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.
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Rochdale Bus Station: 1978 – 2013
S.V., 03 November 2013.