The ‘rogue bus service’ being be operated by Go North West in the Greater Manchester area, is under investigation for serial Covid-19 safety failures and breaches of other vital safety regulations.

Rogue bus service 

Go North West, which is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group, launched its ‘rogue bus service’ rather than seek a negotiated settlement to the dispute with Unite, the UK’s leading union, over plans to fire and rehire its bus drivers on vastly inferior terms and conditions.

As a result, over 400 bus drivers have been on all-out (continuous) strike action since 28 February. The drivers began their fourth week of strike action yesterday (Sunday 21 March).

Earlier this month, Unite highlighted how Go North West’s ‘rogue bus service’ was operating dangerously overcrowded buses. In response, the company claimed it was a one off incident.

Detailed dossier

While taking strike action, Go North West bus drivers have been compiling a detailed dossier on all the safety failings of the ‘rogue bus service’.

The dossier details problems with the sub-contracted buses being operated by B and N Coaches, Connexions Buses, Edwards Coaches, Orion Travel, Red Rose, Selwyns, Swans, The Big Coach Company, The Travellers Choice and Tyrers Coaches.

Extensive list

The list of illegal activity was extensive and included: overcrowding and ignoring reduced capacity rules to prevent Covid-19 transmissions, allowing passengers to stand (often close to the driver), a failure to tape off seats around drivers, a complete absence of screens to protect drivers from Covid transmission and a failure to properly seal screens if they were in place.

Other non-Covid failures included: Many of the coaches were not accessible to disabled people and pose a danger for those with limited mobility, no ability to issue tickets, bicycles in aisleways and a lack of information that the services are being operated on behalf of Go North West.

Investigation launched

The dossier was initially sent to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the North West Travel Commissioner. The DVSA has confirmed: “Your concerns have been forwarded to the appropriate Bus Compliance Unit for your area and the appropriate Regional Intelligence Unit for your area for further investigation.” 

Unite believes the failure to take measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 are very serious and is likely to be a key factor in rising infection rates in the Greater Manchester area.

Scandal exposed 

Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said: “The scandal of Go North West’s dangerous ‘rogue bus service’ is finally being exposed.

 “For three weeks Go North West has been operating its ‘rogue bus service’ without scrutiny, which has risked the health of bus passengers, their families and the general public in Greater Manchester.

 “It is no surprise that Covid-19 rates in Greater Manchester, which were already high, are increasing when buses that have been flouting the transmission rules have been in constant operation in our communities.

 “The DVSA investigation is welcome and will be able to nail Go North West’s lie that the previous incidents of overcrowding were one offs, when the truth is that they are flouting regulations across their ‘rogue bus service’.”


Notes to editors:

 If Go North West’s fire and rehire proposals are implemented it will result in:

  • A 10 per cent cut in bus drivers
  • Workers, who earn an average of £24,000 per annum, forced to work longer for no additional pay, resulting in them being £2,500 a year worse off
  • Tearing up the existing sick pay policy, which will force workers to work when they are sick or should be self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The strikes are affecting passenger across the Greater Manchester area and beyond. Go North West operates 130 buses on 30 routes in Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Trafford and Warrington.

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.