The end of an era as another link with Greater Manchester Transport is severed

By the end of this month, Rochdale’s buses will have moved to the new Rochdale Interchange, powered by an Archimedes screw from the River Roch. Next year, the new tram stop on the side of Smith Street will be ready, allowing for a more effective connection with Manchester and the National Rail network.

Before we look ahead to Aedas Architects’ exciting design for TfGM, it would be remiss of us not to give the old Rochdale bus station a decent send-off.

Rochdale Bus Station, and its adjoining Municipal Offices officially opened on the 28 May 1978, though operational since the previous month. Back then, Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon was Number One in the singles chart. Bruce Forsyth left the BBC to front his own variety spectacular on ‘the other side’. In football, Ipswich Town beat Arsenal 1-0 in the F.A. Cup Final and Rochdale were reelected into the Football League at the expense of Southport.

It was GMPTE’s second purpose built bus station designed by Essex, Goodman and Suggitt with 24 stands on two platforms. Construction began in 1975 on land hitherto used for parking buses. Access to the bus decks were available either at street level or via subways. There was also a Thwaites pub, SaverSales and Information offices, a café, dry cleaners, clothing shop and a Metro Kiosk newsagents. Escalators linked the concourse with the town centre, via a footbridge from the car park deck.

As well as a multi storey car park, another centrepiece was the ‘Black Box’ – Metro Rochdale’s municipal offices. The modernist utopian part of Rochdale was more or less complete.

On the bus deck, there was a ‘Tell Me’ telephone link for passenger enquiries, a precursor to today’s help points. Each stand had an entrance and an exit, consistent with some services being operated by dual door or rear door buses at the time. There was wooden bench seats between each entrance and exit on each stand. Forced air ventilation shafts was used to reduce diesel fumes between platforms. Car parking was also accessed via stairs mid way on the southern platform as well as the westerly and easterly parts of the northern platform.

“No doubt at all that they will continue to enjoy and appreciate this for a very long time to come”

With subways becoming a less attractive form of pedestrian access, both northern and southern platform subway access was discontinued in 1996. This year saw the refurbishment of Rochdale bus station. The dry cleaners’ unit became a GMPTE Travelshop. A booking office was opened in the concourse for Ellen Smith’s coaches, and the public house closed.

Reopened by Councillor Allen Brett, the waiting environment saw the addition of closed circuit television cameras. Wooden benches and waiting pens were stripped out and there was less brown on the walls making for a lighter ambience. The westerly stairwell leading to the car park was re-cladded in white, and the orange was eschewed in favour of red – GMPTE’s then newly adopted colours.

By the noughties, Rochdale bus station started to appear long in the tooth compared with new termini in Middleton, Hyde, Eccles and Oldham. With the Metrolink’s arrival in Rochdale imminent, 2009 saw plans for a new bus/tram interchange become reality. This time, on the opposite side to the 1978 complex along with Rochdale MBC’s new offices and library.

At this moment, the café and Rochdale MBC have left Essex Goodman and Suggitt’s building. The angular detail from the multi storey car park disappeared in early 2012. By December, it would have already picked up its last passenger or seen its last driver leave the multi storey car park.

Today, bus users least like having to board their 409 or 436 under a multi storey car park. The single concourse layout of TfGM’s more recent designs is more user friendly and able to attract new passengers to the bus network. However, the 1978 bus station was built at a time when more Rochdalians travelled to and from their town on a SaverSeven, instead of by car to an out of town centre, or to Bury. Hand in hand with this, bus deregulation saw the dilution of GMT’s power base in Rochdale, notably by their successors such as big bus owning groups, independent operators or affordable minicabs.

A great deal of Rochdalians wouldn’t miss the 1978 building at all. I would, not so due to its more recent past, but more to do with how it introduced me more to the wonderful world of Greater Manchester Transport. It had a sense of the future to my six year old eyes, walking along footbridges, negotiating its rabbit warren style subways and the theatrical glow of GMT Standards with illuminated indicators. In the daytime. Sometime in 1986.

I hope the new interchange overwhelms another six year old with the same sort of awe the outgoing building did to me. It probably will.

*                     *                     *

Rochdale Bus Station: 1978 – 2013

The Municipal Offices and Bus Station as seen in July 2006.
The Doorway to a New Adventure: Ford Focus or Enviro400 on the 409?
Stairway to Spodden: the escalators and stairs, right of the once pretty good though long closed Bus Stop café. For many, most passengers’ way to the Wheatsheaf Centre.
Time for some toffees for the next journey. Shame there’s no 400 these days but the 589 or 590 to Burnley or Halifax are just as serviceable.
This mosaic has been bugging me for some time. Before this building has a date with Connell Brothers or the like, could somebody please tell me what the mosaic is supposed to symbolise?
A view of the Wheatsheaf Centre. After Rochdale Bus Station (1978 version) is demolished, access to the shopping centre will be from ground level.
A view of the southern platform with ramp to multi storey car park.
Another relic from 1978: a Greater Manchester Transport serial number plaque, which used to be seen on all bus stations and bus shelters throughout Greater Manchester.
A more familiar shot of the bus station at its easterly end. As a contrast to pre-1996 images of the bus station, notice how the exit doors are blocked off with access to and from the bus station now via the same yellow lined doorway. See also the more recent loss of the trapezoid decorative work on the multi storey car park.
The now disused municipal offices and long disused stairway from the southern platform of the bus station.
Taking shape: the new bus station which, by the end of this month, should be open. She looks rather sleek compared with its 35 year old counterpart.

S.V., 03 November 2013.

11 thoughts on “In Pictures Special: Farewell to the Old Rochdale Bus Station

  1. If your interested if you look very carefully you can still make out where the 2 subways that linked each side of the bus station used to be, if your on the Smith Street side of the Bus Station and you’re waiting for say a 58 to Oldham and beyond then your probably standing on the edge of one of the steps down to the old subway and of course if your on the other side of the Bus Station where the 17s, 471s etc go from then you can see steps descending into darkness behind a locked door, not sure why these subways were kept in situ but not demolished though.

    As for the Bus Station itself just think of all the types and operators that have used it over the years and there’s been quite a few or more


    1. Hi my name is Mal Taylor and I well recall driving buses into the bus station in its first weeks of opening as a 21 yr old young driver.From a bus drivers perspective we loved it mostly,with our new luxurious canteen with carpeting and spotlit black n white prints of Rochdales ould buses from the 50’s n 60’s on the walls..a huge improvement on the old smith st canteen. Selnec had not long been superseded by GMT it seemed an exciting time awaited for the us all but alas de regulation in 1986 put paid to that.We had some great times and the drivers were a colourful interesting bunch of great guys n gals!…Fond memories…..Never thought id see it demolished in my lifetime….sigh!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mal,

        I can imagine the contrast between previous facilities – and present arrangements, being light years ahead. It is a real shame how drivers’ canteen facilities have eroded since deregulation. I remember passing the Lloyd Road timing point in Levenshulme myself in April 1986, en route to a school I would later attend the following year.

        I was impressed by the G. Noel Hill designed structure, then somewhat disappointed a year later about its loss of original purpose. The building’s still there, but it seems a little lost without its GMT insignia and the ‘MCT’ signage.

        A lot of drivers would give their right arm for the crew relief facilities of the 1978 Rochdale bus station today.

        Bye for now,



  2. Also if your interested in what the delay has been in opening the Bus Station well the fact the Bus Station entrance is built on a slope has had something to do with it as I’ve heard during bus testing some of the vehicles have either near misses or been actually grounding their back ends while coming into the Bus Station, some people are being skeptical about the new Bus Station and are asking what’s it going to be like in Winter, will buses be sliding everywhere due to the slope, well I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Good point about the subways and I too have noticed evidence of their whereabouts in the present day. The one on the Smith Street side, there’s like an eight part manhole cover which would if lifted, unveil the subway. I too am aware of the stairs.

      I wonder what advertisements are left over from its last days of use? Will there be an urban exploration type walk in the near future like the Manchester Underground type tours?

      So, I now I know why the bus part of the Rochdale Interchange hasn’t opened yet. Thanks for the update!

      Bye for now,



  3. Will anyone rescue that lovely bright orange M???????????? I’d have it on my wall if I had the room.


    1. Hi Trystan,

      You may find yourself in a bidding war! I too covet thy M-Blem on Rochdale bus station, particularly the one without the left part being ‘bitten’ off. My money’s on it being in Boyle Street along with the Bielefeld bus stop flag.

      Plus I haven’t got the room either!

      Bye for now,



      1. Hi there,
        This is a long shot, I worked at Rochdale bus station around 1986 to 1989, I was the supervisor in the kitchen, I had a very good friend, his name is Colin, he is from Wales and he was a bus driver at the time {sorry I don,t remember his last name}, I moved to America in 1990 and we lost touch, again it is a long shot but if anybody know,s Colin and could put me in touch I would be extremely greatful.
        Thank you, Angela.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi,I’m. Malcolm Taylor, I worked as a bus driver based in Rochdale Mellor St depot from 1978 until 1992. I don’t recall or recognise your name? Mrs James who was German lady was the supervisor throughout as I recall.. The only Colin I recall was Colin Jackson. Who else do you remember?


  4. I will miss Rochdale Bus Station. I have caught many a 400, 469, 471 from Bolton/Bury to R’dale and for me it is the last reminder of what the old Arndale bus station was like, although that one was totally entombed in the bowels of the arndale centre. Anyone else remember the aviary and the sumptuous Rowntrees cafe? I can still taste the homemade plate pies.
    Here in Bolton we are also having a new bus station imposed on us and I know not many who are in favour of it. I just don’t see the point. Moor Lane is better for the markets and the centre of town and is one bit of transport policy by TfGM that I really do disagree with. I’d much rather the money spent on a Metro line to Bury.


    1. Hello again Trystan,

      Same here with yourself on Rochdale reminding you of the late Arndale Bus Station. Though I don’t remember the plate pies, I do remember the aviary. Thank goodness I didn’t dream that! It was on the ground floor of Marsden Way if I remember rightly.

      No matter how good The Giant Y Front would look from the air, the way Bolton’s shopping centre is planned probably stymies a suitable position for a central enough bus/rail interchange. They could either go for the status quo, or a new one as per the Y Front (so they chose the latter). The problem with the former option is obviously two sites meaning two lots of bus stations to maintain. The latter, obviously proximity to its markets.

      I too would have preferred a new look Moor Lane Bus Station with – as you said – a Metrolink line to Bolton like the Picc-Vic plans linking Trinity Street with Moor Lane. Plus scope for a Bolton – Bury – Rochdale line via Jericho and Spotland rather than along the East Lancashire Railway.

      And of course, the 1978 Rochdale Bus Station would always mean one thing for me: the heady days of the 400 Trans-Lancs Express. Need I say more.

      Bye for now,



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