million to start with a totally new operation from a new location without any restrictive practices. After all with the prospect of the new regime of bus operation (not really franchising) in Manchester surely everything will be “up for grabs”!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Looks like the Go-Ahead drivers are just guilty of not having had their terms & conditions worsened yet to the same degree as other areas of the old GM Buses, GMPTE, SELNEC and MCT. The same “levelling down” that occurred to the former London Buses operations in the capital Never worked out the same way for train drivers on BR (or London Underground), though the pandemic may change that situation in coming years, and of course non-driving and non-signalling grades on the National Rail network never gained much out of privatisation.

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  15. New Taxi Bus service being introduced by SCC.. It will run between Framlingham and Campsea Ash via Wickham Market and will serve normal bus stops but has to be pre booked. Single fare £4 Return £7 It will run 7 days a week 6.30am to 10.30 pm Mon to Sat and 9am to 7pm sun

    It makes no sense to me . If it runs point to point and services normal bus stops why not run it as a normal bus service. The population of this villages is tiny Framlingham about 5000 and Wickham Market about 2000

    It is going to be very expensive to operate. You have to be looking at about £300,000 as year minimum. Is there some massive untapped demand in that area? It seems highly unlikely

    Another issue that will suppress demand is it does not Accept Concessionary passes and Endeavour cards

    One has to wonder who dreams up these ideas

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  16. Even by your standards this is a very one-sided blog. We all know you used to work for Go Ahead and they can do no wrong and their people are all wonderful. Some of us who used to work for the company have different views.

    Perhaps you would like to blog about the way one part of Go South Coast victimises its union reps, or the absolute mess Go Ahead have made in East Anglia?

    GA surely knew just what a whole host of problems there were at Queens Rd when they bought it. If they paid £11million plus for a stream of future losses, more fool them. I realise strategically the wanted a base in Manchester for franchising, but they appear to have paid a heavy price for that opportunity,

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  17. People must remember that this is Rogers blog and he can articulate in his opinion on any subject whatever that may be. If people don’t like it they can comment or just not read it.The whole point of opinion is that it is one sided and provokes intelligent debate This particular item is not one sided however, it appears terms and conditions at Queens Road are out of line with the bus industry in Manchester and Go Ahead are trying to provide an economic solution. The blog could have been far more critical of Unite if many of the things on the numerous Twitter posts are true.

    Andy Burnhams magic money tree may provide a solution , one that every Council Taxpayer will pay for. But if they vote for him then that’s a decision they have made at the ballot box.

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  18. The longer the Go North West dispute goes on the greater the risk to the business. It is also highly unlikely that passenger numbers post Covid will recover to the pre Covid levels neither.. There is always the possibility that that some of the temporary operators will register some of the routes. In the very early days of TfL tendering out routes there very first routes to go to tender were those that operated all or partly outside of London. One route which at that time ran in 3 section had the section that run out of London go out to tender. It was the 279 and the section that run from Hammond Strret.in Cheshunt to Manor House. Eastern National ran the tender but found themselves unable to operate at the start so TFL carried on with it for a while they then gave it up and London Country buses service stepped in to operate it on a temporary basis. Whilst they were doing so they registered the Waltham Cross to Hammond Street section as a commercial route so when Eastern National took it over it only operated between Waltham Cross and Manor house which TfL also operated as that was another section of the route so they ended up with two operators operating exactly the same route

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  19. David Beaman wonders why Go Ahead bought the business. They have form in not being duly diligent. I’ve unearthed a report I wrote on a conference in Birmingham in July 2006, which includes “The meeting was sponsored by Go-Ahead, and their main aim was to convince the locals that they were serious about becoming involved in the Midlands. They have recently bought two small bus companies in Birmingham and intend to mount serious competition to NX owned TWM in a couple of years.” Go Ahead HQ had not realised that one of these companies had expanded far beyond the owners’ ability to manage it and was in a parlous state. After two years of pouring in money and management time, with no sign of quality competition to TWM, they gave up and sold on the business. Is something similar going to happen in Manchester?

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  20. There have been a couple of posts here accusing Roger of being biased. That may be the case, as Unite (afaik) haven’t actually told us what the new scheduling / operating conditions would be. It would be interesting to be able to compare like with like.

    Other posters have commented about how conditions have been eroded with other operators over the years . . . yes, this has happened, but let me give some examples from many years ago:
    In LCBS days, schedules were compiled to an average of no more that 7:36 time on duty across each schedule. To achieve that, some duties were very short, to compensate for some that were much longer, so that the 7:36 average was attained. However, crews were paid a guaranteed day of 7:36 (with the first 40 minutes of the mealbreak unpaid). So if the duty was less than 8:16 long, the crew was still paid 7:36. If the duty was (say) 9:00 long, then the payment was 8:20. A 12:40 spreadover was paid 12:00, even though the maximum time on duty was 9:00.

    Whilst these conditions were very beneficial to road staff, they were also very expensive, and come privatisation they were re-negotiated to something more reasonable, and a one-off payment was made. I believe that LT conditions were even more rigorous than LCBS’s.
    And, whilst we didn’t have blind-turning time per se, we were paid 2 minutes to park a bus in the Garage (except when the bus was finished for the day); we were paid 2 minutes waybill time in the middle of the duty; we were able to claim overtime for any late running, even if we had a long mealbreak.

    If we were (say) 30 minutes late starting a break, and were prepared to take over on time, we were paid overtime for the late running PLUS we were paid for shortening our break, so “double-bubble”!!! That just couldn’t continue, and most crews accepted this, as the alternative could easily be “no job”!

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  21. I appreciate that comments are going off-topic here, but I am reminded of the London Forest dispute at Walthamstow garage where a T&G rep allegedly said it was in his members’ interest for the LBL unit to go bust as Capital Citibus, which stood to take over many of the routes, was offering better terms & conditions than the London Buses subsidiary was proposing for its staff.

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  22. Whilst these posts are purely Roger’s views and there is absolutely no obligation on his part to tell both sides of the story, I often find an argument is a lot more convincing if at least an effort is made to tell the other point of view, even if the same conclusions are reached. Sadly, this post just looked like a mouthpiece for Go-ahead.

    No mention was made of Unite putting together proposals to save £1.3m annually by way of pay freezes etc which were apparently rejected by Go-ahead. Now maybe this wasn’t deemed sufficient, but reading the blog one gets the impression Unite weren’t co-operative from the outset.

    I also don’t think it would have hurt to acknowledge that the Union is only representing the views of its driver members. Had insufficient drivers been concerned by what was on offer then ballot thresholds wouldn’t have been reached and UK legislation would have meant no strike would have been able to take place. It really is that simple.

    Moving on to the replacement bus services, I do wonder whether there will be the same enthusiasm on the part of these operators to run around Manchester when the economy starts returning to normal and more traditional work for coaches can be found.

    For the record, I would just like to say that, although I am a member of a Union, it is not Unite. Nor am I involved in running buses in Manchester. These are my views alone.

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  23. It’s interesting seeing these private bus companies moaning now that the Manchester wants to sort of take them over,sort of as franchising is not really taking them over.well did they moan when Mrs Thatcher handed over parts of the National Bus Company and our once extensive municipal bus networks for peanuts?

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  24. Just as the unions are often resistant to change the same applied to bus company management

    Does the current free for all outside of London work in the interest of the passengers? In my view no. It is just a mess and provides in general poor and unstable services. The tickets are not valid on other operator services neither

    The franchising system works well in London and bus services there have grown and high quality services are provided. The biggest issue is probably the lack of proper financial control but that is bot insoluble

    To increase bus usage outside of London big improvements are needed in the quality and standard of the services as well as extended hours of operation. This is not going to be achieve. It will ned some subsidy from the government/Local councils on a purely commercial basis. Bus fares outside of London are already extremely high so increasing fares is not a real option. Another approach is to introduce a modest fare for Concessionary bus passes say 25% of full fare. Another option is say a £50 to £100 a year charge for the passes. IT ill be contentious but in many areas outside of London pensioners may have free bus passes but few if any services to use them on
    Councils as well seem to be using Demand Responsive Service and Taxi Buses to avoid having to accept bus passes as most of these service do not accept them. By running the buses as a franchised network efficiency and cost savings can be achieved as well. The main risk is if Politicians get involved in running them. Another problem is the lake of engagement with actual bus users. There will be token pretences at engagement but that’s about all

    The attempt at competition on rail failed so if it did not work on rail it is certainly not working with buses. The situation is particularly bad where there is no dominant operator. Over complex fare structures and a lake of clarity on fares is another issue
    Unfair terms and conditions of travel are another serious issue

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