Metroshuttle is a free bus system that operates in Greater Manchester.
The system was first introduced in Manchester city centre in 2002, with three routes linking the city's major thoroughfares and stations with its main commercial, financial and cultural districts.
In later years, similar services were introduced in Stockport and Bolton. An Oldham service ran temporarily in 2012 until a Metrolink line was constructed through the town.
Transport across the Greater Manchester conurbation historically suffered from poor north–south connections due to the fact that Manchester's main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, were built in the 1840s on peripheral locations outside Manchester City Centre. In the 1960s and 1970s, the public transport authority SELNEC evaluated a number of proposals to connect Manchester's northern and southern rail terminals, including several types of monorail systems and metro-style systems. A scheme was promoted to build an underground rail link across Manchester City Centre, known as the Picc-Vic tunnel, but this failed to attract the necessary government funding and the project was cancelled in 1977.
To address the problem of cross-city transit, Greater Manchester PTE (SELNEC's successor) proposed a new circular shuttle bus service between Piccadilly and Victoria stations. The new Centreline bus service was initially opposed by the Taxi Owners' Association, but was approved by the North Western Traffic Commissioner. Centreline was first operated using a fleet of Seddon Pennine IV midibuses, noted for their diminutive appearance. GMPTE also introduced an experimental battery-electric bus onto Centreline, the Lucas Electric Bus, which was based on the Seddon chassis and body. This was Greater Manchester's second electric bus, the first being SELNEC's experimental Silent Rider, but it was eventually taken out of service. Operated under the Greater Manchester Transport brand, Centreline came into operation on 1 July 1974. Passengers were charged a flat fare of 2p for each jounrney.
Centreline continued to provide inter-station transit links for several years. After bus deregulation, the service was operated by GM Buses. In 1992, the new Metrolink light rail system began operating across Manchester city centre, providing an electric tram link between the mainline stations, although Centreline continued to operate. In 2002, the Centreline name disappeared from Manchester streets as the service was rebranded as Metroshuttle. First Manchester was chosen by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to operate the service and has retained the contract. Two routes were introduced, numbered 1 and 2. The service was extremely successful. Route 3 was introduced in September 2005 and links additional areas of the city centre.
Manchester's Metroshuttle is a partnership between TfGM, Manchester City Council, National Car Parks and the property developer Allied London. The service is zero-fare (free) and does not require any tickets or passes. Allied London own the Spinningfields mixed-use development and all three routes serve this site. The service is also partially supported by advertising. First Greater Manchester provides a publicity contribution. The free service costs approximately £1.2 million each year.
The Manchester Metroshuttle network consists of three services, each operated by First Greater Manchester. The services were originally operated using a dedicated fleet of 18 Optare Solo minibuses with route branding applied for all services, Route 1 (orange), Route 2 (green), Route 3 (purple). Some Solos carried a generic livery, consisting of silver-grey in place of the route colours allowing them to be used on any route. In November 2010, 20 electric hybrids Optare Versas replaced the Solos. In July 2014, three electric Optare Versas were introduced. Metroshuttle bus stops also share the same route colour of the appropriate bus stopping there.
These are the routes as of January 2017.
* denotes peak hours only (07:25–09:30 and 16:30–19:20 Monday–Friday)
Bolton's Metroshuttle first began operating on 17 November 2008 and follows a similar operation to Manchester's Metroshuttle on a 12-month trial. Bluebird was chosen by TfGM to operate the service. The company ran the service until 25 January 2010, when local company Maytree Travel took over the operation of the service. The service has been re-routed on two occasions, the first to serve the Sainsbury's supermarket in the town, and then again in January 2011, when the service was given a 12-month contract extension and re-routed to serve the university. This route change saw the service reduced from every 10 minutes to every 15 minutes.
In November 2012, it was announced that the contract for the service had been extended for another year and that South Lancs Travel had been successful in winning the tender for the Bolton Metroshuttle. The company took over the operation of the service from 31 December 2012 and uses diesel hybrid vehicles purchased by Transport for Greater Manchester.
Bolton's Metroshuttle is a partnership between GMPTA and Bolton Council. The service is completely zero-fare (free) and does not require any tickets or passes. The free service will cost approximately £200,000 per year.
Bolton's Metroshuttle originally consisted of two 25-seater Alexander Dennis Enviro200 single decker buses, with black and red route branding, although this has changed following Maytree Travel taking over the service, who replaced it with a blue branding. The service starts on Newport Street, outside Bolton Interchange, before running anti-clockwise around the town centre using existing stops within the town centre before returning to Newport Street.
Stockport's Metroshuttle first began operating during Christmas 2007 as a complementary shuttle designed to help ferry the elderly and disabled around Stockport more easily. It was reintroduced on 29 November 2008 as permanent fixture. Branded the Stockport Shuttle Bus it was operated by Solutions SK on behalf of Stockport Council, before operations switched to Freshfield Coaches the following month, after it was revealed that SolutionsSK had been operating the service with a freight licence. The service was re-branded in August 2009 to form part of the Metroshuttle network, and was given a new livery to mark the change. Prior to this, the fleet (consisting of Optare Solos) were unpainted and fairly run down, even lacking roll blinds. The fleet was replaced with new Alexander Dennis Enviro200s, fitted with digital displays. In 2010, the operator of the service changed, with Oldham based Swan's Travel taking over the service on a short-term basis, before being replaced by Bluebird in October 2010. Bluebird ran the service until March 2011, when the service was taken over by Stagecoach Manchester, who run the majority of services in Stockport. Stagecoach ran the service until 1 July 2012, when it was transferred to Arriva North West's Wythenshawe depot.
Stockport's Metroshuttle runs in two loops around Stockport town centre and use existing stops, as well as dedicated stops in areas where other services do not operate within the town centre. The service starts from Stockport bus station and runs to Stockport railway station via Grand Central Stockport before returning to the bus station then via Mersey Square, Bridgefield Street, Warren Street (for Sainsbury's and Asda), Great Portland Street to Tesco before returning via Knightsbridge, Warren Street (for Sainsbury's and Asda again), Millgate, Churchgate, Little Underbank and Great Underbank to Stockport Bus Station.
In June 2012, the Manchester Metrolink tram network started running services to Oldham with trams running to a temporary Oldham Mumps Metrolink station located near the former railway station before trams start running into the town centre and a new Mumps stop in 2014. Following criticism of long walks up steep hils into the town centre from passengers, Transport for Greater Manchester and Oldham Council organised a free service linking the tram stop with the town centre.
The service was branded as Metroshuttle and started service on 30 July 2012 running a half-hourly service. From 1 October 2012, the service increased to every 20 minutes with Optare Versa hybrids, similar to the ones used on the Manchester Metroshuttle services, also introduced.
The service was extended to run until 20:00 on Thursdays from mid-November 2012 until Christmas and also on weekdays on the week before Christmas to appeal to Christmas shoppers in Oldham. The service continued until the town began to be served by Metrolink.
Oldham's Metroshuttle starts outside the Metrolink station on Victoria Street. The service then heads to Oldham town centre along the Oldham Way by-pass (A62 before heading into town via King Street stopping near Mecca Bingo. The service had previously run temporarily to the Manchester Street roundabout and then up Manchester Street, stopping outside Aldi while King Street was closed due to the Metrolink work going on in the town centre.
From King Street, the service continues into the town centre and the bus station, stopping at the Cheapside station at stand C. The route then follows the same route as several of the fare-paying services via St Mary's Way, Lord Street, Yorkshire Street and Princes Street back onto the Oldham Way before looping around to the tram stop on the other side of the carriageway via Huddersfield Road, Cross Street and Lees Road. An additional stop on Lees Road was introduced from October 2012.
Following the success of Metroshuttle, Transport for Greater Manchester have been studying the feasibility of introducing Metroshuttle routes in other towns in Greater Manchester, to provide a high-quality town centre bus service that links key public transport nodes and car parks with the main retail, commercial, leisure and cultural destinations within town centres.
Other towns like Bury and Wigan had been mentioned to gain routes, however, the chances of this happening were reduced following the rejection of the Manchester Congestion Charge in December 2008. However, Oldham gained a Metroshuttle service in July 2012.