Even More Lost Bus Routes of Greater Manchester: The Not So Perfect Ten

The Long Awaited Follow Up to The Follow Up

A picture of a Dennis Dart SLF in SpeedwellBus livery
GONE: SpeedwellBus' S50 route to Mossley (Hey Farm), one of 30 Lost Bus Routes in Greater Manchester covered on East of the M60 since 2009.

Since the last follow-up in November 2009, the bus scene in Greater Manchester has seen its fair share of upheavals. It has been a tale of expanding and contracting independent companies. We have cross-boundary service retention disputes, GMPTE changing its name and M-blem (sacrilege though alas legally necessary) and its flat concessionary fare go the way of the dinosaurs. The only constant (along with death and taxation) is the conurbation’s fluid nature of its network, even now.

Who would have thought in 1994 that JPT Travel would have ran evening services from Manchester to both the City of Manchester Stadium and Old Trafford? Back then, who would have thought that the 400 and 500 routes would have gone the way of dodos and non-decimal currency?

Once more, East of the M60 scrapes the deepest of barrels to find the most obscure and less obscure lost routes of the Greater Manchester area. For the purpose of this piece, each title includes in brackets the route’s last operator in that form. As with the last part, the asterisk refers to the routes I have boarded myself.

  • M60: Bradford – Trafford Centre;
  • X14: Trafford Centre – Hyde – Hattersley;
  • S50: Manchester – Ashton-under-Lyne*;
  • 349: Ashton – Dukinfield – Stalybridge – Carrbrook*;
  • X1: Bury – Barrow-in-Furness;
  • X8: Manchester – Keswick;
  • 500: Manchester Airport – Stretford – Bolton*;
  • 153: Mossley – Carrbrook – Manchester*;
  • 700: Manchester Piccadilly – Liverpool Airport;
  • 199 (Hale Barns Express): Hale Barns – Manchester.

1: M60: Bradford – Trafford Centre (First Halifax):
Launched on the 6 November 2004, the M60 offered Bradfordians their first direct link to the Trafford Centre. The limited stop service called at Halifax before travelling non-stop from there to Prestwich. The M60 route also shadowed Burnley and Pendle’s x43 (Witch Way) route up to Deansgate before continuing to the Trafford Centre. De rigeur for the route (according to one observation made by yours truly on a wet Wednesday) were young Alexander bodied Volvo Olympians.

What Happened Next? The M60 route probably had one of the shortest shelf lives for a Trafford Centre route and has been withdrawn for some time. For Bradfordians, most of the shops available at the Trafford Centre are more readily available in Leeds and the out of town White Rose Centre (both well served by local buses). It is unclear as to when it was withdrawn given a distinct lack of information of the said route.

2: X14: Trafford Centre – Hyde – Hattersley (UK North):
Not to be content with being a lost bus route, this one also qualifies for inclusion in the Lost Bus Operators of Greater Manchester category. Operated by UK North, the Hadfield (then later Gorton) based company were no stranger to Hyde and Hattersley, hitherto serving these parts as Mybus. The spring of 2002 saw the company launch a limited stop service from Hattersley to the Trafford Centre.

What Happened Next? Timetables were printed, but there was no service. Nil. Nada. If anyone reading this post knows different, feel free to comment!

3: S50: Manchester – Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley (Speedwell Value):
Amid great fanfare and equally good intentions at lowering the cost of bus travel for Tamesiders, SpeedwellBus introduced its Speedwell Value offshoot. Fulfilling the need for a direct bus service to Manchester from Mossley (absent since the 153’s demise), its S50 would promise cut-price commuting to the city. Alas this wasn’t to be as the construction works of Droylsden and Ashton’s Metrolink put paid to that. Shortly after introduction, they ditched the Manchester – Ashton section with the service running between Ashton and Mossley (Hey Farm Estate).

What Happened Next? The S50 was a popular route with buses fuller than First’s parallel 350 route. Unfortunately they weren’t full enough to justify the £1.00 single fare as rising fuel prices made it unviable. The route, suspended at this moment, will finally be withdrawn on the 17 June 2011.

4: 349: Ashton – Dukinfield – Stalybridge – Carrbrook (First Pioneer):
This was once my regular bus to and from Stalybridge, over the less frequent 343, 218 and 220 services. February 1999 saw First Pennine pull out of the Tame Valley area of Dukinfield. Instead they rerouted their circular 33 and 35 routes to serve the Albion Hotel. By August 1999, they were renumbered 349, with the 32 and 34 becoming the 348. It provided a useful half-hourly link between the Albion Hotel and Stalybridge, allowing for improved bus/rail connections. At one point, it was the only route serving Demesne Drive, as anti-social behaviour forced a temporary (then permanent) rerouting of the 348, serving Huddersfield Road.

What Happened Next? October 2007 saw the end of the 349 route. Instead it became part of an extended 419 route from Middleton to Stalybridge (via Dukinfield). The lack of peak hour journeys and potential for rail connections led to the Ashton and Stalybridge section’s withdrawal. The 348 by contrast was boosted by a 10 minute frequency with a half hourly Sunday service during shopping hours.

5: X1: Bury – Barrow-in-Furness (Stagecoach North West):
Falling somewhere between oddity and a chance to recreate past glories came Stagecoach North West’s attempt at connecting Bury with the southern part of the Lake District. The X1 was an express service to Barrow-in-Furness via Bolton, Chorley, Preston and Ulverston, launched in April 2008. Being a single return journey on a Wednesday, it was barely noticed, despite giving Bury an express link to Bolton.

What Happened Next? The service was withdrawn on the 31 May 2008, making it one of Greater Manchester’s shortest lived express routes.

6: X8: Manchester – Keswick (Stagecoach North West):
Since the Victorian times, the city of Manchester has had a physical link with the Lake District, with Thirlmere providing the city’s water supply. With hiking and rambling equally intertwined with the city’s identity, the Lake District (along with the nearby Peak District) were popular diversions from the factory floor and office. In April 2008, Stagecoach North West launched the Saturdays only X8 service to Keswick. It followed the X61 route between Manchester and Preston before continuing to Windermere and Keswick (via the picturesque Thirlmere, following the 556 route from Lancaster).

What Happened Next? Unlike its Barrovian brother, the X8 may have fared better, though there were reports of it being withdrawn by Summer of 2008. In fact, the service was curtailed with the Chorley – Manchester section withdrawn. A shame, given the potential it had for linking Manchester with the Lake District.

7: 500: Manchester Airport – Stretford – Bolton (First Manchester):
In the Summer of 1974, Greater Manchester was gifted with two long distance routes from Bolton to Manchester Airport. One was the famed 400 (Trans-Lancs Express). The other was its lesser known cousin, the 500, originally a Summer Saturday service. From Bolton, it continued to Farnworth, Swinton, Eccles and Stretford, prior to reaching Junction 7 of the M63 and Manchester Airport (via Princess Parkway and part of the M56). Later changes saw the route becoming a daily one and the addition of Altrincham Interchange as a further stopping point.

What Happened Next? The route had several operators, including Hyndburn – whom in 1992 extended the service to Accrington! Then it was withdrawn by First Manchester on the 28 October 2002. By then it was taken over by South Lancashire Transport and curtailed to run between Bolton and Trafford Centre. This arrangement continued till the Spring of 2003.

8: 153: Mossley – Carrbrook – Manchester (Stagecoach Manchester):
The 153 was the last attempt at offering Stalybridge and Mossley folk an express bus link to Manchester. Prior to 1929, there had been an earlier attempt to inaugurate a limited stop service between Mossley, Manchester and Chorlton-cum-Hardy. With the completion of a new housing estate in Carrbrook in 1959, Manchester Corporation introduced the 153 route. The purpose was that of a direct peak hour route for residents of the new Manchester overspill estate. The original route was limited stop to Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne, then non-stop to Manchester city centre via Ashton Old Road. After deregulation, it was extended to Mossley (Brookbottom) and, for a short while, also had a daytime off-peak service. A Friday night and Saturday night service was also introduced.

What Happened Next? Its daytime journeys (operated by Mayne of Manchester) became part of the company’s revitalised 4 route (later renumbered 232 – 235). The non-stop section was discontinued with the peak hours only route made limited stop from Manchester to Stalybridge (observing all stops to Mossley). By April 2005, the route was withdrawn, offering no sanctuary from overcrowded trains for Mossley and Stalybridge folk.

9: 700: Manchester Piccadilly – Liverpool Airport (Arriva North West):
In the early part of the noughties, Manchester Airport was missing out on the low-cost carriers which its smaller sister in Speke were gifted. Prior to 2005, easyjet remedied this a little by running a courtesy bus to Liverpool Airport. The 22 November 2005 saw this arrangement cease, with its replacement operated by Arriva North West. The 700 offered a hourly link to Liverpool John Lennon Airport using the company’s new Mercedes Citaro single deckers. These had extra space for luggage unlike First’s equivalent from Queens Road depot and came with a blue version of Arriva’s livery.

What Happened Next? 2007 saw the route rerouted to serve Widnes, with Burtonwood Services replacing the Gemini Retail Park stop in 2008. On the 01 May 2009, it was withdrawn and replaced by X2. This was operated by Arriva’s coaching subsidiary Excel, and withdrawn the following year. Its downfall was down to a crowded market dominated by Terravision’s express service, affordable private hire alternatives and the newly opened Liverpool South Parkway station being close to the airport. The latter station was granted a stop on the Liverpool Lime Street to Scarborough First Transpennine Express service in Summer 2010.

10: 199: Manchester – Hale Barns (Hale Barns Express) (Greater Manchester Transport):
SELNEC’s intention to raise the standard for public transport was best illustrated by its use of Bedford VAL coaches on the Trans-Lancs Express and the Hale Barns Express. Launched in April 1970, it gave Hale Barns’ more affluent residents a chance to leave their cars at home, by travelling to Manchester in comfort, at a higher standard than normal service buses.

What Happened Next? As journey times compared poorly with the equivalent rail journey to Manchester Oxford Road (after driving to Altrincham Interchange), it was withdrawn in March 1981. By then, the private car became a more competitive force with standards in technology, comfort and reliability rising. Unless they opted for the frequent train service, they preferred the joys of being held up on Chester Road with the radio on.

Before I Go…
Feel free to comment if you have any recollections of using these lost bus routes. I would especially like to hear from anyone who has travelled from Bury to Barrow-in-Furness on the X1, or Yorkshire folk who have shunned Harvey Nicks for Peel Holdings’ cathedral of capitalism.

S.V., 04 June 2011.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Tinker says:

    I use to use the 500 and the 401

    also the 365 Huddersfield toOldham run by Huddersfield some of the buses on this service where Gold Rider coaches both Double and single and a flagship livered bus 5082

    then the 184 took over luckly Huddersfield depot have 2 workings on this route who unlike some First Oldham drivers stick to the timetable Huddersfield seem to be using B7s 32509 to 19

    Like

    1. I did most of the 500 route once in September 1998, from Bolton to Altrincham, before changing for a 371 to Stockport. As for the 401 (not mentioned here for ripe for a future round-up), I used to use that route as a quicker and more comfortable way into Middleton. In 1996, they used to leave Ashton bus station at 13 minutes to the hour on northbound journeys (the 400 left at 17 minutes past the hour in the same direction).

      Like

  2. Michael Tinker says:

    the good old days put buses back in the hands of the PTE

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  3. Connaire Demain says:

    Never been to the white rose then! not that you would want to!!

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    1. Me neither. Passed it several times on the train to Leeds and once on a bus from Bradford to Morley. Never had the inclination to dismount.

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  4. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    There is another service, not on your list, that I used quite frequently many years ago. This was the X3 from Manchester to Chester, which for most of its life was operated by Arriva from their depot in Llandudno Junction.

    From Manchester, the bus made its way, on a limited stop basis to Wythenshawe Bus Station, then to Manchester Airport, It then ran non-stop to Preston Brook on the M56, then became somewhat of a local service to Ellesmere Port then on to Chester.

    The use of the Arriva day ticket covering Greater Manchester and North Wales was one way that the use of this service offered Manchester residents to direct bus link to Chester for leisure purposes and for the dedicated bus traveller, the chance to change buses at Chester to those routes covering North Wales. I remember making one such journey to Rhyl on a very hot day in summer.

    When Arriva decided to withdraw from this service, it lasted a short time only. There was a South Manchester private operator ( I cannot recall their name) who ran only as far as somewhere near to Preston Brook, then the service vanished.

    Well, that’s my reminiscences over for the day. I know the service that I have described is not really “East of the M60”, but a service that offered Mancunians a chance for a day out in Chester.

    Can I add a footnote for the adventurous out there on the forum. There are three bus routes that are worth using for leisure that my wife and I use quite often:-
    58…Macclesfield to Buxton. (Operated by Bowers) Goes the scenic route over the Cat and Fiddle.
    108.Macclesfield to Ashbourne. (Operated by Clowes Coaches) Goes via Leek and uses ex-Arriva minibuses. Driver does not issue tickets, but jots each passengers details on a ruled pad. The only service I know with hand-written A4 size posters advertising coach holidays run by their coach division..
    442.Buxton to Ashbourne. (Operated by Bowers)The more scenic version of the 42, covering many small villages and follows the route in places of a long-forgotten narrow gauge railway line.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      The X3 does ring a bell. It was filed for some time as ‘One of the Bus Services I Should Catch Prior to Eventual Demise’ – which I never got around to doing. I remember it being limited stop and operated by Arriva in its twilight years.

      Answers to the question regarding the South Manchester operator: it was a Wythenshawe company by the name of Janeway Travel. As if luck would have it, I have found on Flickr a picture of a Crosville Cymru X3 including an interesting passage on its history by Chris Palmer (Crisparmour): http://s.coop/1r6q.

      Some interesting anecdotes on present day practice involving the 108. I’ve got to have some of that one day!

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. pete bradshaw says:

        X3 was also run by “scouse” North western prior to Arriva days The operator infamous for making it into a “sleep out” at Chester was Highwayman Travel run by a former North Western employee
        The service was one of those that everyone wants, noone knows exists and fails because no-one used it!!

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      2. Hi Pete,

        Most definitely true of the X3. Another problem with the X3 was the competition. On public transport, the train offered a frequent and faster service from Manchester to Chester over the bus – despite Delamere Street’s proximity to the city centre. Then there was the M56 which made driving to Cheshire and North Wales a more attractive proposition – even more so when Junctions 14 to 16 were completed in 1981.

        Interesting anecdote on Highwayman Travel.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  5. Michael Tinker says:

    562 aswell Oldham to Halifax when run by Halifax it was a good service with coaches to double decks on then oldham took over and it all went downhill

    Like

    1. In its twilight years, I used to enjoy travelling to Halifax on the MCW Metrobuses (displaced from the 400: Trans-Lancs Express route). First Calderline (now First Halifax) operated the 2 hourly evening service leaving Halifax at half past even hours (the last one left at 2230).

      Like

  6. Michael Tinker says:

    when the Metro bus did the 180 to Holmfirth over summer sundays over Iyle of sky they would break down I remeber been on 5050 and it stuck at the Border they had to being 5208 out which is now preserved

    Like

    1. Perhaps the integral Metrobuses weren’t cut out for the treacherous conditions, unlike the Northern Counties bodied specimens with coach seats! I remember boarding MCW Metrobus 5050 on the 346 route in 1997 and it didn’t half bounce on Cheetham Hill Road.

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  7. C Longden says:

    24 years on and I still have nightmares about missing the 343/44 from outside Trinity School, Stalybridge – back up to Lodge Lane/Morrisons end of Duki. The other alternative was the 349 which at that time meant a much longer walk when you were a lethargic adolescent, in the rain, with no coat.

    As for buses from Holmfirth to S/B, Manchester….I do wish someone could find me one as I live over in Wine Country and would like to ship the grandchildren off to the grandparents more often. The train prices are prohibitive (if you go the couple of miles over the boundary of Standedge Tunnel – it costs a bloody fortune! And they bloody charge you if you are a pensioner still!!)

    Like

    1. Hi Tina,

      I agree with you on the train fare between Huddersfield and Stalybridge – and that Tunnel Tax for Daring to Reach TfGM Territory! The reason for the expense is the Greenfield to Marsden section isn’t subsidised by Metro West Yorkshire, nor Transport for Greater Manchester.

      The bus alternative involves a 310 to Huddersfield, then a 184 from there to Uppermill or Oldham. With the former, change at Uppermill for a 350 to Ashton, changing for a 346 to Dukinfield. Or you could alight your 184 at Oldham and change for a 343 to Dukinfield if you’re a glutton for punishment!

      As for the 344 (now there’s a Lost Bus Route of Greater Manchester, if you discount the peak hour single journey from Oldham to Hyde). The real 344 went via Staley Road and terminated at Mossley Brookbottom (like the 343 did till the 20 July 1980). You may well remember the 349 as the 351 (before being renumbered 33 and 35). Prior to 1977, the 351 was numbered 341. I can imagine the trudge from Park Road to Morrisons being most cheerless.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  8. Michael Tinker says:

    well if you use 184 from Huddersfield make sure you are there early as some of the drivers from First Manchester never stick to the timetable I have seen them leave uppermill 6-7 mins early a few times if I needed to use it would use the Huddesfield based ones

    Like

  9. Shaun says:

    I used the M60 once from Manchester to Trafford Centre one Saturday afternoon, as it was faster than the 100 and 250 services (in the days before the X50 service) and it wasn’t well used, so it wasn’t a surprise they withdrew it. Olympians were used, similar to what was used on the 58’s in Oldham and on the M60’s sister service, the M62, which ran from Halifax to Leeds via Brighouse and White Rose Centre.

    With regards to what happened to the service, the service did start in November 2004 running every 2 hours Monday-Saturday daytime between Bradford, Halifax, Manchester and The Trafford Centre and then changed on 25 April 2005 to run between Halifax and Trafford Centre only running 3 times a day every day via Elland then one way via Prestwich and Manchester to the Trafford Centre before returning to Elland and Halifax direct via M60 motorway.

    That change didn’t last long and was withdrawn in August 2005 and was replaced by an extended 561 service on the 6 August 2005, which ran from Halifax to Rishworth via Ripponden then continuing along the A672 to M62 motorway (following the old 562 route) before going straight to the Trafford Centre along the M62 and M60 motorways. The 561 ran every 2 hours on Saturdays until the 30 January 2006 when the Rishworth-Trafford Centre link was withdrawn, the same time as the 562 Monday-Saturday daytime service to/from Halifax was withdrawn. The M62 was also withdrawn at the same time, although most of that route returned last May with the X80 service running from Halifax to the White Rose Centre via Brighouse.

    Like

    1. Hi Shaun,

      Many thanks for filling me in on the history of the M60. This was one route I most wanted to board prior to its quiet withdrawal. Not so much for the journey to Trafford Centre, but more so a journey in the reverse direction. One other reason for its withdrawal was its publicity. Or rather, lack of publicity. It seems to me that Greater Manchester, as a whole, undervalues its cross-boundary bus routes.

      I do remember seeing an M60 bus in Manchester once. It was one of the Northern Counties Volvo Olympians – one of NCME’s last body designs prior to absorption by Alexander Dennis and the Wigan plant’s closure. I too also remember the M62 route though like the M60, never used it (more to do with my loathing of totalitarian retail complexes).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. Shaun says:

        There was a lack of publicity for the M60 on this side of the Pennines, although I think they did publicise it in West Yorkshire. However, it was at about the same time as the 184 was extended to Huddersfield, which meant you had an hourly service from Huddersfield to Manchester, rather than a 2-hourly service reduced to 3 times a day from Halifax. Plus with Leeds being an hour away on the M62, people opted to stay closer to home.

        With the Manchester-Trafford Centre link, because it ran along Deansgate rather than nearer the main routes at the time of Piccadilly Gardens and Corporation Street, there wasn’t much of chance of passengers getting on, because it was away from other services, even though it was a lot quicker than other buses to the Trafford Centre (back in the days before the X50).

        I liked the M62 service in Halifax as the buses were timed very closely to the 562 to Oldham (both arrived at about 5 past the hour and left at about 10 past the hour), so it meant you could travel from Oldham (my home town) to Leeds in about 2 hours with a quick change at Halifax, with the added bonus of being able to use the FirstDay Manchester ticket on both services, so it cost about £3-3.50 to do a return journey at the time.

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  10. Hi Shaun,

    Yes, I too was unimpressed with the lack of publicity. Perhaps the lack of interchange with other routes could explain its lack of success in Manchester. Supposing they chose Shudehill Interchange, there would have been potential for passengers to join the 8 to Bolton or joint returns for use on both the M60, M62 and 100 routes. Perhaps dropping a few Yorkshire folk off (Manchester bound passengers) at Deansgate instead of Shudehill Interchange or Piccadilly Gardens didn’t exactly help, especially if they don’t know the city of Manchester properly.

    As I may have said elsewhere within this blog, we need a proper cross-boundary network of local limited stop/express services, which we had prior to deregulation. A cheap and cheerful ‘turn up and go’ rail alternative is needed, though with journeys slightly longer (distance-wise) than standard stopping services yet shorter than National Express journeys. In line with the railways and National Express, this would also mean a nationwide children’s concessionary fare system for such routes (instead of half fare from Oldham to Diggle then the fare from Diggle to Marsden if a child has to travel to band practice at Marsden Silver’s Band ‘Ole).

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

    Like

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