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

C920 FMP, Leyland Lynx 252 (interior).
The stylish interior of C920 FMP, a recently restored Leyland Lynx.

Cheap, cheerful, and just the thing for reading on a 192 with the free WiFi, is our fourth Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations

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Accessible Transport: nothing to do with low floor buses, but specially modified vehicles designed for passengers unable to use standard buses. Often available on an advance booking basis. Ring and Ride is one example.

Bunching: the phenomenon of two or more buses with identical numbers appearing at the same time. Usually caused by congestion, bad traffic management or competition between operators. For instance, a set of traffic lights at Newton (Cheshire Cheese) creates bunching on the 346 route to Ashton, though less so to Hyde.

Centreline: the original (1974) name for today’s Metroshuttle services. The original Centreline routes were 4 and 5 in Manchester city centre with a short lived Centreline shuttle service in Bolton. Today, its forerunners have three routes in Manchester, plus Metroshuttles in Oldham, Stockport and Bolton.

Duplicate: when a given service needs more buses than its usual allocation at short notice, extra buses would be put on for the whole of, or part of the route. For example, the 216 has extras for Manchester City’s home games or concerts.

Exact Fares: for some operators, a feature of one person operation was the introduction of Exact Fare Systems, which speed up boarding time. A person unable to produce the exact fare would be given an excess fare voucher which could go towards another journey or be redeemed at an information office.

Farebox: once a common method of fare collection around the 1960s, designed to speed up boarding times. Passengers would place a flat fare into the fare box.

Green Buses: often used to describe any buses with environmentally friendly technology. For example, Stagecoach Manchester’s Enviro400H double deckers (electric-hybrid), or the Chloride Battery Bus from the early 1970s.

Hail and Ride: instead of bus stops, either on certain sections or the whole of the route, a passenger may hail the bus anywhere en route. Local routes sometimes have ‘Hail and Ride’ sections, mainly in residential areas. One example is the 419 route within North Chadderton.

Interchange: often a bus station where transfer to other modes is available, or a main bus stopping point (for instance on a crossroads).

Joint Service: once a common feature of UK bus operations, one company and a local authority (or two local authorities) would share a route with reciprocal ticketing arrangements and publicity. Cardiff Bus and Newport Bus run the UK’s only joint bus route in the traditional sense between the two places.

Kneeling Bus: at one time, a gimmick but now commonplace on today’s low floor buses, where the driver could lower the bus door towards the kerb.

Limited Stop: a bus service somewhere between an express route and a standard all-stops bus route. Often calls at around one in four stops.

Moquette: the heavy woollen material often used to upholstery bus seats with (hence picture at top). Traditionally, moquette would be used on the bottom deck with Rexine or leather on the top deck. The latter option was easier to clean, owing to workpersons’ dirty overalls and smokers occupying the top deck.

Night Services: any bus route operating between 2400 and 0400 hours, often with higher fares than daytime services. Usually on Friday nights/Saturday mornings and Saturday nights/Sunday mornings. Sometimes prefaced with ‘N’ (as per London Transport practice at one time).

Oyster Card: very much a part of the average Londoner’s way of getting from A to B by Bus, Underground, Overground and local rail services within the Transport for London boundaries. Similar schemes yet to be implemented outside the capital.

Part Route: exactly as it says on the tin. A short working of a given route. For example, the 192’s full route is Piccadilly – Hazel Grove, but a part route working may terminate at Stockport College.

Queueing: before 1995, it was illegal to wait for a bus without queueing, as per a 1930s Road Traffic Act! (Hence the loss of queueing pens in Greater Manchester’s bus stations).

Running Board: in contrast to the bus timetables seen by passengers, a running board determines the schedule for a given vehicle and/or driver’s shift. For example, a bus which begins a peak hour 221 journey may be seen on the 219s.

Stage: a stage covers a given number of stops and is used to determine fare levels. For example, a stage may comprise of five stops, so Stage One would be £1.50, with successive stages on a journey an extra 20p or so.

Twirlie: semi-derogatory term/colloquialism to denote aged persons as to whether they’re too early to use their concessionary pass.

Ultimate: a once popular make of ticket machine with different slots for each fare type, used on one-person-operated and crewed buses. Often seen in bus museums or on preserved buses.

VOSA: without whom, the UK’s buses would be in a more chaotic state. VOSA is the Government Body who oversees the Traffic Commissioners which makes sure our buses are up to scratch. Changes to any given route have to be referred to them with 60 days notice (or less if emergency arrangements need to be made). They can also object to or accept licences, restrict or annul existing licences and ensure your buses are in serviceable condition.

Works’ Service: at one time (when we had huge factories and low car ownership), the Works’ Service was a common way for employees to travel to and from work. Journeys would either be duplicates of standard routes (for public use), or numbered outside standard routes accessible only to its employees. The latter would be subsidised by employers with the local bus company operating under contract. Or, buses could be owned by companies themselves.

X: could either (most commonly) preface the number of an express route (i.e. X43 Witch Way) or be used in suffixed form as a duplicate (i.e. 237X).

Yellow School Buses: separate to standard school services, Transport for Greater Manchester’s YSBs use electric-hybrid vehicles which are hired to operators. They have 2+3 seating layouts and are prefixed by the letter ‘Y’ (hence the Y88 which went to Samuel Laycock School from the Albion Hotel, Dukinfield).

Zippy: not an adjective or a character from Rainbow, but Ribble’s answer to the Bee Line Buzz Company in Preston during the late 1980s. They too opted for yellow minibuses along similar principles.

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Errors and Omissions?

Feel free to add the existing 26 examples, or correct me. You know it makes sense.

S.V., 06 June 2013.

6 thoughts on “Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #4: An A to Z of Bus Based Terms

  1. FOG

    Not that it was foggy, as all could see, but to indicate that a “revised” service was being run because of the prevailing weather conditions ie ; FOG.


    1. Great shout Buspilot,

      If I remember rightly, that was a Manchester Corporation/Manchester City Transport characteristic. Did any other operators have ‘FOG’?

      Bye for now,



  2. In Blackburn growing up we had many “M” prefixed routes, e.g. M9, M3, M7. Haven’t seen this anywhere else! Any idea what it meant? These were Blackburn corporation buses, in the 90s.


  3. Many places do have ITSO cards (a la Oyster) like Derbyshire (e.g. on Sixes from Belper to Derby), they have the “Mango” (Trent Barton). I get the impression they’re not really taking off though.


    1. Hi Dave,

      Could the ‘M’ have meant ‘minibus service’ at one time, or was the boss at Blackburn with Darwen Transport a fan of Leica cameras? At the start of deregulation, it wasn’t unusual for Greater Manchester operators to prefix routes with letters other than ‘x’. GM Buses and GM Buses North did it for a time too.

      Others of that ilk included:

      • P1: Dukinfield – Ashton-under-Lyne – Oldham (the ‘P’ stood for Pine Coaches);
      • W2: Gatley – Piccadilly (the ‘W’ stood for Walls Coaches);
      • O4: a local minibus service in Oldham from the early 1990s operated by GM Buses;
      • S50: Hey Farm – Ashton-under-Lyne – Piccadilly (SpeedwellBus’ first route under the ‘SpeedwellValue’ moniker);
      • A1: Crowhill – Ashton-under-Lyne – Hazelhurst (Ashton Minilyne frequent minibus service launched by GM Buses as a precursor to the Little Gem concept launched in February 1987).

      As for the ITSO cards, the concessionary permit ones seem to be catching on better than the top-up Oyster type cards for adult passengers. Could it be the multiplicity of operators which has stymied a similar format within ITAs and TfGM? From my observations, cash remains king, hence Monday mornings being a popular time to renew weekly bought-on-the-bus season tickets. In Manchester, I’ve noticed on most days, passengers producing their season tickets. In Tameside and Oldham, I still see a narrower gap towards the number of people boarding with a FirstWeek/Manchester Megarider and those paying cash fares (day saver tickets included).

      Bye for now,



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