IN just a few months, the bus network has been transformed with key players disappearing and new companies stepping up to take their place.

Passengers are set to see a new name appear across many of Bury's buses after struggling transport giant First sold off its operations to expanding operator Diamond North West.

The firm begins its work on Sunday, August 11, after taking charge of 500 staff and First’s Bolton Weston Street depot in a deal thought to be worth £5.3m.

This deal also involved Diamond leasing 125 buses from its predecessor, which will be decked out in the new company’s colours and will service 18 bus routes throughout Bury and Bolton, including the 163, 511 and 524.

The buses will run on the same routes and times to the same stops but will be operated by a different firm.

First will only retain control on its Vantage services which will continue to run from the company’s remaining Oldham depot.

Bob Dunn, North West managing director for Diamond’s parent company Rotala, said the firm was pleased to be moving to Bolton.

“We are delighted to be expanding our business in the Greater Manchester area,” he said.

“This is the latest stage of Rotala’s growth plan and we look forward to providing the people of Bolton, Bury and surrounding areas with our commitment to deliver high quality bus network.”

After announcing its intention to take over First’s operations, West Midlands firm Rotala also made moves to shore up cash reserves.

Yesterday, the company announced plans to sell an additional £1.1m of shares in order to reduce some of the debt it has built up buying new assets.

The end of First’s dominance in Greater Manchester brought about another major shift last month when newly created operator Go North West took control of First’s operations from the Queen’s Road depot in Manchester.

The £11m deal involved taking over six key routes in Bury, although bus timetables remained the same.

Go North West has also promised to spend £3m over the next 12 months on improving buses, including replacing 15-year-old vehicles with new ones and installing more environmentally friendly engines.

While these changes were taking place, public transport bosses from across the region met for the first time as part of a new group.

The newly formed Greater Manchester Transport Committee (GMTC) includes representatives from council’s, the combined authority and mayor Andy Burnham.

Bury councillors Beth Mortenson and Roy Walker were two of the 22 individuals invited to attend the first meeting of the committee this week.

It has been set up to have oversight on Greater Manchester’s various public transport bodies and hold train, bus and tram operators to account.

The first meeting, which took place at the Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester city centre, saw Wigan’s Cllr Mark Aldred nominated as chair.

Following the decision, he said: “It’s been a great first meeting – travel and transport are issues close to many people’s hearts, and my fellow committee members and I are looking forward to representing the interests of people in our communities.

“We are looking forward to helping deliver the ambitions of Our Network, and are feeling positive about the future.”

The committee will also play a vital role in driving the delivery of ‘Our Network’ – Mr Burnham’s vision for an integrated transport system and will give local bodies more of a say in how infrastructure schemes are run.

Plans for Our Network came after a major review into public transport across Greater Manchester found that local authorities should take control of local buses through the franchising model.

This would stand at odds with the new private bus firms and has been disputed by OneBus, a partnership of operators from across the region who have presented a £100m of investment as an alternative option.

For passengers who will be travelling on any services taken over by Diamond North West, tickets are available on the bus — where you can pay by cash or contactless payment.

Horwich m-tickets are also available and are valid on Diamond North West services 574 and 575, and between Bolton and Horwich on service 576.

Tickets issued by First, including tickets purchased through their mobile app, will be accepted on all Diamond North West services from August 11 until further notice. This will also apply to the current agreement between First Manchester and Go North West. Tickets will be accepted across all three operators.

Finally, Diamond has introduced a number of new euro 6 low emission vehicles which are better for the environment and community, some also have USB charging points.