Wilmslow Road is often claimed to be the busiest bus route in Europe, but is it actually?
The Wilmslow Road bus corridor is the 5.5-mile long stretch we’ve all ventured on for one reason or another, which takes you from Piccadilly Gardens all the way to Parrs Wood.
It’s the bus route you don’t even need to look at the bus timetable for, because you know by the time you’ve taken your hood down as your shelter from the rain under the bus stop, one will be pulling in and leading you on your merry way to a house party in south Manny somewhere.
However, there is, I’m told, a bus on average every minute in each direction during university term time. And the stretch between RNCM and Oxford Road Station has a bus every 30 seconds in each direction.
Currently, two bus companies compete in giving the public the exact same service; Stagecoach Manchester (this includes our friend the wizard, Magic Bus) and First Greater Manchester.
They both quite literally run the exact same route but everyone knows the cheapest is the bright blue buses with a wizard printed on the side, which will get you all the way back for just a quid.
It’s this fact though – the one about the route, not the £1 bargain – that caused the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport to be told in 2006 that Wilmslow Road corridor was utter ‘chaos’.
So how did things get just so utterly chaotic?
Like a lot of things, we can look to Margaret Thatcher’s government. The deregulation of buses in 1986 meant bus services could run wherever and whenever they wanted.
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive ran most of the bus services on this route prior to this. In 1986, this became GM Buses.
Shortly after, competitor Finglands Coachways saw a market for cheap public transport to cater for all those pesky students. Word spread quickly and before you knew there were four bus choices; with Wall’s and Bullocks coming into the mix.
By 1996, Stagecoach bought GM Buses and introduced the Ryanair of bus services, the Magic Bus.
The market got competitive and prices just kept on getting lower and lower. In 2001, Finglands were offering a student weekly ticket for just TWO pounds. I don’t even think you can get an ice cream for two quid anymore.
Stagecoach monopolised further, buying Bullocks in 2008 and by 2013, First Greater Manchester purchased Finglands.
Now we’ve had a brief history lesson in the bus market of Manchester let’s get back to the case at hand. Is it really the busiest bus route in Europe?
Well, we don’t know. And unfortunately, there’s no real way of finding out.
First of all, no one has defined the word ‘busy’ so we don’t actually know just how many buses qualifies as the ‘busiest’ bus route.
Secondly, the timetables just aren’t reliable enough meaning we can’t actually compare it to anything else. The buses on Wilmslow Road just fly around the route as fast as they possibly can. I’m assuming when they all get back to the depot at night, compete on how many times they did it that day in a weird little bus route tourney.
And finally, different points in the day, such as rush hour, and year, such as term time, are busier than 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday, for example.
We simply don’t know if it’s the busiest route. One things for sure though, it’s got the best characters and best stories.
Meet the legendary Pret barista from Piccadilly Station who recently went viral
‘It was just crazy, mind-blowing.’
A barista who works at Pret a Manger in Piccadilly train station has spoken about a tweet that went viral about him.
The tweet was written by Nathan Bryon, who celebrated Morgan’s quick coffee making skills calling him an ‘MVP’ (most valuable player) and a ‘don’ on his Twitter page.
Nathan, 31, is an actor from Shepherd’s Bush who you may know him from the hit TV series Benidorm.
Morgan Bishop, 23, has worked at the coffee shop for three years after previously working as a chef. Used to working under pressure, he said he ‘thrives’ off the busy peak times early in the morning as people are commuting for work.
He said he first heard about the tweet when a friend messaged him to let him know. Morgan told us: “My friend said, ‘oh Morgan, I think this is about you,’ so I looked and I didn’t think it was going to do anything, but then people kept messaging me and putting up really nice comments.
“It was just crazy, mind-blowing. It’s really, really sweet to see posts and comments from strangers that are all about positive vibes. People have been saying things like I’ve got high energy when I serve them and stuff. I’m very grateful.
“I do briefly remember serving Nathan. Normally I remember peoples’ drinks but I don’t really remember his drink. I remember he was a really nice guy, really cool and dressed well.
“I remember complimenting him on certain things, and then I think he turned around and said ‘thank you’ again before walking away. I didn’t expect him to put something up which was really cool. It’s really nice for people to see that you work hard or try hard.”
Followers commenting on Nathan’s post immediately knew who the barista was and quickly commented to share if they too had been served by Morgan.
Grace Dent said: “I met him today!!! He was lovely.”
Claire Heavy added: “His name’s Morgan and he is a LEGEND. Makes my day every day.” Andy C wrote: “Served me on Saturday. Well fast.”
Morgan, who’s originally from Shrewsbury, went on to say that he’d love to have a coffee shop of his own in Manchester one day, and that he loves the city, adding: “It makes me want a coffee shop of my own. I love it here.”
When we posted the tweet on our Facebook, even Morgan’s mum got involved, writing: “Two things I love about this. 1. Morgan Bishop is my son (proud mummy right here) and 2. How lovely and kind the comments are. This is why we can’t get Morgan to move back home and why he loves Manchester so much “.
The market traders facing closure after 53 years thanks to developers
The future is uncertain for three longstanding city centre market traders.
In the row of units that extends around the corner to High Street by the Arndale, where Cafe Metro now stands empty, three market stall traders remain.
On the corner of a small stretch of Church Street, nestled between the edge of the city’s cool and quirky Northern Quarter and the trusty Arndale Shopping Centre, are the last few remaining outdoor market stalls.
It’s a funny little area that holds some remnants of the old Manchester, and it’s not pretentious in the slightest. Graffiti is scribbled across any spare patch of wall, post box and phone booth — no solid space gets away with it.
There are just three stalls remaining in the run-down plot, which sits beneath a tall concrete brutalist tower that used to hold a dental practice.
Around the corner on the same development, the once bustling Cafe Metro — a much-loved coffee shop that served hot cuppas to Mancunians for more than four decades — now stands derelict and shuttered.
“It’s a sign of the times,” says McCall’s grocery owner Mark McCall, a 59-year-old from Cheetham Hill who’s been trading in the city for 25 years. Mark is very hands-on and always appears busy. He’s either taking deliveries, disposing of boxes, taking calls or serving his customers.
McCalls is a family-run greengrocers that provides shoppers with a variety of fresh produce sourced from other parts of the world. The McCall family have been trading for 122 years and customers young and old visit this stall to shop in a more personal way.
Asked why customers enjoy the experience of shopping from his stall, Mark replied: “In supermarkets, you don’t get the same value as you do in market stalls, you don’t get the same service, and you don’t get the same bargains.
“We’re the last place where you can get a variety of produce, we’ve got Jamaican produce, and as you can see, the quality is a lot better. We get a lot of young ones coming in now, and they do enjoy being able to pick one or two things instead of a packet of things.
“They’ve got their iPhones and they find a recipe on them and then come and pick the things they need for it from here.”
But in this city of constant construction, with skyscrapers cropping up here, there and just about everywhere, it will come as no surprise that potential developers have swooped in and want to potentially transform the empty tower block into apartments — meaning the row of stalls that skirt its base may have to go.
It has recently been announced that MRP, the developing arm of Irish firm McAleer & Rushe, have now bought the plot at 20-26 Hight Street from previous company CEG. It has been passed from one developer to another since 2019 with nothing coming to fruition so far.
Mark said: “Manchester city centre, as you know, is under development and we’re under threat at the moment because the building behind us, the old dentist hospital, has been sold to turn into flats. To develop that site, they actually need the land where we’re situated. We’re still under negotiations with them about the future, and what the future holds, we don’t know.”
On the changing face of the city centre, Mark added: “For me, myself, personally, all the city centre is becoming plastic. If we go, all we need is another McDonalds or Starbucks.
“We’re doing okay, but we’re surrounded by supermarkets, we’ve got Tescos, we’ve got Co-op, we’ve got Aldi, we’ve got Morrisons. This is the last bit of character left in Manchester city centre.
“If you could show me somewhere else in the centre that’s not been redeveloped, I’ll give you a million pounds. Show me a piece of land that’s left — there is none. The city has changed massively. I’m a bit old fashioned, I preferred it the way it was.
“I’ve built this up over 25 years and the lad next door to me has been here all together 53 years. I’ve done this since I was 14 years of age so I don’t know what else I would do.”
The ‘lad next door’ being Eddie Hopkinson, the 78-year-old owner of Manchester Bookbuyers. Eddie has a great sense of humour and his regulars pop-in to browse his hand-selected book collection and say ‘hello’ — as I witnessed on my visit.
About whether he thinks the city has a future for market traders, Eddie said: “Well electricity has gone up. My last bill was £49, this bill was £185. Electricity is needed to keep these things running,” he said gesturing across to the Arndale’s indoor food markets, making a point about running costs not being sustainable in the long run.
He joked: “I’ve been here for 53 years, it could have been worse, I could have had to work for a living. Well, I got sacked from a job and I had the chance to start a business so that’s how I got into this.”
Eddie told me that he doesn’t read books and has probably read ‘about six in my life’, but he hand picks them himself from people with unwanted books, and tries to find interesting ones for his customers. He adds:“I keep getting feedback from the customers saying that they don’t want to see us go, but on the other hand, I can’t go on forever.
“You’ve only got to walk around and see the massive developments taking place and it’s mainly apartments. The commercial enterprises obviously think there’s a demand for them but personally, I don’t think there is a demand for all of them.”
On how he feels about the direction the city is taking and the sudden appearance of multiple apartment blocks to fill with young professionals and city dwellers, he shrugs and says: “I’ve got no choice.”
“Hobson’s Choice!”, chirps a regular, standing nearby and listening to our conversation. He laughs as he makes a joke with reference to a film set in Salford in the Victorian era, a romantic comedy about a family boot making business. He asks Eddie: “Are you alright, young man?”
I suppose you can’t always take life too seriously and times are always changing, regardless of whether or not we want them to. Eddie continues: “I guess I’ll have to like it or lump it.”
Another customer comes along with a hard-back book and asks him how much. Eddie looks at the book and says: “It’s an expensive book. Well it was when it was made, it was £54,” pointing to the old price label. “I’ll give it you for 20,” and the customer accepts.
In a third stall Emmy, 30, works at McCall’s Organics. They stock sustainable and organically sourced goods — great for the eco-minded and hipster types that frequent the area. She’s been working here for two years and has lived in Manchester for 10. Emmy seems quite positive, with a sunny outlook and a warm smile to go with.
She believes that if they have to move out of their Church Street premises, then there will always be another opportunity to do something similar elsewhere. “There’s always hope,” she says.
Manchester City Council have asked the developers to support the stall-owners to continue to trade, or to be compensated. Though the land that is up for development isn’t owned by the Council, it said: “The Northern Quarter is a special part of Manchester’s city centre, and part of its appeal is its mix of independent businesses. The site on Church Street is owned by a private developer.
“The Council is currently working with the new owners of the Church Street site to bring forward development. The Council has been clear throughout – both with the former owners and the current – that their proposals must include provision for the market traders to either support them to continue trading at the site, find a suitable alternative site close by or should any traders wish to cease operating come to an adequate compensation agreement.
“We will continue to work with the developer in the coming months to ensure an acceptable resolution for the trading businesses.”
McAleer & Rushe have been contacted by Proper Manchester for comment.
Thousands of teachers take to the streets of Manchester in mass strike action
‘We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.’
Thousands of teachers gathered on a blustery, grey-skied and rainy afternoon in Manchester city centre to march through the streets as part of a national day of mass scale strikes across the country.
Dubbed ‘Walk-out Wednesday’, February 1st has seen huge disruption to services all over the UK as workers take ‘last resort’ action over pay, conditions and budgets.
The National Education Union (NEU) is one of seven unions on strike today. Around 500,000 workers are expected to walk out, including university staff who are members of the University and College union (UCU), such as those at the University of Manchester. Also on strike are rail workers and border control.
Many classrooms across the region are closed for the day while NEU members strike, with some year groups told to stay at home. Students with upcoming exams and vulnerable children have been prioritised for a limited place inside their school today, following guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).
The NEU says today’s action follows a series of real-terms pay cuts over the past decade, while this year’s pay rise offer of 5% falls well below inflation. The union insists that pay and conditions are seeing significant numbers of teachers quit the profession.
Talks took place earlier this week between the NEU and the DfE in an attempt to avert today’s strike action but proved unsuccessful, as the union claim education secretary Gillian Keegan had ‘squandered’ the opportunity. The DfE says today’s strike action is ‘highly damaging to children’s education’ especially following the pandemic.
Still going ahead, crowds flocked to a very wet St Peter’s Square, with the meet-up time of 12.30pm. In typical teacher fashion, the city centre was already bustling with those working in education, as they showed up early to ensure a prompt start and express their passion for their jobs, their rights, and the rights of their pupils.
Also with them were union representatives, some children and general supporters of their cause. Horns were sounding, drums were banging and cheers could be heard just about everywhere. In contrast to the miserable weather, many teaching staff wore bright colours including knitted hats and bold coats, and were seemingly cheerful. Upon speaking to them, it became clear that they’d had enough and that it was time to take a stand.
Amongst the noise and sea of people, Cath D, a primary school teacher spoke about why she felt she had to take strike action, saying: “I really did not want to be here today, I really wanted to be in my classroom having a normal day with my kids. But, things have become so difficult recently. It’s not just that we want more money, education is under-funded massively.”
Cath attended the rally with a group of teachers from her school based in Salford. She went on to describe how school funding cuts had affected the classroom: “The poor children. I’ve literally seen children fighting over pencils, can you believe that in 2023?
“I wish I could say ‘here’s 100 pencils, it doesn’t matter’, but this is where we are at the moment. We are doing this for us; our wages have come down in real terms over the years, but I’ll leave all the statistics for the unions.”
On why changes were also necessary for children in education, she said: “For some children, school is the one constant that they have in their life and we’ve got to come in refreshed and remunerated. For some children, we’re the one constant that they have, and we need to be there for them.”
After speakers talked to the crowds and people cheered in agreement, they started off on their march around the city. Among the marchers, a retired GMB union member stomped the streets in solidarity, he said: “We support the TA’s, the kitchen staff and all the support staff, managers and office workers around Tameside.
“We’re here to show we support the lowering of the pensionable age and to pay workers a proper wage that they need.”
Three English teachers from a school in Cheetham Hill spoke about the reasons they took strike action today, as one said: “It feels like the last resort, where we’ve had to come together and join all these people to make a point that we’ve been trying to for years and years, but no one’s listening.”
Another said: “Our children will not get the results that they need and deserve and want, if we have to put up with these conditions.” The third added: “It’s not just about our salaries, it’s all of the funding and resources that have been cut too.”
A Greater Manchester teacher for children with English as their second language, called Ali, said: “I’m striking because of the unacceptable situation that teachers and the education system are being put under.
“We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.
“What we need are more teachers and better pay. And, we can do that if we tax the people with more money, rather than what this government has been doing, which is tax rates for the rich and spending money in very unwise and corrupt ways.”
Despite what workers and unions are asking, the Education minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC that the government would not budge, and that giving in to demands for large wage increases would only fuel inflation.
“What we cannot do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everybody. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” she said.