Defunct bus routes in Greater Manchester formed after deregulation day
For the most part of the last 25 years, bus operations outside London have been subject to the worst excesses of neoliberal economics. Networks have continuously shifted to meet ‘market demands’, resulting in an unstable system which has seen falling passenger numbers. This has seen inferior service quality, higher fares and older vehicles on our streets. Greater Manchester is no exception, and even more so, having had at one time some 71 operators within the GMPTE ticketing boundary.
Despite all this it has given us many weird and wonderful routes. It has also done more to increase the use of minibuses on streets once unserved by standard buses, and brought competition to soap opera type proportions. Bad points aside, there has been few dull moments.
As the creative genius behind East of the M60 has missed more buses than the average car loving Tory voter, this instalment of The Not So Perfect Ten focuses on lost bus routes in the Greater Manchester area. All routes suffixed with an asterisk denote the ones I have travelled on myself.
Each entry includes reference to its replacement routes, correct to August 2009.
- X5: Stockport – Cheadle – Trafford Centre (Limited Stop);
- 600: Mossley (Hey Farm) – Ashton-under-Lyne – Trafford Centre (Limited Stop)*;
- 341: Uppermill – Ashton-under-Lyne (via Mossley);
- D32: Ashton – Hyde Circular (via King Street, Dukinfield);
- 333: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde – Hattersley*;
- S36: Ashton-under-Lyne – Glossop*;
- 398: Grotton – Oldham – Ashton-under-Lyne*;
- P1: Dukinfield (Yew Tree) – Ashton – Oldham (via Crowhill)*;
- 434: Manchester – Ashton-under-Lyne (via Newton Heath and Failsworth);
- X9: Bolton – Manchester (Express)*.
1: Stockport – Trafford Centre (X5)
On our imaginary journey, we take the X5 from Stockport bus station to the Trafford Centre. To commemorate the opening of Peel Holdings’ cathedral to consumerism, Stagecoach Manchester launched limited stop route X5 in September 1998. This followed the 371 route up to Cheadle before joining the M56.
What happened next: the route was withdrawn after 2 years. For most passengers it was easier to get a 371 between Cheadle and Stockport. Given the high concentration of car ownership and affluent population, it lost out, unanimously to the car.
2: Trafford Centre – Mossley, Hey Farm (600)
Launched also at the same week as the X5 was the 600 from Mossley, Hey Farm estate. Whereas the X5 had an hourly frequency on Monday – Saturday, the 600 was a much more limited affair (1 return journey, Saturdays only). Operated by First Pennine, it was a limited stop route which called at Mossley (Hey Farm, Bottom Mossley and Brookbottom), Ashton-under-Lyne, Denton and Brinnington, before joining the M60 motorway. There was also further stops at the Portwood junction of the M60 motorway and Stretford Arndale Centre.
What happened next: the route withdrawn in August 1999. A faster option for most Tameside residents would have been the car: the journey took 50 minutes from Hey Farm. With its pitiful frequency, a train to Manchester Victoria, and the 100 from Arndale Bus Station would have been a better alternative. Even now, it is more convenient for Tameside bus users to change at Manchester city centre (for example, 216/219 from Ashton then the 250 or X50 route).
3: Mossley – Ashton-under-Lyne (341):
Between these two points, I could in 2009 catch the 350, or (from the 3rd August) the S50. From the start of deregulation, two independent companies made an impact in Mossley: one was Checkmate Coaches, the other, Dennis’ Coaches. The latter company, from the 27th October 1986, launched a new service to Ashton.
Compared with the 350, Dennis’ used standard excursion coaches for their service. It also differed from the GM Buses service by being the first bus route in Tameside to stop at an ASDA store. Along with sister route 342, it gave Uppermill and Mossley a link with the store on Langham Street.
What happened next: the route was an early casualty of deregulation, being withdrawn by the summer of 1987. Most of the route is covered by First Greater Manchester’s 350 route with the section to Langham Street covered by Stagecoach Manchester’s 231 from Queen’s Road to Waterloo (Oldham Road/Wilshaw Road junction). The ASDA store moved to its present site on Cavendish Street in April 1989, served by the 41/330/335/345 bus routes.
4: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde Circular (D32):
Dukinfield in the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s saw a glut of minibuses on short distance local routes. For example, GM Buses had the number 1 route, which competed with Pine Coaches’ P1 route, and Bee Line Buzz Company service 14. Lesser known was Dennis’ Coaches route D32, launched in May 1990. The route whisked passengers in the direction of Hyde via King Street and Ashton Road before returning to Ashton.
What happened next: there is little reference of this route (though I would be grateful if anyone had any further information). However, most of the route was replaced by extensions of their 216 and 219 services to Manchester – calling at the forecourt of the Morrisons store off Foundry Street. The Dukinfield extensions of the 216 and 219 were withdrawn by February 2001.
5: Hattersley – Hyde – Ashton-under-Lyne (333):
Another pioneering operator of the late 1980s and early 1990s was Stuarts Bus and Coach. Formerly known as Trimtrack, the coach company started bus operations on Deregulation Day, carving a niche around Hyde, Newton and Hattersley.
Our imaginary journey has taken us to the 1981 version of Hyde bus station with its draughty stands. I take my place at Stand D for an Ashton bound 333, operated with an Alexander bodied Daimler Fleetline, de rigeur for 1991. The 333 began at Hattersley, continuing to Hyde and Ashton, via Dukinfield Town Hall.
What happened next: the route was renumbered 3 to avoid confusion with the Ashton – Smallshaw Circular service. It outlasted Stuarts Bus and Coach’s stage carriage operations, following the company’s loss of GMPTE contracts and safety record. The route was taken over by Stagecoach Manchester who extended it to Glossop and renumbered them as two routes (398/399) in 1998. The section between Ashton – Hyde was withdrawn, due to duplication of sister route 330.
The Hyde – Glossop section remains, albeit with some journeys amalgamated with former Glossopdale route 341 and other journeys renumbered 397. Since 2007, both routes have been operated by Speedwellbus.
2016 Update: The 397 was withdrawn in May 2011. The 341 service is the sole survivor, operated by High Peak. Evening journeys were operated till April 2016 as the 202 service, taking a more direct route between Hyde and Mottram than the 341.
6: Ashton-under-Lyne – Glossop (S36):
In 2002, Speedwellbus was established as a private hire company in Glossop. Two years later, it began bus operations with the S36 service to Ashton-under-Lyne, competing with Stagecoach Manchester’s 236/237 services.
Back in Ashton, our imaginary journey has taken us to 2004 with the sight of one of Speedwellbus’ pristine Optare Solos. The S36 continued to Tameside Hospital, Stalybridge, Mottram-in-Longdendale and Hollingworth, before stopping at Glossop.
What happened next: the S36, which entered Glossop via Back Moor, lost out to Stagecoach Manchester. Their 236/237 routes were rerouted via Back Moor, with another route (238) being diverted to serve Tameside Hospital. Being robbed of these unique selling points saw the withdrawal of the S36. Soon after, Speedwellbus won the tender for the 238 (formerly the Ashton – Hattersley – Hyde extension of the 201) and the 239. The 238 has since been renumbered 387 and is operated by First Pioneer.
2020 Update: the 387 saw a change of operator in 2012, following SpeedwellBus’ demise in January that year. First Greater Manchester took on the route before dropping it in September 2019 (a victim of the operator’s Tamexit strategy). It was taken over by MCT Travel who operated the route till the 18 April 2020. Today, the 387 route is no more and could well be the subject of a future Lost Bus Routes article.
7: Ashton-under-Lyne – Oldham – Grotton (398):
After a pint at The Star Inn near Glossop railway station, our imaginary journey sees us returning on the S36 to Ashton. We finish up at Stand M of Ashton bus station and see a crowd of people leaving the then new Arcades Shopping Centre. I was back in 1995 and realised that I had left my Teen Travel Club card at home and didn’t want to pay GM Buses North fares aboard the 409 to Oldham.
I chose the Stotts service 398, operated by a former South Yorkshire PTE Leyland Atlantean. The Alexander bodied bus in its smart livery whisks me to Oldham for the princely sum of 90p (actual 1995 adult fare to Oldham from Ashton aboard their route). The service followed the 409 route up to Oldham (West Street) before continuing to Grotton via St. Mary’s Way and Lees Road.
What happened next: the service was withdrawn by 1996, giving GM Buses North (and ultimately First Manchester) monopoly status between Ashton and Oldham on the 409 route.
2020 Update: First Greater Manchester did see some competition with SpeedwellBus in 2010 with the S49 route. This was a short lived spoiler for FirstGroup’s 409 between Ashton and Oldham. With its Sundays only operation, it struggled to gain a foothold and was withdrawn the following year. First Greater Manchester in its much reduced form retains the 409 route. It is one of its flagship routes alongside the 83 and 59.
8: Oldham – Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield (P1):
The P1 was for a short time Pine Coaches’ sole route, linking Dukinfield (Yew Tree) with the Morrisons store and Ashton-under-Lyne. It differed by dedicating one stretch of its route (Armadale Road) to genuine hail and ride operation, without the need for conventional bus stops.
On my imaginary journey back to Ashton, I am back in October 1991 where I eschew the Leyland Atlanteans of GM Buses (Northern Counties) and Bee Line (Eastern Coach Works) on the 409 for a Mercedes minibus. The route followed that of the 409 between Oldham and Waterloo (Dog and Partridge), entering Crowhill via Littlemoss Road, and continuing to Ashton bus station. The Dukinfield section followed the 340 route up to Armadale Road, which it would take to reach Morrisons, before terminating at Yew Tree.
What happened next: the P1 service was withdrawn in 1992, a year after its extension to Oldham. Much of the route lives on in the form of the 41 (except for the Morrisons link via Armadale Road North) and the 337, both operated by Speedwellbus and First Pioneer.
2020 Update: In 2016 we found that the 337 is now the 339 and operated by MCT Travel. Ironically, the 339’s replacement in Dukinfield, the 41, was also operated by MCT Travel. Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime journeys on the Crowhill route were numbered 338 and operated by First Greater Manchester. Evening journeys on the 338 were discontinued in April 2015.
Following the demise of MCT Travel’s operations, two companies operate the 339 route. On Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes, Stagecoach Greater Manchester. On weekdays, Stott’s Tours. The 41, its sister route, is operated by the same companies. Stagecoach’s 41 journeys (evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays) are numbered 41A. Presumably with ‘A’ for Ashton-under-Lyne to avoid confusion with another 41 in South Manchester.
9: Ashton – Failsworth – Manchester (434):
After returning home to find my lost Teen Travel Club pass, I get the P1 back to Ashton and return once more to the late 1990s in my fantasy time-travelling mission. Waiting in the same bay as the 419 route (M stand again, with the 400/401), I board the 434 operated by First Manchester.
Much of the 434 service had its roots in Citibus service 428. The main variation was its route out of Ashton. Whereas the 428 followed the 409 up to Hollins Road junction in Hathershaw, the 434 followed the former 332 route via Turner Lane, then followed the 428 route via Hollinwood, Failsworth and Newton Heath.
What happened next: the 434 was renumbered 396 in 2001, terminating at Newton Heath. The route was operated by Vale of Manchester till 2004 before its present operator SpeedwellBus (along with sister route 395, Limehurst Farm) took over.
2020 Update: from 2012 to 2019 the 396 was operated by MCT Travel in its entirety after SpeedwellBus’ demise. In September 2019, there was fundamental changes to the 396 route which saw the absorption of its sister route, 395.
Following the withdrawal of the 393 route, the 396 route has changed in Ashton-under-Lyne to cover Smallshaw. Up to Limehurst Farm Estate, it has a Sunday and Bank Holiday service. Its daytime operator changed to Stott’s Tours. After the demise of MCT Travel’s operations, Stagecoach Greater Manchester has taken over its evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys.
10: Bolton – Manchester (X9):
I am more or less back in the recent past of 2004. After winning the 400 Trans-Lancs Express the previous year, Horwich based independent Blue Bus launched a new express service to Bolton from Manchester.
With a journey time of 38 minutes, it followed the number 8 route up to Moses Gate, with non-stop running on the A666 bypass. From there it joined the M60/M61 motorways before joining the A580 for Swinton, Pendleton and Salford, before reaching Manchester. Within Manchester, the service stopped at Albert Square and Piccadilly Gardens, before calling at Deansgate and returning to Bolton via Bridge Street.
A small number of buses, including an Optare Metroliner minibus received promotional liveries. This had its roots in an earlier plan to add a special livery for the 400 route.
What happened next: September 2004 saw the withdrawal of the X9 due to low usage. As Blue Bus was having some financial problems at the time, the business was sold to Arriva North West on the 31st July 2005. The limited stop section between Manchester and Swinton is covered by Stagecoach North West on their X61 route to Preston. A slower link to Bolton via Swinton is maintained by First Manchester in the form of their 12, 22, 36 and 37 routes.
2020 Update: the 12 and 22 in their 2009 forms are no more. First Greater Manchester have pulled out of Bolton, selling their Weston Street depot to Diamond Bus North West.
With the network continuously changing, it is a task of Herculean proportions to keep up with the times and route revisions. I know myself being a long-time bus and rail enthusiast for the last 25 years. Though the timing of service changes seemed to have settled in recent years, updates to the network, could seem more frequent to the average user than his/her software patches – if he/she uses more than one company’s routes.
Whoever gets elected by 2010, there is half a chance that the Greater Manchester bus scene would be as interesting in the next five years as of now and before then. Though the Big Three (FirstGroup, Stagecoach and Arriva) remain dominant at this moment, I could see in five years from now smaller companies taking a greater share of routes deemed unprofitable by the Big Three. These would not only include local independents (Jim Stones Coaches, Speedwellbus and JP Travel for example), but third sector groups (for example Partington and Cadishead Transport) and taxi companies.
If the free market model of the 1985 Transport Act remains in place, I could see this happening more within 2 – 3 years. In fact it is already happening in some parts of Greater Manchester, so we should expect more weird and wonderful routes.
As usual, any comments are welcome, on the routes covered. Expect to see a follow-up pretty soon (possibly embargoed till the 26th October).
S.V., 30 July 2009
Last updated on the 19 April 2020.