COUNCILLORS have asked for an urgent meeting with transport bosses after dozens of complaints were raised about the new Bee Network system.

On Sunday, September 24, the first fleet of Bee Network buses was rolled out across Wigan, Leigh, Bolton, and parts of Bury and Salford.

Under plans to bring buses under local control for the first time in almost 40 years, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority aims to offer an affordable and integrated transport network to travel on buses, trams, and eventually trains across the region.

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Leigh Journal: The first fleet of Bee Network buses were introduced on September 24The first fleet of Bee Network buses were introduced on September 24 (Image: Bee Network)
In Leigh, Atherton, and Tyldesley, promises have been made to increase the frequency of the V1 and V2 services along the Guided Busway.

The V2 route from Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary will also be reinstated to a full service, which is something that residents, business owners, and councillors have been crying out for.

However, after the "game changing" plans were announced, there have been some teething problems as the network has officially begun.

Many residents have taken to social media to complain about delays on the new bus network, while councillor for Tyldesley and Mosley Common, James Fish, said that he has had more than 50 complaints from local commuters.

Leigh Journal: Independent Network councillor for Tyldesley and Mosley Common, James FishIndependent Network councillor for Tyldesley and Mosley Common, James Fish (Image: Leigh Journal)
The Independent Network councillor said: "The Bee Network was introduced as a significant upgrade from the previous model and is supposed to be cheap, reliable, and safe.

"I've had over 50 residents complaining to me about the service, with some waiting nearly 2 hours for a bus only for it to arrive and be full.

"Many residents are having to pay out nearly £400 extra per year to use the Bee Network and are not getting a service they deserve.

"It's also known that the ticket systems are still not working, which is no doubt costing taxpayers a loss of revenue.

"This is why myself and my colleagues from Atherton North have written to both TFGM and the Mayor of Greater Manchester asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the ongoing issues and when we will see improvements."

Leigh Journal: Cllr McStein with former Leigh MPs Andy Burnham and Jo Platt, and fellow Labour councillorsCllr McStein with former Leigh MPs Andy Burnham and Jo Platt, and fellow Labour councillors (Image: Bee Network)
Labour councillor for Atherton and Lilford South, Lee McStein, also said he has heard a number of complaints from people travelling on the 582 and V2 bus services, although accepted that hitches are inevitable in such an overhaul.

Cllr McStein said: "Issues seem to be focused around driver shortages, which are affecting services with a high frequency more than others.

"[Another] issue that is being reported as a major issue for passengers is inaccurate information. The Bee Network app doesn't show when services have been withdrawn, so passengers are waiting for buses that are not actually running, and getting rightly frustrated when the information is apparently given in real time is incorrect.

"Other issues have included a lack of route knowledge for drivers, along with a lack of ability to pay cash on services as drivers do not carry a float to start their day.

"While I fully appreciate that a franchising operation that delivers this level of sweeping change isn't easy to implement without hitches, it's fair to say passengers expected a far smoother change and immediate, noticeable improvements that we have been promised."

Emphasising that a focus needs to be placed on monitoring the shift back to a full V2 service, Cllr McStein added: "The truth in this case is that while we are pleased to have the service return to Atherton, we are yet to see this return to the full, reliable service we have been promised.

"We will be continuing to monitor this and feed back directly to TfGM, and would encourage passengers to do the same."

Leigh Journal: More than 1,000 drivers have had to adapt to the new systemMore than 1,000 drivers have had to adapt to the new system (Image: Bee Network)
Transport for Greater Manchester, who is managing the Bee Network operation, explained that 50 new zero-emission buses were introduced into the bus service over the weekend, along with 300+ vehicles that will soon transition into the new system.

This has required the installation of new ticket machines and IT systems onboard each vehicle, as well as the transfer of more than 1,000 drivers.

TfGM also explained that drivers who don't have the same level of local knowledge are receiving additional support to assist with the new routes, while work is ongoing with suppliers to resolve some "minor technical problems" which have been reported.

TfGM's deputy director of bus services, Alison Chew, said: "The move to a franchised system is the biggest change to public transport in a generation. It has been a monumental challenge that has seen us change to an entirely different way of running buses literally overnight.

“Given the scale of change, things are working well, but there has been some delays to some services and we apologise to anyone who has experienced any issues.

“I’d like to reassure passengers that we are working hard with the operators to get all services running on time.”