Bus Route Wonders of Greater Manchester #7: 130, Manchester – East Didsbury – Macclesfield

The Seventh and final one of East of the M60’s Seven Bus Route Wonders of the Greater Manchester area

Optare Versa, GHA Coaches MX58 KZE, Oxford Road, Manchester
Since January 2013, the Sunday and Bank Holiday service has been taken over by Vale of Llangollen/GHA Coaches’ Cheshire operations.

Our final entry is another cross-boundary route, this time one between Greater Manchester and Cheshire. At one time, it was a limited stop route with an express section between East Didsbury and Manchester.

Brief History:

An agreement with Manchester Corporation and the North Western Road Car Company led to the creation of today’s 130 route on the 01 March 1928. Its original Manchester terminus was Lower Mosley Street Omnibus Station, and was one of several of express bus routes operated by Manchester Corporation and joint partners. In 1930, it was allocated number 29.

The 29 went via Birchfields Road and Kingsway, as does today’s 130. A sister route, the 30, traversed Slade Lane. Its joint agreement between Manchester Corporation and the North Western Road Car Company was continued by SELNEC Central in 1969. Two years later, North Western’s bus operations within the SELNEC PTE area absorbed into the new SELNEC Cheshire division. By then, 29 and 30 became 129 and 130, but restructuring of the Cheshire division saw the 129 and 130 routes taken over by Crosville. Therefore, the red and cream of NWRCC gave way to the National Bus Company’s leaf green.

Since deregulation, it had had several operators. These included Midland Red North in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s, Stevensons of Uttoxeter expanded in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, taking over the 130 route. By then, it had ceased to become a limited stop route. By 1998, the yellow livery of Stevensons’ buses was usurped by the cream and turquoise of Arriva.

Since 1998, the daytime service has been operated by Arriva North West, from its Macclesfield depot. Till last year, it was co-worked with their Manchester garage on St. Andrew’s Street. In the last decade, its weekend service has been slashed, and its Sunday service have had a different operator since 2011.


Arriva North West operate the Monday to Saturday daytime journeys. Sunday and Bank Holiday services are operated by GHA Coaches/Vale of Llangollen.

Basic Frequency: every hour during the daytimes; every half hourly on weekday daytimes. Four northbound and two southbound evening journeys on Sundays and Bank Holidays, plus one part route working to Wilmslow.


  • Local History and Art: Paradise Mill in Macclesfield is worth considering for everything you need to know about the town’s once booming silk industry. En route is Nether Alderley Mill, a restored watermill in the care of the National Trust. A short walk away from the St. Mary’s Hospital stop on the 130 is Victoria Baths in Chorlton-on-Medlock, open mainly on Summer Sundays for guided tours and exhibitions.
  • Food and Drink: Posh restaurants and bars in Alderley Edge and Wilmslow are a 130 bus ride away. There are also JD Wetherspoon pubs en route in East Didsbury (The Gateway), Wilmslow and Macclesfield.
  • Shopping: As well as the centre of Manchester, why not look at antiques in Wilmslow or visit the indoor market in Macclesfield? Or you pause in Cheadle or browse in Handforth.
  • Live Performance: The Palace Theatre is a short hop from the 130 stop on Oxford Street.
  • Family Entertainment: the Cineworld complex on East Didsbury is worth visiting, with other attractions including a ten-pin bowling alley.

Best Value Fares: Transport for Greater Manchester’s Wayfarer ticket is your best bet if you wish to continue your journey from Macclesfield towards the Peak District. Other than the GM Wayfarer, I recommend going for GHA Coaches’ or Arriva North West’s single operator day rover tickets.

Travel Tips: The 130 is a scenic route, though one lacking in double decker buses these days. As most journeys are operated with Dennis Dart SLFs, Optare Versas or Optare Solos, try and go for the first seat above the back wheel. Furthermore, I also recommend emptying your bladder before doing the route in full. Believe me, the full journey from Manchester to Macclesfield is uncomfortable if you forget (and I’ve managed this feat on Dennis Darts, when they had the East Lancashire EL2000 bodied vehicles).

*                           *                           *

Here ends our Seven Bus Route Wonders of Greater Manchester, tying in with this year’s Catch The Bus Week. This compilation of articles was made possible by:

  • My first hand experience along most of the routes;
  • Copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea and the Co-op’s 99 Tea Bags;
  • Background research on the sextet of routes;
  • A few carefully selected images.

This article was also brought to you by the number ‘7’ and the letters ‘S’ and ‘V’.

*                           *                           *

Last but not least, feel free to comment on the routes hitherto stated, including this one, and on each of the articles detailing the other six routes. Till then…

S.V., 05 May 2013.


15 thoughts on “Bus Route Wonders of Greater Manchester #7: 130, Manchester – East Didsbury – Macclesfield

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  1. An excellent series Stuart, well researched and written.

    I worked on the 130 in the1980s when there were four variations on its theme, the 127, 128, 129 & 130. The service was then half hourly reducing to hourly after 6.00 pm. It was a money spinner, with standing loads a frequent occurrence. It’s sad to see it reduced in frequency so much and indeed, to see it worked with single deckers leaves a bad taste – it was so good 30 years ago. The route’s big disadvantage was its running time, 1 hour 40 minutes back then, which, as you remark, left any end to end passengers crossed legged at the terminus – never mind the drivers! Bristol VRs doing 55 – 60 mph through Nether Alderley, trying to pick up lost time, were everyday sights.

    Happy days, rose-tinted days perhaps, but days which stuck very firmly in my mind


    1. Hi Paul,

      I am glad to see you enjoyed the series. I had only a week to prepare the series of posts, and tried my best to research the attractions and route histories in that time. That was the easy bit. The harder bit was trying to keep each route history to a svelte 300 or so words at the most. Most importantly, the notion of getting them to appeal to a general – non-bus using – audience.

      I would love to see the 130 upgraded. Was the express section between Manchester and East Didsbury a good selling point, in comparison with the all-stops 50 route? The problem is, the faster London Euston trains make light work of the Manchester – Macclesfield journey. If a Witch Way style revamp was given to the 130, would we see increased passengers?

      Bye for now,



      1. Stuart,

        A ‘Witch Way’ branding and upgrade would work wonders for the Manchester end of the route for this is where passengers are at their thickest density, but the benefits might not be so obvious to see further afield, in Handforth, Wilmslow and Alderley Edge. I occasionally see some early morning workings as I cycle through Parrs Wood (as East Didsbury will always be to me) and I always feel the passengers deserve better buses than they get now.

        If Arriva have some cascaded deckers of decent quality, they could do worse than try some route branding with a decent paint job – as opposed to a few vinyls on the windows and panels – and a catchy name. The ‘Wilmslow Way’ might be a starting point for that discussion. The through passenger will still get the train from Macclesfield to Piccadilly, but there is potential for generating more traffic from Alderley, Wilmslow, Handforth and Cheadle into Manchester- if the upgrade were good enough. Decent seating and free wifi would be selling points to passengers accustomed to sitting in their cars.

        It would probably be too big a leap of faith though; Arriva always strike me as being a company who are quicker to reduce costs than they are to generate more income. An Arriva bus always stands out in a crowd – for being the grottiest looking vehicle around. But perhaps we can both live in hope?


      2. Hi Paul,

        I cannot agree with you more on the state of rolling stock aboard the 130. As its main competition is the private car or the train, there seems to have been no attempt to gain market share from the two modes.

        Your quote about Arriva ‘being a company who are quicker to reduce costs than they are to generate more income’ could be true of the North West operation. I’ve had a pretty good experience of their Yorkshire buses, with their fleet being younger than First West Yorkshire’s offerings from Halifax garage. Arriva North West’s finest vehicles are often seen on the 10, 19 and 263 routes, with the 10 operated by electric-hybrid double deckers.

        I am watching events at Arriva Cymru with great interest, regarding the conversion of its 1 route from Chester to Wrexham to Sapphire route status. The route has seen upgraded buses with 2+1 leather seating. Much of this has been detailed in Buses magazine, plus the Public Transport Experience and Omnibuses weblogs. Perhaps the 130 could be a worthy candidate, but will passengers south of Handforth be won over by smarter buses? They could also reinstate the limited stop section between Manchester and East Didsbury, if they wish to compete with Stagecoach Manchester’s 50 route on speed.

        Bye for now,



  2. I think you’ve covered all means I had of getting into Manchester after school with this series of articles. The 42/43/142 etc corridor I grew to hate after a couple of years because of the sheer slowness all the way along the route. Bearing in mind this was at the time of the bus wars so you could effectively have 9 buses in a row sometimes. Bullocks was always the fastest into Manchester (albeit being the rarest of them all), Finglands was the bus of choice for the university weekly/monthly ticket holders until UK North came along and bulldozed the competition and so both of those buses tended to be no go areas. The elder statesman, Stagecoach, had more buses going into Cross Street than Piccadilly Gardens it seemed too which was few peoples destination of desire. But on the plus side the variety and frequency of buses on that route was great: the Magic buses with 2 pairs of wheels at the back and “slide to the side” to open windows, the shockingly maintained collection of UK North’s with the doors at the centre as well as the front and the Leyland Atlanteans with that beautiful smell which felt very satisfactory on a rainy day.

    Instead, I turned towards the 50/130 route which again had it’s draws. The route into Manchester was much smoother and quicker on both accounts but even though the walk was a bit longer at the Manchester end, the 50s were more frequent and so that was the bus of choice. They also changed terminus from Cross Street to Albert Square (when Cross Street became pedestrianised) and then eventually to the better Spring Gardens terminus, where I think they remain to this day. All I can remember about the 130s at the time was that they were a particularly small model of the Dennis Dart, so much so that even as teenagers we struggled to fit into any of the seats down the back half of the bus and so capacity was dreadful on the way in. I didn’t remember it ever being express on that latter half though thinking back.

    Thanks for the great series as always Stuart!


    1. Hi Ady,

      Thank you for your comments on the series, much appreciated.

      I am familiar with the Wilmslow Road corridor myself, remembering the bus scene in its first few months of deregulation. From January 1987 to July 1990, I attended a now closed special school off Palatine Road, and one of the classrooms had a grandstand view of the West Didsbury bus terminus. Whilst I was there, I remember seeing Finglands’ and Walls’ secondhand GMT standards. There was also competition from Ribble Motor Services, in their then recently privatised form (sold to its management) and as a Stagecoach subsidiary. From September 1988 to April 1990, GM Buses’ 143 route was branded the Piccadilly Line, operated with AEC Routemasters.

      I too like the 50/130 East Didsbury to Manchester section and, like yourself, found it a quick option into Manchester. The 130s, with the Dennis Darts, I’ve boarded some journeys with the short version of the Dennis Dart SLF (akin to those seen on the 18 from Altrincham to Manchester Airport). I also remember seeing them operated with the early Marshall bodied Darts as well as the ones with the East Lancashire EL2000 bodywork (and the worst legroom). As late as 2004, I remember seeing a Y-reg (Eastern Coach Works bodied) Leyland Olympian on the same route.

      As for the capacity issues on the Darts you remember, this sounds like you’ve been on the EL2000 ones – the most ghastly Darts from my experience along with S/T reg Marshall bodied ones and the Wright Handybus ones. Thankfully, Wright have raised their game since the Handybus era, with today’s designs a great improvement.




      1. things were bad when we took over 130’s but at least we never had to use carlyle darts and “welfare” buses ( swifts)!!
        On the subject of Y reg Olympians, it was actually officially described as “almost a B reg!!”, this was before Leon Wild retired and there was a strict 15 year old policy, when he became consultant there was a sudden “extra” 18 months leeway discoveredi


  3. Lovely article; this is a route that has recently become special to me as my girlfriend is from Macclesfield and I live in Cheadle (and work in central Manchester) so the route has been very useful on occasions when our plans have been scuppered by a shortage of trains (or cars!).

    I find it amusing that the route effectively sees a better service on Sundays and PH’s with late night running along the length of the route, whilst the last few weekday departures from Macclesfield terminate at Parrs Wood.

    Another amusing discovery is that the entire route is still subject to Arriva’s/TFGM’s maximum fare so you can do the whole trip one way for £3.20!

    Incidentally, I believe that Arriva’s “Manchester” (Wythenshawe) depot still operate a number of trips on the 130; in fact I think it has increased since the closure of the central Manchester depot judging by the increased variety of vehicles on the route now.

    I’ve found this series of bus route articles very interesting; as I’ve only been in Manchester 2 years it fascinates me to read the histories of some of the routes (and in some way saddens me to see just how much has been lost!).


    1. Hi Martin,

      Thank you for your kind comments on the 130 article. I’m amazed to find that the whole route is subject to the maximum TfGM fare of £3.20. I suppose that could be a hangover from the days when Macclesfield was not only part of the North Western Road Car Company boundaries, but also a southern outpost for Greater Manchester Transport! There is still a GMT idiot board along the route (I think it’s in Stanley Green).

      I doubt as if anyone from Arriva North West had read the article, but I saw a more modern Volvo B7RLE (Wright bodied vehicle) on a Saturday journey in the last week (which possibly confirms Wythenshawe depot’s involvement).

      The 130 isn’t unique in having a better service on Sundays, Bank Holidays and Evenings. After most of its journeys were replaced by the 217 and 218 routes, the 220 service [Manchester – Tameside Hospital] is at its most frequent on Monday – Saturday evenings, albeit finishing at Dukinfield and operating once hourly. Outside these hours, there is only one return daytime (weekdays only) journey along the 220’s full route, staggered to cater for school hours (this is operated by Checkmate Coaches, Mossley and is co-worked with commercial service C20, another staggered return journey).

      The history of the routes and buses throughout Greater Manchester has intrigued me for almost 30 years, triggered by the joys of the 343 route to Mossley and the 400 Trans-Lancs Express route. For me, it is not only about the routes and the places served along the way. It is the wealth of social history.

      I may consider creating another series similar to the Bus Route Wonders. Elsewhere on this blog, you may like the Lost Bus Routes of Greater Manchester articles. For your benefit (and the benefit of any other readers who have missed these articles the first time around), here they are as follows:




  4. Stuart, it’s interesting to see you featuring the 130, a route whose Cheshire end I use to go and come from work. On my blog, I have a summary of the current service level and it is much reduced from what it once was. The only thing missing from that was the takeover of Sunday services by GHA from January of this year. Before then, it was operated by Arriva on all days of the week apart from Bakerbus and D&G on weekday evenings. Now that you have told an interesting story that predates my experience, I might be tempted to share mine sometime.

    Though we now get some newer buses in the form of 55, 58, 09 and the occasional Wright and Alexander Dennis bodied examples, there dopes seem to have been a lack of commitment on the part of Arriva that has been seen for much of Cheshire in recent years. Recent cuts in public spending has exacerbated this even more.

    Paul’s comment about the journey being an hour and forty minutes interests me since it shows that much hasn’t changed in that respect. There are times when I wonder if it would be better to have a Macclesfield to Handforth shuttle and another service plying the route north from Handforth into Manchester. After all, how many actually do go the whole way when a train ride does the same in a third of the time?


    1. Hi John,

      I noticed some of the newer buses on my more recent visits to Manchester, and was happy to see a Wright bodied Volvo on one occasion. I was tempted to board, but en route elsewhere at the time.

      I too remember the recent cuts on the 130 and they took effect shortly after I discovered the route. From 2007 to 2009, I used the 130’s Sunday service and purchased Arriva’s good value North West Day Rover ticket for Sandbach’s Transport Festival. After Macclesfield, I would board a 38 to Sandbach. Today, if I repeat the Sunday service, my journey would require GHA Coaches’ and D&G Coaches’ day rover tickets – twice the cost and tickets it would be compared with the pre-2010 service.

      I love your idea of a Macclesfield to Handforth shuttle. There would be no need to allocate a different service number, and the part route journeys could combine with the full route. Doing so would allow for a half hourly daytime frequency between the TfGM boundary and Macclesfield bus station.

      Bye for now,



  5. Forgot to mention that the GHA bus in the photo normally serves the Connect 88 route between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham. In fact, it was bought new especially for that service, which runs hourly on Monday to Saturday daytimes. Information might be of some interest to some…


    1. Hi John,

      Yes, I wondered why it was on the 130 route myself when I photographed it outside Oxford Road railway bridge. I suppose its usage on this route (in spite of in the context of this service, incongruous numbers) is because the livery is that of Cheshire East Council rather than the red and silver of GHA Coaches.

      I’ve yet to have a ride on the 88 service myself. The last time I did, it was actually Arriva North West’s 289 service from Knutsford with an Uncomfortable As Hell Alexander bodied minibus in 1998. Metal Rear developed as it navigated over the speed bumps of Arthog Lane in Hale Barns.




  6. Hi Stuart

    There may be more than one idiot board; there is definitely one in Handforth/Dean Row still (I’ve also seen a couple lurking for other routes around Stockport – incidentally at least one is for another of your Bus Route Wonders – the 22!).

    The £3.20 fare applies for almost the full journey; however I’ve been told that the price actually decreases over a certain distance so I’m not sure if some journeys may cost more – but my source on that isn’t particularly familiar with fare tables so could be confused by the fact a relatively short journey could cost almost as much as the full journey. And I’m not so bothered that I’m going to ask the other half in detail about how much the journeys are costing!

    From my own observations whilst working the GHA trips can throw up some interesting workings from time to time – whilst the new Connect 88 vehicles are most common, I have seen some older members of the GHA fleet from across the border making the journeys on occasion!



    1. Hi Martin,

      Yes, Handforth/Dean Row may well have been the one I was thinking of. It stands out to me as the idiot board has the Greater Manchester Transport M-blem above the route number and direction arrows.

      The Tameside area is very good for lost idiot boards/direction finders. My home town alone has a mid-1980s era one on the corner of Foundry Street and Oxford Street. On the opposite side is a rarer orange one with the route numbers in stencilled form, instead of the usual Helvetica typeface. Lees Road in Oldham has one which includes an anticlockwise directional arrow for the Oldham Way roundabout (the board has outlived the roundabout).

      I have on odd occasions seen GHA Coaches’ Dennis Dart SLFs on the 130 myself. When I worked in Altrincham, I used to see them appear on the 88.

      Bye for now,


      Liked by 1 person

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