Buzz in the air with just one week to go before launch of The Bee Network
A new Bee Network app that puts real time bus, tram and train travel information at customers’ fingertips for the first time – and allows them to buy combined bus and tram tickets that are 20% cheaper – has gone live today. It comes ahead of the launch of Greater Manchester’s first locally controlled bus services in nearly 40 years taking to the roads on Sunday.
The move represents the biggest change to public transport in a generation, after services were deregulated across Great Britain in 1986. Since then, the number of bus journeys made in the capital – where bus services remained under local control – has doubled, while in Greater Manchester bus use has fallen from 355m in 1986/87, to just over 182m at the end of the last decade (and before Covid).
Bus franchising signifies the start of the Bee Network – Greater Manchester’s plan for an integrated, ‘London-style’ transport network – and is the first step in reversing decades-long decline in bus use, with the recently published GM Bus Strategy setting out how the city-region aims to deliver 50 million more bus journeys each year by the end of the decade.
Ahead of services starting on Sunday, customers can now download the new Bee Network app or visit the new website, where they can get access to live departure times, see where their nearest bus or tram stop is or rate their journey. Passenger feedback from the Rate Your Journey feature will be key to making bus services accountable to the travelling public in Greater Manchester for the first time in decades. Customer focused performance targets - including punctuality and reliability of services and levels of customer complaints - will sit at the heart of the operators’ contracts and impact what they get paid. And for people who prefer to pick up the phone, or without access to a smartphone or computer, a new Bee Network customer contact centre means customers can now get in touch have their say about transport in Greater Manchester by calling and speaking to a member of staff. Once services start on 24 September, the new app will also be the home of the new AnyBus + tram ticket that makes travel 20% cheaper.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said it was an exciting moment for public transport in the city region.
He said: “This is a real milestone for the Bee Network coming less than a week before the first phase of bus franchising begins.
“It’s a taste of how, under this new system, customers will have a much better travelling experience, with their wants and needs coming first and foremost at all times. “Our new app and website bring passenger travel in Greater Manchester firmly into the 21st century, with timetables, tickets and live updates literally at people’s fingertips.” The Bee Network puts inclusivity at its heart, aiming to ensure Greater Manchester’s transport revolution leaves nobody behind. To make using the website and app easy and accessible, they have been designed so that information is presented in a simple way, with icons to help navigation, screen reader support, and assistive technology compatibility for adjusting colour contrast and the size of text.
In time more features will be added to the app (including journey planning and disruption information), making it the one-stop shop for public transport in Greater Manchester. However, it’s not just in the digital realm where accessibility and inclusivity have been built into the customer experience. From day one, a fleet on 50 new zero-emission, Bee Network-branded buses (ZEBs) will come into service. These will offer a range of customer improvements, including two bays for wheelchair-users, hearing induction loops, audio and visual announcement systems and anti-slip flooring.
Buses already running in Greater Manchester will be upgraded over the next two years as The Bee Network strives for full accessibility across the city region.
They will also begin to link up with trams, building on the success of the locally owned and managed Metrolink network, which has step-free access across all 93 stops as well as audio/visual announcements on all platforms and vehicles.
And, to provide passengers with reassurance, 30 new TravelSafe Support and Enforcement Officers (TSEOs) will be patrolling franchised bus services, interchanges and bus stations from 24 September. The Bee Network’s aims and ambitions have been praised by a leading national transport charity ahead of the launch of its first phase.
Norman Baker from Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Greater Manchester’s groundbreaking Bee Network will be the first integrated transport system of its kind in 40 years. “It’s fantastic to see how this will benefit Manchester, beginning with the first phase of Bee buses being brought under local control, while the network’s new app and website will make planning and paying for journeys simple and seamless.” Vernon Everitt, Greater Manchester Transport Commissioner, has welcomed the transformation that the launch of the Bee Network will bring. He said: “The new Bee Network, alongside the first phase releases of a new app and website and an integrated contact centre, will help us to usher in a new era of joined up public transport and active travel in the region. “Better transport will help grow the region’s economy and productivity, delivering new homes, jobs and inclusivity.
“The Rate Your Journey facility on the app will allow passengers to have their say directly to us and bus operators, bringing sharper accountability for services and shaping further improvements to the Bee Network.
“All buses will be franchised by January 2025, enabling full ‘tap and go’ integrated ticketing across Metrolink and buses. We are also working with the rail industry to begin bringing tap and go payment to the region’s rail network in 2025 as part of fully joining up all public transport services and cycle hire.”
The Customer Commitments will be hosted online at www.beenetwork.com/commitments from September 18. People will also be able to get in touch with the Bee Network Customer Contact Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0161 244 1000.