24 Hours Which Shook the Bus World: Where Were You on Deregulation Day?

Saturday 25 October 1986

The weekend leading up to Greater Manchester Transport’s demise and the arrival of GM Buses saw me celebrate my last half term holiday as a primary school child in the Tameside area.

I was midway into my short stay at Yew Tree Primary School’s Junior department and everything seemed so normal. The 340s and 389s passed the school as usual, in the orange, white and brown of GMT. Astley Sports College was plain old Dukinfield High School (though ‘Ghastly Astley’ in the eyes of its detractors), and as sure as everything, half past three meant one hour and fifteen minutes till Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It was on Children’s ITV.

On the Saturday before that fateful day, I stayed overnight at my Auntie Catherine’s home. At the time, it was a second floor flat on Rosary Road on the eastern terminus of the 421 route. Till Saturday, its western terminus was Chadderton, Whitegate Lane. The following day would see a change to that, this time with its new western terminus being Moston, Gardeners Arms. In the run-up to deregulation, Greater Manchester Transport and GMPTE augmented its Clippercard adverts with an advert informing its passengers of the fact GMT wouldn’t be the only game in town. Over 30 seconds, a voiceover stated the obvious, supporting a stream of multi-coloured buses on a grey background. Little did they know that Wilmslow Road would re-enact that scene day in day out within 48 hours!

Shortly after 3-2-1 before ITN’s Saturday night bulletin (in Granadaland of course), came this advert:

‘O.K., thank you very much…’ I thought, leaving me with the impression that GM Buses would try their damnedest to maintain some stability in Tameside. Save for the fact that 1996 would see seven different operators using the stop outside Morrisons.

Delivered to each home in Greater Manchester was a brown and white booklet listing all operators from Sunday onwards. I was most fascinated by the cornucopia of local coach companies and wondered if Tandy Bus had anything to do with RadioShack. For me, it meant more weird and wonderful ways of getting my 12p’s worth. Being as we were 13 years away from multi-operator day saver tickets, it would have been a dear do.

As one of Catherine’s friends visited, we went to bed at about 10 pm – quite a late time for a seven year old on a Saturday night.

Sunday 26 October 1986 (Deregulation Day)

It’s 8.30 am in Fitton Hill, 3.30 in the morning in Washington. Over the past four days, neither GMPTE, nor the drivers would have had more than a few hours rest. This is when we may be asleep… being Sunday of course when bus usage is lower than the other six days anyway

Slowly but surely, Ridley’s plan would disembowel the innards of Greater Manchester’s bus network. The timing of deregulation day was a Sunday prior to the start of the half term holidays, contrived to ensue minimal chaos. The real chaos came the following Monday with anguish over SaverSeven and Clippercard validity on non-GM Buses routes. Likewise with concessionary fares and a crowded Manchester city centre – which only 72 hours ago played host to GMT and NBC subsidiaries.

Though Sunday was the lull before the storm, the Football League and ITV – in their infinite wisdom – decided to televise the Manchester Derby at Maine Road. Both bus-using City and United fans had a preview of the ensuing chaos. With the dual disincentive of hard wooden seats at the Platt Lane end and a chaotic bus network, Elton Welsby betwixt the Yorkshire Pudding was a viable alternative. Hence the lowest ever attendance for a Manchester Derby since 1921; 32,440, with the game ending one apiece.

My morning started off with a trip to the shops to get a bottle of milk before breakfast. Then I would be driven home in my Uncle Wayne’s blue Ford Escort. Insulated from the ensuing chaos. Sunday dinner would be taken in front of Bullseye, by which time Dad would normally be home.

Monday 27 October 1986 (1 day after deregulation)

First day of the school holidays and two days till my sister’s birthday. It wasn’t the best of weeks for Sarah as she caught mumps at playgroup. Nothing out of the ordinary apart from the fact that Mummy and Daddy’s favourite Australian soap would go out at 5.35 pm as well as late dinner time. How dare they replace Masterteam with some lousy soap I care little for? It was bad enough losing Greater Manchester Transport! At least I could find solace in How We Used to Live or Wednesday’s copy of The Beano.

*            *            *

A year on from these recollections (I cannot call them diary entries; my grammar was nowhere near as advanced as this in 1986!), my primary education continued at The Ewing School, West Didsbury. One major advantage for a bus enthusiast like myself was having a grandstand view of the Wilmslow Road corridor. With Walls, Finglands, GM Buses, Bee Line Buzz Company and Ribble, reality would mirror art.

*            *            *

Where Were You on Deregulation Day?

Did you have a long lie-in? Did you battle with deregulated buses on Aytoun Street before the Manchester Derby? Were you one of the poor drivers dealing with embattled passengers that very Sunday? Feel free to write about your recollections. Before you do, I shall add a few memory joggers to the mix.

Top 26 Singles (25 October 1986 chart)

Number One that Sunday was the rather enigmatically titled yet awful EastEnders spin-off song:

  1. Every Loser Wins, Nick Berry;
  2. True Blue, Madonna;
  3. All I Ask of You, Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman;
  4. In the Army Now, Status Quo;
  5. You Can Call Me Al, Paul Simon;
  6. Walk Like An Egyptian, The Bangles;
  7. Rain or Shine, Five Star;
  8. Suburbia, The Pet Shop Boys;
  9. Don’t Leave Me This Way, The Communards (featuring Sarah-Jane Morris);
  10. Midas Touch, Midnight Star;
  11. You’re Everything to Me, Boris Gardiner;
  12. True Colors, Cyndi Lauper;
  13. Always There, Marti Webb and the Simon May Orchestra;
  14. Don’t Get Me Wrong, The Pretenders;
  15. The Wizard, Paul Hardcastle;
  16. I’ve Been Losing You, A-ha;
  17. Thorn In My Side, Eurythmics;
  18. Word Up, Cameo;
  19. World Shut Your Mouth, Julian Cope;
  20. (Forever) Live and Die, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark;
  21. Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince;
  22. Think for a Minute, The Housemartins;
  23. Montego Bay, Amazulu;
  24. Stuck With You, Huey Lewis and the News;
  25. Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86, The Police;
  26. To Have and To Hold, Catherine Stock.

Top Ten Albums:

  1. Graceland, Paul Simon;
  2. Scoundrel Days, A-ha;
  3. Silk and Steel, Five Star;
  4. True Blue, Madonna;
  5. Revenge, Eurythmics;
  6. The Chart, Various Artistes;
  7. Word Up, Cameo;
  8. South Pacific, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jose Carreras and Sarah Vaughan;
  9. U-Vox, Ultravox;
  10. One to One, Howard Jones.

On the telly:

There was a great buzz over Neighbours being repeated the following Monday at 5.35 pm. The decision was made by Michael Grade, following reports of skipped classes by students wanting to catch up on the goings on on Ramsey Street after dinner time. Starting this week was Sunday Sunday, a London Weekend Television chat show hosted by Patrick MacNee. The following Thursday saw the launch of Strike It Lucky, a new quiz show for Michael Barrymore, whose previous work at the time was BBC One’s Get Set Go. On the 26 October 1986, we watched:

  • EastEnders (omnibus edition of Walfordian whingefest);
  • The Big Match (Manchester City v Manchester United on ITV);
  • Bullseye (Sundays will never be the same without a bit of Bully);
  • Howard’s Way (yuppie boating drama series);
  • Spitting Image (Tory baiting puppetry shenanigans).

Passing Fads:

American Football was pretty big, following Channel Four’s coverage of the game. Garbage Pail Kids were the ‘must have stickers’ for every streetwise kid. With a fair chunk of bubble gum and six stickers in each packet, why choose Bryan Robson or Mick McCarthy when Drippy Dan or Dead Ted would suffice?

At the cinema:

Packing the Metro, Palace and Theatre Royal cinemas in 1986 were The Color of Money and Top Gun.

At the local Spar/VG/Presto/Shopping Giant:

  • Walkers’ Bitz and Pizza: pizza shaped potato snacks with a hint of spicy tomato sauce and MSG for good measure;
  • Findus French Bread Pizza: oh, for the days when a French Bread Pizza slice seemed so classy!;
  • Soccer Shields: like Love Hearts, only with shields of each football club in minty form (my first and only packet came free with a copy of Look In! from a newsagent on Stanley Square, Stalybridge).

From the Argos Catalogue or local Toymaster shop:

  • My Little Pony: my sister had a book and tape with ‘My Little Pony’ for her birthday that week in 1986!;
  • Construx: a snap-lock construction toy, like Meccano without the perforations but in plastic;
  • Transformers Robots: I wanted Optimus Prime one year but they couldn’t afford one. Due to their collectibility, they probably still can’t.

Over To You

I hope this has inspired you share your recollections of the 24 Hours Which Shook The Bus World.

S.V., 25 October 2011.

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7 thoughts on “24 Hours Which Shook the Bus World: Where Were You on Deregulation Day?

Add yours

  1. Bullseye is still challange every day I love watching Jim Bowen on it , would love to see Leslie Crowther with his 1980s price is right on challange and also Blanky blank with Les Dawson he use to make me laugh

    I remember my school days was going into the 4th year at Samuel Laycock school on Ridge hill great days

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  2. I was 6 and lived in Warrington. We got a leaflet in the post telling us all about GM Buses. I lived near the cemetery, so we had three orange buses an hour – the 10, 586 and 588. The corpy buses were every 7/8 minutes, and gained “Welcome aboard” stickers in the windows – as well as fare increases. Later we gained the MiniLynx “A” service operated by Crosville Freight Sherpas. Many years ago…

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    1. Hi James,

      How nice of Warrington Borough Transport to have a ‘New Fares in Operation’ board on the windscreen complementing a Helvetica ‘Welcome Aboard’ sign on the right hand side of the entrance!

      The 10 route (today’s 100 route operated by First Manchester) would be the former Lancashire United Transport route which used to terminate at Arpley. I too remember receiving a GM Buses leaflet with reference to the ‘local look’. My neck of the woods would have yellow GM Buses logos and braiding across the brown skirt. There was also a brown D-Day 26 October leaflet displaying all the routes in Tameside and Oldham.

      In the run-up to deregulation day (in addition to the GM Buses adverts), GMPTE advertised/warned us of the forthcoming changes/impending doom coming our way. It featured a sequence of animated buses in different colours. Reality would mirror art in the space of three months!

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. With the hourly 10, half-hourly 586/588 and 602 and 660 each hourly to Wigan, Warrington used to see quite a bit of GM Buses – they even operated Little Gems on the Sunday tendered service from Altrincham for a short while. Now there’s just the 100 as a reminder of how things used to be. Thankfully the corpy has filled the void nicely!

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    1. That would be around 1989 – 90. Crosville operated the 354 route from 1989 before some of its Greater Manchester operations were taken over by The Bee Line Buzz Company in 1990. The route was taken over by JP Executive Travel in 1993.

      The same vehicle saw continued service with C-Line.

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