Obscure bus journeys throughout Greater Manchester

Optare Solo, Checkmate Coaches, interior shot
An interior view of one of Checkmate Coaches’ Optare Solo buses, on the 220 to Piccadilly Gardens.

Outside the bright lights of the Wilmslow Road corridor, the A6 into Stockport and Ashton Old Road are a variety of often overlooked bus routes throughout Greater Manchester. Some of which are socially necessary, for schoolchildren, hospital appointments and workers. Some of these are the White Dwarfs or Neutron Stars of the bus world, having previously been frequent routes.

The 220 from Piccadilly Gardens to Tameside Hospital is a classic example. In recent times, its daytime journeys have been replaced by the more circuitous 217 and 218. Peak hour journeys were withdrawn in early May 2011, with the 221 its more direct peak hour route out of Dukinfield. The one exception is the 0645 journey to Stalybridge bus station.

There is only one return journey along the full route, operated by Mossley independent Checkmate Coaches on weekdays. The eastbound journey departs from Piccadilly Gardens at 0753, arriving at Tameside Hospital for 0851. Its westbound equivalent departs at 1455, arriving at Piccadilly Gardens for 1552.

Co-working with the C20 route

They also co-work with the C20 service from Mossley railway station to Piccadilly railway station. This leaves at 0710, arriving at Piccadilly railway station for 0748. Then it runs empty to Piccadilly Gardens for the 0755.

Its outward journey may be useful to commuters, but the return one is more convenient for shoppers rather than commuters returning home from work. The return C20 is timed to leave Piccadilly railway station at 1600, returning to Mossley for 1639.

Night Moves

There are now more 220s after 1900 hours on Monday to Saturday, albeit running between Piccadilly Gardens and Dukinfield [Boyd’s Walk/Albion Hotel]. First Pioneer have operated the evening service since 2001, after Mayne of Manchester lost the tender. The service hitherto served Stalybridge with a 90 minute frequency, but that was changed to the present hourly one from Dukinfield.

Before 2005, it – unlike the 219 at the time – had a Bank Holiday evening service. July 2005 saw its discontinuance with the 219 gaining Bank Holiday journeys. From then on, the Sunday evening service was operated by JPT Travel, with no Bank Holiday evening journeys. January 2008 saw the loss of the Sunday evening 220, along with the loss of a 1553 journey operated by First Pioneer, then Vale of Manchester. Following Vale’s demise, the 1553 journey to Tameside Hospital wasn’t replaced, being too close to Stagecoach Manchester’s 1605 journey at the time.

Today, normal rolling stock on the 220 is either Optare Solo midibuses or Volvo B9TL double deckers. Sometimes, Enviro400s may be seen on Stagecoach Manchester’s only 220 into Stalybridge bus station.

The Way We Were

The 220’s lineage stems from Manchester Corporation’s network of cross-city express routes. It was introduced on the 18 January 1930 as a half hourly express route from Upper Mossley to Manchester’s Lower Mosley Street bus station. It was jointly run by Manchester Corporation and SHMD and allocated service number 32 in March of the same year.

The following year saw the discontinuance of the Upper Mossley to Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] section, though it was reinstated in November. By the end of 1931, it changed its Manchester terminal to Parker Street Bus Station. In March 1932, the Albion Hotel to Upper Mossley section would be cut back to once hourly. The service was renumbered 21 in May 1934, in connection with the grouping of the North Western Road Car Company’s services.

Second World War austerity measures saw the Upper Mossley to Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] section severed again in 1942. October 2009 would see that section’s reinstatement on a Monday to Saturday basis, courtesy of Stagecoach Manchester’s 217 and 218 routes.

In 1957, it started to assume its present shape with journeys via Boyd’s Walk becoming the 21A. The 21 would continue to reach Yew Tree Estate or Stalybridge via Town Lane. By 1973, the 21A would become the 221 with the 21 renumbered 220. The former would be extended to serve the new Tennyson Avenue estate.

The Way We Are

Peak journeys take some time between 45 – 60 minutes from the Albion Hotel into Piccadilly Gardens on the 221 with 50 – 70 minutes allowed on the 217 between the same points. The latter’s route is more circuitous taking in Droylsden and Clayton. Evening journeys can do the full Piccadilly Gardens to Dukinfield 220 in just under 30 minutes (Manchester City match nights and concerts excepted).

*                        *                        *

Our Next Route on The Road Least Travelled

Hyde’s other 344 route. Stand by for action…

S.V., 12 June 2013.

9 thoughts on “The Road Least Travelled: Tameside Hospital to Piccadilly Gardens

    1. Hi Connaire,

      The Volvo B9TL interworks with First Greater Manchester’s/First Pioneer’s other evening service: the 231 from Piccadilly Gardens to Littlemoss via Droylsden. As I can testify first hand tonight, as a passenger, the 1943 journey was operated with an Optare Solo.

      Bye for now,



  1. The 220 and 231 are both seperate duties where the buses in the daytime come off 348/350 service they will always be either these or the newer solos (due to having cctv cameras) due to being city centre routes first policy is to have cctv buses because of higher risk of incidents I.e drunks kicking off etc
    Bye for now
    James (pioneer)


    1. Thanks for the confirmation, James,

      I agree with FirstGroup’s CCTV policy on city centre routes. All evening routes, tendered or commercial, should have CCTV fitted as standard. As well as the higher risk of incidents, some passengers on local routes (like the 41 [Crowhill – Ashton-under-Lyne – Tennyson Avenue]) may appreciate the peace of mind.

      Bye for now,



  2. Also just to let you know that the evening 221s is yet another of the few routes in Greater Manchester area that is operated with a single vehicle and yes when I used to get the bus home from Manchester I used to see a varied mix of vehicles used on 221s


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Interesting point on the 221 route. I think it is run by Ashton depot now, but at one time I remember when Chadderton [Ward Street] used to run peak hour 220s and 221s. At that point, Volvo B10Ms were standard fare. Very good buses they were on that route: didn’t half move a bit when they wanted to!

      Bye for now,



    2. Andrew, are you on about the eveningg peak 221s or the later evening 220s run by First Pioneer? The evening peak 221s are run with a bit of a mixture – usually the first one is an older Trident, then the second one a normal Enviro400 (I think), then the last one is worked by a hybrid that has come off the 219.


      1. Hi Mark,

        Bang on with the fleet management of the [Stagecoach Manchester] 221 evening journeys. I have noticed the Dennis Trident on the 1718 journey from Piccadilly Gardens, and the Enviro400s on the 1748 and 1818 (latter being an Enviro400H).

        Slightly unrelated, First Pioneer’s Volvo B9TLs now sport the ‘I’m Cared For By The Pioneer Depot Team’ sticker by the entrance door. Cute.

        Bye for now,



  3. Back in the late 50s/60s, the 21 terminated, not in the center of Stalybridge, but at Stanley Square, not too far for crews to walk on changeover from Tame Street depot or catch an 11 rather than walk. For passengers on the 21 terminating there, they had to catch a Brushes Estate/Acres Lane bound 11 service to get to the center of Stalybridge


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