Bus Route Wonders of Greater Manchester #5: 184, Manchester – Oldham – Huddersfield

The Fifth of East of the M60’s Seven Bus Route Wonders of the Greater Manchester area

First Greater Manchester, Enviro400, Oldham bus station
In Full Flight: an Enviro400, loading at Oldham bus station on the full fat version of the 184 route.

The recent fortunes of our fifth route was made possible by the vagaries of bus deregulation. Greater integration between FirstGroup’s Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire companies made for the present day route. Competition with Blue Bus in the mid 1990s not only increased journeys but also made today’s 184 an important cross-boundary route. Today, it is a popular option with college and university students as well as local passengers.

Brief History:

Prior to 2006, there was two separate routes: the previous 184 which continued to Diggle, and the 365. Before 2004, there was the 183 which reached Uppermill via Delph, and its sister route, the 184, which reached Uppermill via Grasscroft. Both were limited stop routes, augmented with an all stops service to Diggle (the 427). Between Greenfield and Manchester, it was also followed by the limited stop 180, and the 429 (its all stops equivalent).

The 365 was originally a limited service, without number, from Oldham to Huddersfield. It was operated by Hansons’ before being taken over by Huddersfield Corporation in 1970. Under their tutelage, it became the 65. In 1974, Metro West Yorkshire PTE was formed with Huddersfield’s routes numbered in the 300 series.

The service was still infrequent, but real improvement came after bus deregulation when Metro West Yorkshire PTE’s bus operations were sold to their employees in 1988. As Yorkshire Rider, the 365 became a Gold Rider service, with coach style seating. It was extended from Oldham to Manchester, and from Huddersfield to Bradford, possibly compensating for the loss of National Express’ dual purpose route from Manchester to Leeds (replaced by the faster 060 Express Shuttle service which remains popular today, albeit continuing to Liverpool).

By the mid-1990s, its Huddersfield operation [Kingfisher] faced competition from a Lancastrian independent. Blue Bus, of Horwich, set up an operation in West Yorkshire and offered cheap fares against the PTE’s successor. Their Alexander bodied Leyland Leopards proved popular with pensioners travelling across the Pennines for 20p. Alas, this glut didn’t last.

Today’s operator, First Greater Manchester run the route in its entirety. The 365 was renumbered 184, and extended to Manchester. This was fully realised in 2006 when the Sunday and Bank Holiday service (last operated by SpeedwellBus) was absorbed. As well as the full length cross-boundary route, there is also part route workings to Grotton, Uppermill and Diggle.

Operators:

First Greater Manchester is the sole operator of the 184 route. Till last year, Manchester to Diggle journeys were operated by First Greater Manchester with Huddersfield bound journeys operated jointly with First West Yorkshire.

Daytime Frequencies (Monday – Saturday):

  • Manchester – Dobcross – Diggle/Huddersfield: every hour (daytime/early evening only);
  • Manchester – Uppermill – Diggle: two buses per hour (daytime/early evening only);
  • Manchester – Oldham – Grotton: every seven minutes.

Basic Frequency (Sundays, Bank Holidays and Evenings):

  • Manchester – Huddersfield: every two hours (daytime/early evening only);
  • Manchester – Uppermill: every hour;
  • Manchester – Oldham – Grotton: every half hour (includes 180 journeys from Greenfield [Clarence Hotel]).

Attractions:

The journey along the 184 is an attraction in itself. Between Oldham and Huddersfield, you are afforded views of the Pennine foothills. By far, the most scenic part of the route is between Dobcross and Marsden Moor. From Marsden to Huddersfield, the hills blend in well with the ghosts of Yorkshire’s woollen heritage, now turned into flats or multiple industrial units.

  • Local History and Art: The Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill is a good starting point for anyone interested in the history of the locality. As well as temporary art exhibitions, Uppermill also has a number of privately owned art galleries. Marsden also has the Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre (a short walk, or change of bus at Manchester Road near The Socialist Club for the Marsden [Dirker] service). Huddersfield town centre also has a very good art gallery and library.
  • Real Ale: Where do I begin? In Oldham, there’s The Ashton Arms; Uppermill’s High Street is a must for real ale fanatics; Huddersfield itself… the joys of the Rat and Ratchet, The Sportsman and the King’s Head – all a short walk away from the 184 route.
  • Shopping: Besides multiple stores in Manchester, Oldham and Huddersfield, there are other delights along the route. Its markets include the modernist Queensgate Market Hall in Huddersfield, Oldham’s Tommyfield Market, and the Manchester Arndale’s Market Hall. Huddersfield and Oldham have open markets, with a once weekly one (Wednesdays) in Uppermill. Marsden, Slaithwaite and Uppermill also have a good range of local shops and cafés.
  • Fish (2): The 184 route is paved with golden crispy batter with a good range of traditional chippies en route. Uppermill has Betty’s Fish and Chip Restaurant where cod or haddock with gluten free batter is also available. Huddersfield is not without its real chippies with Tribells and the Four Cousins on John William Street worth a visit.
  • Live Performance: As well as Manchester’s theatres and the Oldham Coliseum, there is no shortage of live performance venues along the 184 route. The Railway in Greenfield has regular live music, as does Uppermill Civic Hall and the Marsden Mechanics’ Institute. At Huddersfield, the Lawrence Batley Theatre is well worth visiting.

Best Value Fares: any of First Greater Manchester’s rover tickets, for example the £4.00 FirstDay ticket. This I feel is a better option, given the cross-boundary nature of this route. However, if you happen to have a System One pass or day rover of some description, you can only use it up to the boundary point, which is The Great Western Hotel. You could call in for a quick pint, catch the next 184 and purchase a Metro Bus Rover – and have West Yorkshire’s bus network at your disposal!

Travel Tips: Sit upstairs! If you sit downstairs, the views of Diggle and Standedge are wasted on you. If you wish to do the full two hour route from Manchester to Huddersfield, try not to do too many pubs, unless you wish to break your journey now and then: two hours sat cross-legged is highly unrecommended. (I can testify having braved an hour on a Mercedes Vario doing just that on New Years’ Eve, on the 343).

S.V., 03 May 2013.

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