Bus and light patronage growing in Greater Manchester


Transport for Greater Manchester has reported that passengers are returning to bus and light rail services across the Greater Manchester region, but rail patronage continues to disappoint.

While Metrolink and local buses are now carrying approximately 35% to 40% of pre-Covid patronage, estimated rail patronage across Greater Manchester now stands at around 20%, with Piccadilly Station footfall around 65% less than pre-pandemic levels.

Bob Morris, TfGM’s chief operating officer, told members of the Greater Manchester transport committee earlier this month that train operators serving Greater Manchester are not yet experiencing overcrowding with social distancing on commuter services, however some have reported overcrowding at weekends and to leisure destinations such as the Peak District.

Most notable increases in patronage are on services are towards the west and north of the conurbation, within areas traditionally seen as more ‘blue collar’.

Social distancing is also not problematic on Metrolink services yet, according to Morris, thanks to the increase in network capacity to a 10-minute mostly double service since late June.

“However, with growing volumes, this will become more challenging, particularly on weekday evenings which is now Metrolink’s busiest time,” he said.

The experience of Greater Manchester has also been replicated elsewhere with growing numbers of passenger returning to public transport, in particular local bus services.

National Express Group reported earlier this month that while patronage fell by more than 80% during lockdown across its bus operations in the West Midlands and Dundee, the situation was now improving.

In the West Midlands patronage fell to a low of 14% during lockdown, but this has now grown to 53%. In Dundee the figures are 15% and 47% respectively.

However, social distancing measures continue to constrain capacity on individual vehicles.

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