Bus deal done at last

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THE proposed Wigan bus buy-out deal revealed by the Evening Post finally takes place this weekend.

First Manchester Limited has formally confirmed that it will hand over the keys of its borough operation to rivals Stagecoach tomorrow.

The acquisition will be completed at 5am...the time at which Stagecoach will take full responsibility for 300 employees, the existing 120 First liveried vehicles, leased premises in Wigan Bus Station plus the new Lockett Road depot on the South Lancs Industrial Estate at Ashton.

There will then be a transitional period as Stagecoach Manchester adopts the First ticketing systems and prepares to introduce its own ticket machines and processes.

Initially customers will not notice any changes, other than the gradual introduction of the familiar red white and blue Stagecoach colours replacing First’s white and red livery.

The terms and conditions of all First staff transferring to Stagecoach will be protected under the TUPE arrangements.

However Unite, the union representing most of the staff, has yet to make any official comment about the deal.

Stagecoach Manchester managing director, Christopher Bowles, said: “While there will be an initial period of transition as we begin operate services in Wigan, we want to reassure customers that we will do everything possible to minimise disruption and to make the process as smooth as possible.

“Wigan residents will no doubt be pleased to hear that one of the first things we will be doing as part of the take-over is investing into our bus fleet by replacing some of the existing First buses with 30 brand new buses and 31 more modern buses to operate in Wigan, Leigh and the surrounding areas.”

Stagecoach Manchester has also confirmed that there will be no change in the immediate future to the timetables or routes currently operating within Wigan.

A spokesman for the management at First Manchester said: “We at First would like to thank all of our former staff for their efforts over the years.

Wigan Coun Mark Aldred, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee’s Bus Network Sub-committee said: “We’re confident that the announcement that Stagecoach has agreed to acquire the Wigan bus business and assets from First Manchester will be good news for passengers.”