The Long Awaited Follow Up to The Follow Up
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 – Glossop;
- 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 The M60 route probably had one of the shortest shelf lives for a Trafford Centre route and has been withdrawn for some time.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 It is unclear as to when it was withdrawn given a distinct lack of information of the said route.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 – Glossop (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. In time for Christmas, September 2001 saw the company launch a limited stop service from Hattersley to the Trafford Centre.
From Glossop, the X14 approached Hyde via Tintwistle and Hattersley. After Denton it ran non-stop to the Trafford Centre. It also had a sister route in the X15, which ran via Gamesley, Charlesworth, Mottram-in-Longdendale and Hyde, before following the X15 to Denton and the M60 motorway.
What Happened Next? The service was withdrawn in January 2002. As far as I know, it was poorly publicised and launched as a bid to cash in on Christmas traffic.
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, after a period of suspension was withdrawn on the 17 June 2011. Six months later, SpeedwellBus ceased operations.
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.
The present 348 service – now every 12 minutes by day – is only one of three routes to have survived First Greater Manchester’s Tamexit strategy in September 2019.
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.
On outward journeys, passengers listened to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, courtesy of the coach’s radio. On the way back, Radio Two with the dulcet tones of Charlie Chester or John Dunn.
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 what was at one time Peel Holdings’ cathedral of capitalism.
S.V., 04 June 2011.
Last updated on the 19 April 2020.