Philip Higgs - who recently came under fire over a ‘malicious’ YouTube video - will operate the sightseeing service from 14 April
Bus operator Philip Higgs will this week launch Manchester’s first daily hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus, weeks after a row over a ‘malicious’ Youtube video threatened to end a number of their services in the North West.
Higgs’ Blackpool-based firm, Catch22bus, faced having its licence revoked after an investigation found he had employed a private investigator to tail North West traffic commissioner, Beverley Bell, following a dispute.
A video posted to YouTube - which has received over 23k views - professed to show Bell committing a series of traffic violations in September 2015.
Higgs – who was subsequently issued with a harassment notice by Lancashire Police - has since lodged an appeal against the decision, according to The Blackpool Gazette.
Despite the recent turmoil, Higgs - who is also managing director of Sightseeing Manchester - is striding on with his latest project, which will see a new, green, open-topped double decker bus depart on its inaugural journey across Manchester from Good Friday (14 April), taking in sites such as Manchester Town Hall, Old Trafford (but not the Etihad, oops) and MediaCityUk.
Higgs said: “As a born and bred Mancunian who has operated sightseeing tours in other cities across Europe, it always struck me as odd that Greater Manchester, with its many iconic tourist hotspots, has not previously had a daily, year-round bus tour.
“Having recently returned to the city after a number of years away – and seeing how far the tourism industry has come on in that time – I am delighted to be able to start a new business to fill the gap in the market and I’m looking forward to packing our striped green buses with tourists.”
In an an additional coup for Higgs and city tourism, commentary for the tour has been provided by Lord of the Rings and Lost actor Dominic Monaghan, who grew up nearby in Stockport.
What you need to know...
How much will it cost? Adult (£12); Young Person and Students (£6); OAP (£6); Family (Two Adults, Three Children) (£25); Four Adults (£30).
Where will it go? There are fifteen stops on the initial route: Manchester Town Hall; King Street; Aytoun Street; Piccadilly Gardens; Church Street; National Football Museum and Victoria Station; Manchester Cathedral; Salford Cathedral; Salford University; The Lowry and The Quays; Trafford Road; Old Trafford; Imperial War Museum North; Museum of Science and Industry; Bridgewater Hall; and returning to Manchester Town Hall (visitors will be able to hop on and off at any stop within 24 hours of purchasing their ticket).
Er, why no Man City or Universities? Bosses say ‘it is impossible to accommodate all landmarks and attractions on the initial route whilst keeping to the 90 minute timeframe’ and ‘those hotspots on the initial route are some of Greater Manchester’s most visited and popular attractions’. Additional routes are currently in planning.
Do you need to book? Pre-booking is not essential and visitors can simply walk up and purchase a ticket from the driver. Tickets can be booked in advance at sightseeingmanchester.com
So why has it taken until now to launch a daily hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus in Manchester? After all, they are an industry standard already well established in cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow with much smaller tourist numbers. City guide and Confidential editor-at-large, Jonathan Schofield, offers his explanation:
“A large part of the problem for a bus is letting guests actually see key sites. Last year I was asked to do a tour around the city centre, the Quays and Sportcity. Because of traffic restrictions, bus lanes, Metrolink extensions and road closures it was hard to create a route that took in the key landmarks of the city centre in any coherent form.
“Major buildings with major stories to tell about Manchester had to be missed out including the Royal Exchange, the Cathedral and the University of Manchester. Often the route forced the coach onto the inner ring road and long moments of languor in traffic jams through redeveloping areas with as much visual interest as the bottom of a bucket.
“And even if tourist buses have freedom of the city then that matters for nothing if they still can’t move. If Manchester is to compete for tourism with other UK cities in the future then road conditions and customer experience will need to improve.’
As things currently stand, it's difficult to see a Saturday tour bus managing Town Hall to Salford Central in less than 90 minutes, let alone Old Trafford and back. Still, for a city now attracting upwards of 115 million visitors a year, it's certainly a move in right direction... should the bus be able to move, that is.