East of the M60‘s rundown of all things of a Greater Manchester Transport nature
Almost 40 years ago, the Lazy S of SELNEC would give way to the iconic M-blem. At one point, SELNEC’s successor was almost going to be known as ‘Manchester Metropolitan’ or ‘Metro’ (how much confusion would that have caused if the latter was adopted?), and have a different logo to the M-blem. Instead, also reflecting its influence from the newly formed Greater Manchester County Council, ‘Greater Manchester Transport’ was adopted.
From a personal view, also for the time as well, a real style icon. Oranges and browns galore, the tightly kerned Helvetica typeface, modernist design, and of course, the SELNEC and GMT standard double decker bus.
In no more than forty steps, here’s our Forty icons of Greater Manchester Transport, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its inception. Each listing is set in, as near as possible, chronological order of each event.
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- The M-blem: before the adoption of TfGM’s version, the M-blem was the third most recognised transport logo in the UK (British Rail’s double arrows and the London Underground logos were first and second). The M-blem was designed by Ken Hollick, a London based industrial designer, and outlived GMT by 25 years.
- Helvetica typeface: after using SELNEC Alpha (a custom typeface designed by Brunning, Manchester), GMT plumped for Helvetica, which would be used on almost everything from the M-blem to its timetables and signage.
- GM Publicity: another part of Greater Manchester Transport would be GM Publicity, the creative brains behind its posters, leaflets and timetables. Besides the buses and signage, Greater Manchester Transport’s modernist design principles would also be seen in its publicity material. The clean cut Helvetica typeface would be put to good use on informational displays, though there would always be room for fine art. Case in point with the pen drawings of the borough guides, or the dreamy background of the ‘Just Up Your Street’ poster. Today, Transport for Greater Manchester Marketing Communications continues this role.
- Bus Guides: instead of paid-for area timetables, Greater Manchester Transport opted for the more pocketable Bus Guides. Using the glorious Helvetica typeface, they would be printed in a single colour on glossy paper, often in maroon, purple, blue, green or red. Plus you could send off a rather natty ring binder to keep your timetables, hence the perforations on each guide.
- Ken Mortimer: the design genius behind the Mancunian style Leyland Atlanteans would also be the brains behind the 1981 livery. Other contributions would include the Express livery introduced in June 1986, months before the start of deregulation.
- The Trans-Lancs Vehicle Rally/Transport Show: in 1974, the first Trans-Lancs Vehicle Rally had a cavalcade of vintage restored buses along the 400 route from Bolton to Stockport. The route would later change with buses assembling at Heaton Park. Today, it is now known as the Trans-Lancs Transport Show and the rallying element ceased in 2011. Without the Trans-Lancs Vehicle Rally, there probably wouldn’t have been…
- The Greater Manchester Museum of Transport: opened in 1979 as a partnership between Greater Manchester Transport who owned part of the Boyle Street base next to Queens Road depot and the Greater Manchester Transport Society. It remains a popular attraction today with its host of special events and heritage bus shuttles on these days from Manchester Victoria railway station.
- Centreline: Greater Manchester’s first successful attempt at offering a cross-station bus service in Manchester city centre. Though created by SELNEC in late 1973 with a Centreline route around Bolton town centre, it came into its own in 1974 using Seddon Pennine IV midibuses. They were originally for a series of residential services (akin to for instance the 41 from Dukinfield, Tennyson Avenue) which would have been too narrow for standard buses.
- 200 Airport Express: starting from Manchester Victoria Station Approach, it was a precursor to today’s direct rail services to Manchester Airport, using specially branded coaches. There was few intermediate stops with the next stops being Piccadilly Gardens and the Trusthouse Forte Post House hotel in Northenden prior to arriving at Ringway. It was superseded by the 757 Airport Express which utilised coach seated Leyland Olympians.
- Joint operation with Mayne of Manchester: GMT retained the joint operational link with A. Mayne and Son, which stretched from the Manchester Corporation era on some routes along Ashton New Road. Prior to deregulation, SaverSeven passes and ClipperCards were accepted on their stage carriage services.
- SaverSeven tickets: launched in 1975 as a replacement for the Bus-Rail Season Ticket to reward regular bus users. At one time, available in four zones with bus travel throughout Greater Manchester and second class rail travel within one of more zones. Western and Eastern sections were added, and a fifth zone (covering New Mills) was added in 1985. In early days, there would also be Male and Female SaverSeven tickets (!). SaverMonthly and SaverAnnual tickets would later follow suit. They were replaced by today’s System One travel cards after 1995.
- The SaverSales Bus: where footfall wouldn’t guarantee the presence of a SaverSales office, some minor bus stations would see the arrival of a mobile SaverSales bus on certain days of the week. They would also call outside workplaces, in Trafford Park or other large industrial areas.
- Acquisition of Lancashire United Transport: prior to 1976, LUT was the UK’s largest independent bus operator with a footprint from Liverpool to Manchester, with its core area being Atherton, Leigh and Swinton. It was acquired in 1976 as a going concern with buses wearing a different version of the GMT livery – an all orange livery apart from a strip of white between top and bottom deck windows. In 1981, it was absorbed into GMT proper. LUT’s Atherton depot on Howe Bridge would remain in use till 1998 after two years under FirstGroup control.
- Metro Kiosks: before the early 1980s, Greater Manchester Transport/GMPTE used to run their own newsagent shops on their bus stations, known as Metro Kiosks. Each unit would sport the orange ‘Metro Kiosk’ or ‘Metro’ lettering in oblique Helvetica Black typeface (like Charterplan’s), or in the tightly kerned Helvetica Bold typeface. This would be prefaced with a brown M-blem in an orange circle. There was also Metro Flora shops, which as you may well have guessed, sold flowers at GMT’s bigger bus stations.
- The Foden-NC: after the consolidation of the GMT standard Leyland Atlantean and Daimler Fleetline, a joint partnership with Foden and Northern Counties would form part of a second generation GMT standard vehicle. Two were ordered in 1976, though would only remain in service till 1981.
- Interlink services: Launched in 1976 after the opening of Altrincham Interchange as a cluster of bus routes feeding into the bus/rail interchange from outlying parts of Altrincham. A typical three aperture display would see our indicators in white on black text, using the Transport typeface. Interlink services had yellow blinds with black text.
- Charterplan: taking over from SELNEC Travel, Charterplan was created as a commercially run coach hire arm of GMT. It would also absorb the Godfrey Abbott Group and Warburton’s Travel. As well as private charters, it would operate excursions, organise holiday breaks and be seen on National Express services. Its excursions and short breaks were taken over by National Holidays after the split of GM Buses.
- Dial a Ride: before LocalLink and Shopping Link became GMPTE’s/TfGM’s additions to Demand Responsive Travel, there was Dial-a-Ride. Passengers would book their journey by telephone up to 24 hours before travel within predetermined zones. Spun off from the Godfrey Abbott Group, operations began in Sale, which in 1975 had the highest number of households with telephones in the Greater Manchester area.
- Coaches to Paris: after acquiring the Godfrey Abbott Group, Greater Manchester Transport would be the first PTE operator to have an Anglo-French express link from Manchester to Paris.
- Tameside Garage: Greater Manchester Transport’s first purpose built bus garage, it replaced the two depots on Mossley Road (ex-Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation) and Tame Street (ex-SHMD Joint Board) in late 1977. Uniquely, waste oil from the buses would be used for heating the garage. A big version of the M-blem would look out to the River Tame towards Riverside (highly visible from a 346 or 351). It closed in 1991 and is used by Olympia Furnishings.
- Sounds in Motion: today, the only music you are likely to hear on the 236 is somebody’s smartphone. From 1978 to 1981, so long as you liked Dean Friedman’s Lucky Stars, Sounds in Motion meant piped music on the top deck of a GMT standard double decker bus, with adverts every so often.
- Rochdale Bus Station: in the midst of demolition at this very moment (new Rochdale Interchange opened in November 2013), but Essex Goodman and Suggitt’s magnum opus was pretty state of the art for 1978, with subways linking to each of the 26 stands, steps to the multi storey car park and footbridge access to the Rochdale Shopping Centre. It was also home to Rochdale MBC’s Council Offices.
- MCW Metrobuses: to make up for delivery delays at British Leyland over an order for Leyland Titans, Greater Manchester Transport turned to Washwood Heath and Metro Cammell Weymann, where the MCW Metrobus became GMT’s integral bus of choice from 1979 to 1983. In 1986 – 87, they were joined by coach seated variants for Express routes, bodied by Northern Counties.
- Arndale Bus Station: the closest Greater Manchester Transport passengers had to the subterranean joys of a trip to Birmingham New Street railway station (apart from Greengate and Chorlton Street perhaps). Its opening was delayed by insufficient clearances at the Cannon Street entrance. After opening in September 1979, a fair number of Bury, Bolton, Salford and Wigan services – mainly Lancashire United Transport routes would terminate there. Today, Nandos, Poundland and Bella Pasta are on the site of the former bus station.
- ClipperCards: before the Oyster Card, countless operators had self validating tickets for more sporadic passengers. Greater Manchester Transport’s was the ClipperCard launched in December 1979, offering ten journeys for the price of nine. For example, a 23p ClipperCard (Ashton – Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] fare rate on the 346 in 1979) would set you back £2.07. There was also Off-Peak (originally Shop ‘n’ Save), Teen Travel Club and Concessionary versions. They were discontinued in 2004.
- Stockport Bus Station: the first GMT bus station to adopt what would later become a prefabricated design repeated on numerous bus stations thereafter. The modular design by Essex Goodman and Suggitt was first used on Stockport bus station in late 1980, and would be repeated at subsequent bus stations including Wythenshawe (1982). Manchester Airport (1983), Ashton-under-Lyne (1985), Bolton Moor Lane (1987), Wigan (1987) and Leigh (1991).
- Open Top Bus Tours: sometimes in the summer months, open top vehicles would be seen in central Manchester on regular services.
- Football Match Buses Beyond Aytoun Street: for several years, right from the start of Manchester Corporation’s undertakings there has always been Football Match buses to Manchester City’s or Manchester United’s grounds from Aytoun Street or Piccadilly Gardens. In the early 1980s, this was joined by a number of match buses to Old Trafford or Maine Road outside Manchester city centre, such as a regular service to Old Trafford from Stalybridge and Dukinfield along the 220 route up to Mancunian Way. Today, most of Greater Manchester’s match buses depart from Piccadilly Gardens with for example Stagecoach Manchester running duplicates on the 216 to the Etihad Campus.
- The Wayfarer ticket: part of a plan to boost recreational transport, it was introduced in Spring 1981, offering unlimited bus and rail travel in Greater Manchester, plus most of Derbyshire covering the Peak National Park, parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire. Discounts for certain attractions would be included, with the ticket in Adult, Child and Group versions. Covered Metrolink services since 1998, now available today from TfGM Travelshops and any shop in Greater Manchester with a PayPoint sign.
- The White, Orange and Brown livery: a colour combination which some regard as a 1970s relic, though for me, still the greatest combination committed to a service bus or three. Ever. Especially when combined with the M-blem of course. 1981 would see the first GMT livery of orange and white (with a deeper shade of orange than SELNEC’s sunglow orange) replaced by the ‘Jaffa cake’ livery. It was in use till 1989 when GM Buses launched a new orange and white livery with greater use of orange.
- The Teen Travel Club: if you were a 1980s bus passenger in your late teens, membership to the Teen Travel Club was almost a rite of passage. As well as a cheaper ClipperCard (and a 16 – 19 Bus Pass from January 1986), you could also enter competitions and be given a customer magazine every quarter or so. Nowadays, there is still a Young Persons’ pass available from System One Travelcards, available for 16 – 25 year olds.
- The 1982 Papal Visit: how many buses? Greater Manchester Transport literally pulled out the stops on the eve of Pope John Paul’s visit to Heaton Park. Special souvenir tickets were made available with buses from Glossop to Abbey Lakes and Macclesfield to Bacup deployed. There was also extra services on the Bury to Manchester Victoria line.
- The 1982 to 1986 Adult Fares Freeze: with Greater Manchester County Council changing over to Labour from Conservative the previous year, a fares rise under Sir Norman Fowler’s watch as Transport Minister saw a marked loss of patronage. For a limited time there was a Great Spring Fare Saving Promotion on Ashton New Road services. By 1982, single fares were frozen, and remained the same till May 1986. In four years, it led to a modest rise in patronage.
- Sunday Rover tickets: before multi-operator bus tickets became the norm after 1998, the Sunday Rover could enable you to ‘Hound Around For A Pound’ within Greater Manchester, on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Not only on GMT buses, but also those of National Bus Company subsidiaries and aboard West Yorkshire PTE’s 65 service up to Diggle. When released in 1982, they sold for 80p, then £1.00.
- Acquisition of Northern Counties: for a short time, the Wigan based bodybuilder was taken over by Greater Manchester PTE in 1983 becoming in effect GMT’s in-house bodybuilders.
- Travel Companions’ Club: also from 1983, The Travel Companions’ Club was the aged persons’ equivalent to The Teen Travel Club. Instead of being entered for a draw to win a Wham! album, they would meet up on sociable jollies to Tatton Park, Blackpool or the Isle of Man, often on a Charterplan coach.
- Free Travel for Under Fives: before 1984, children aged three and upwards would travel for child fares. This was changed to five years of age enabling any child born later than 1979 to travel free with accompanied parents (of course). The concessionary fare was 10p, with child concessions on buses after 2200 hours introduced in 1981.
- Localine: in a era before low floor buses were the norm, people with physical impairments were unable to board standard service buses. Augmenting its stage carriage routes, Greater Manchester Transport launched Localine services in Wythenshawe. Services were operated with Leyland Cubs with rear doors for wheelchair bound passengers.
- ‘They Cut The Fares, They Cut The Fuss’: in September 1985, for the first time ever, Greater Manchester Transport advertised its ClipperCard tickets on commercial television. The advertisement, using the slogan denoted in bold featured a pencil drawn animated Cheshire Cat, ending with the punchline ‘Get a ClipperCard and you’re laughing…’.
- The rebranding of Express routes: Greater Manchester Transport not only had express routes in the form of the 200, 400 and 500 services, but also limited stop routes like the 153 and the 236. Before June 1986 (Airport Express excepted), there wasn’t a generic express livery. Cue Ken Mortimer, a mainly peach livery with some orange and red vinyls on the brown skirt, and the Crillie Black typeface, red with black stroke. Mr Mortimer’s livery would see further use into the GM Buses era.
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Any More Suggestions?
Is there anything else you would like to add to the Forty Icons of Greater Manchester Transport? Or would you like to elaborate on the aforementioned forty? Feel free to comment in the usual fashion.
Most importantly, if you have any recollections as a member of staff or passenger in the GMT era, share and share alike. Race you to the queue for my SaverSeven at Whitefield Bus Station!
S.V., 25 March 2014.