The third part of a concise guide to bus operations from a passenger point of view, aimed at bus noobs more than anything

First Greater Manchester, Enviro400, Holga style
Oldham Bus Station, an example of a multi-platform bus station.

For our third part, it makes sense to progress from bus stops to bus stations. Without at least one, or even two of them in our major town centres, our streets would be more chaotic.

Once Upon a Time, Quite So Long Ago…

The positioning of bus stops and stations have often coincided with local pubs and market grounds. This has its roots in the pre-railway era of Turnpike Roads and coaching inns. As tourism and demand for travel grew, the multiplicity of on-street stopping points were a nuisance for planners.

Some operators alighted from local garages and offered passenger accommodation. One example is Stagecoach in Cumbria and North Lancashire’s Workington depot. This combines depot facilities with a covered bus station. It is the oldest purpose built bus station in the United Kingdom. Even today, some operators share bus stations with depots.

By the dawn of the 1930s, municipal operators prospered with purpose built depots for motorbuses, trolleybuses and trams. Major town centres would have palatial bus stations with improved facilities. Some of which a distance away from the bus garages.

From the start of the 1930s, Manchester’s Lower Mosley Street Omnibus Station would be associated with the X60 to Blackpool. As well as stands for a wide variety of destinations, there was also a dedicated platform for Blackpool bound buses and coaches. It was also flanked by modest garages for Ribble Motor Services and, on East Street, Yelloway’s Manchester outstation.

The multi-platform layout with numerous stands became a normal feature. Some operators opted for a single terminal layout, where buses would pull in and reverse after passengers boarded. Locally, one example of this, dating from the 1930s was the Yelloway Coach Station on Mumps Bridge, Oldham.

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Platform based and single terminal bus stations form part of today’s termini. However, what constitutes a bus station varies throughout the UK. What would be deemed a simple bus turnaround in Haughton Green would constitute a bus station in some areas. Chapel St. Leonards’ and Castleton’s bus stations epitomise the latter example.

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Single Terminal Bus Stations

I regard the single terminal bus station as the most user-friendly model. Security wise, all passengers are within the same building. It offers scope for the incorporation of all facilities (toilets, information office, café, newsagents, cashpoint) within the same roof as bus stands. Sometimes, the concourse and stands may be underneath a multi-storey car park as seen at Huddersfield and Preston.

From a user point of view, it is a more effective model if your journey requires more than one bus (crossing a multi-platform bus station could be dangerous and connections may be less fruitful).


  • Preston: the Daddy of them all, 80 stands and threatened with demolition: the Euston Arch of Bus Stations;
  • Huddersfield: opened in 1974 and refurbished to a high standard in 1991;
  • Chorley: replacing the smaller ex-Ribble bus station, Lancashire County Council’s design is a more attractive improvement;
  • Leeds: a single terminal bus station with National Express coaches on one side and standard stage carriage services on the opposite;
  • Lowestoft: a cheap and cheerful single terminal bus station made up of individual shelters.

Multi Platform Bus Stations

Cheaper to build, the multi platform bus station allows for a maximum number of stands within a small area. Any extra space required for reversing and laying over could be taken up by extra stands with the offices, crew relief, toilets and other passenger facilities on one end. Unlike most single terminal bus stations, smaller multi-platform bus stations could be unstaffed. Some could have unidirectional or bidirectional circulation.

As a user, I consider them as more effective if my journey only needs one bus. Some bus stations now have a super-sized platform or two instead of a number of smaller ones. Sometimes, their ‘overall roof’ may be a multi-storey car park, as done to awful effect at Rochdale, Doncaster North and Blackpool Talbot Square bus stations. The base would be its stands.


  • Stockport: constructed with a standard design of shelter by Essex Goodman and Suggitt, GMPTE’s EGS Design shelters would be repeated elsewhere in Greater Manchester. Some examples remain in Leigh, Wigan, Ashton-under-Lyne and Bolton bus stations;
  • Boston: a multi-platform bus station with each platform the width of a single stand;
  • Derby (previous version): the late-lamented 1930s version of Derby bus station had semicircular platforms, cradling an Art Deco style ticket office and toilet block;
  • Inverness: in front of the city’s railway station with a number of individual stands;
  • Sheffield, Pond Street: with three long platforms, the brick built shelters with pitched roofs are a vast improvement on the more rudimentary shelters before then. It has recently been reduced in size with the loss of platforms on the north eastern end.

Single Terminal Hybrid Bus Stations

I doubt as if this would be a formal term to describe bus stations which combine the above two types. In recent years, bus stations which combines terminal and platform arrangement have proved to be an excellent compromise. Passengers gain from all buses embarking and disembarking from the same area. Its information, refreshment and relief facilities are under one roof. Architecturally and functionally, they are more superior and combine the good operational points of single terminal and multi platform bus stations.

Instead of strips or semicircles, triangles are in vogue. This type of bus station design has gained popularity with Transport for Greater Manchester’s next generation bus stations.


  • Middleton: a real improvement on the previous multi-platformed version;
  • Rochdale Interchange: (under construction) a replacement for the 1978 structure with nearby tram and taxi interchange facilities;
  • Bolton Interchange: (awaiting construction) a replacement for Moor Lane Bus Station and the stands by its railway station.

Single Platform:

The size of the single platform bus station could vary from the modest single stand variant to that of a split level multi stand behemoth. Modern bus station design tends to favour the super-sized single platform layout, which reflects today’s more modest bus movements whilst improving passenger facilities. It is this layout which Transport for Greater Manchester has favoured for smaller bus stations.

  • Castleton (Derbyshire): a single bus shelter with layover facilities and a turnaround;
  • Middlesbrough: a split level colossus akin to an octopus! Local buses use the inner part of the ‘n’ shaped bus station, whereas the outer part is used by long distance services and excursion coaches. The top part of the ‘n’ is raised with first floor waiting facilities for coach passengers, allowing traffic free pedestrian access to the shopping centre. It was opened by Pat Phoenix in 1982;
  • Eccles: one of GMPTE’s early single super-sized platform bus stations, opening in good time for the Metrolink extension. One side has bus stands with taxis on the opposite side;
  • Hyde: designed by Sisk Architects for GMPTE, it is an improvement on the dual platform version with six stands and facilities under one roof.

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Who Owns Our Bus Stations?

The UK’s bus stations are owned by the following:

  • Local Authorities;
  • Integrated Transport Authorities;
  • Transport for London/Greater Manchester;
  • Property Companies;
  • Bus and Coach Operators.

A great number of the UK’s bus stations are owned by local authorities, Integrated Transport Authorities, TfL and TfGM. Operators would pay x amount for each time one of their buses use the bus station. In lieu of this, impartial information is provided, though operators remain free to offer their own publicity materials. Sometimes, the main operator could operate the information office on behalf of a local authority (though this stymies impartiality).

Where bus and coach operators manage the bus station, there is a likelihood of coexisting depot facilities. This is also true of some former National Bus Company, Tilling and BET Group premises. For example, the bus wash is in full view of passengers boarding the 12 to Brixham from Stagecoach Devon’s bus station in Paignton. This isn’t only true of town centres: Shearings’ out of town Stretton Interchange, near Warrington, is another example off the M6 motorway.

Sometimes, property companies own our bus stations. Capital Shopping Centres, who run The Trafford Centre, own the Dumplington precinct’s bus facility. It is operated by Arriva North West on their behalf. A Private Finance Initiative deal funded Lancaster’s present bus station. TESCO funded bus stations for Metro West Yorkshire at Seacroft and Hemsworth.

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S.V., 04 June 2013.

2 thoughts on “Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #3: Bus Stations

    1. Hi Andrew,

      It’s a good little bus station. It even has something which the Armentieres Square, Stalybridge bus stops lack: nearby free public toilets. The visitor centre’s pretty good too.

      Bye for now,



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