Long Distance Busabout: Essential Cross-Boundary Bus Routes

East of the M60 celebrates Catch The Bus Week

First Greater Manchester, Enviro400, Oldham bus station
The Daddy of Cross-Boundary bus routes: the 184 from Manchester to Huddersfield links both the red and white rose counties.

Weather wise, the gods were smiling on this year’s Catch The Bus Week. As is customary on East of the M60, we make a point of celebrating this week by showcasing one or more bus routes. This year it is the turn of Greater Manchester’s cross-boundary routes.

The importance of cross-boundary routes

In many cases, the cross-boundary bus route is seen as a low priority. Yet in many cases they provide an important link for passengers. Potentially, the most daring of bus passengers could travel from one part of the United Kingdom to another on service buses. At one time it was encouraged, almost as much as express coaches.

Using Derbyshire in the National Bus Company era as an example, you had Trent Motor Services’ local routes like the Buxton Town Service. At the other extreme, National Express services with coaches provided from each NBC constituent. Somewhere in between was the local express service operated with Dual Purpose vehicles. In other words, a bus or coach that could have been used on short distance express services (i.e Manchester to Leeds) as well as stopping services. A National Bus Company Tees Explorer ticket could have given you the freedom of all buses in Northumbria, from Alnwick to Guisborough and Redmire to Redcar.

Today, with no National Bus Company, the pattern is fragmented. Disparities in local concessionary fare budgets further to the National Concessionary Travel Scheme make cross-boundary services less attractive. The dearly departed X61 from Manchester to Blackpool would have covered three concessionary fare systems: GMPTE’s, Lancashire County Council’s, and Blackpool Borough Council’s.

Likewise with the lost 562 from Oldham to Halifax. Though two systems were covered (GMPTE’s and Metro West Yorkshire’s), the sparse terrain between Denshaw and Rishworth made for some reimbursement issues. Hence First Calderline’s withdrawal of the route after a short lived rerouting into Rochdale Road for Royal Oldham Hospital. Sometimes you have a conflict between local authorities over the subsidisation of a cross-boundary route – especially when budgets are tight. Case in point with the 397 route from Hyde to Glossop via Hadfield and the 239 from Ashton to Glossop via Stalybridge and Charlesworth.

Our chosen cross-boundary routes

For the purpose of this entry, cross-boundary routes relate to any services within post-1974 boundaries. Supposing we chose pre-1974 boundaries, we could have added most of Dukinfield’s bus routes! Today’s 343 service takes in three historic counties – Cheshire, Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Likewise with the 237 to Glossop (Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire).

Each route is carefully chosen for its scenic merits as well as functionality.

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X93: Middlesbrough – Whitby – Scarborough

The best way of exploring Heartbeat Country is either by bus or the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Though the NYMR offers a most romantic option, it isn’t always the cheapest one. If you prefer coastal views, the X93 service sates that yearning. Arriva North East’s express service has undergone some sort of a renaissance in recent years. This at odds with other routes in North Yorkshire, where bus users have seen the most savage cuts to their services.

Today’s route is a far cry from my experience (an L-reg Dennis Dart was my ‘chosen’ craft in October 2009 though a great ride). The X93 is branded as a MAX express route, augmented by part route journeys from Scarborough to Whitby. Extra seasonal buses run the full route to Middlesbrough. Plus they connect with Transpennine Express services; Stalybridge has better connections with Whitby than some parts of Dukinfield!

The highlights of this route are many. For example the fast running up to Robin Hood’s Bay and the coastal views; towards Guisborough, the view of Roseberry Topping on the Cleveland Hills. By Cargo Fleet Lane, our X93 takes an industrial character with Eston and the Transporter Bridge in full view.

What did I say earlier about the Tees Explorer ticket? It is not only alive and well; the ticket covering most of Northumbria covers the X93 service in its entirety. A massive ‘yay’ all round.

  • Boundaries covered: North Yorkshire and Middlesbrough Unitary Authority;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: North Riding of Yorkshire;
  • Highlights: the scenery between Scalby Mills and Whitby; Transpennine Express connections. Also extra seasonal journeys;
  • Operator: Arriva North East.

125: Bolton – Chorley – Preston

Much of the present route takes in a well trodden path, once the preserve of Blackpool coaches from far and wide. Stagecoach’s route offers passengers a good blend of urban and rural landscapes. The best part of the journey is between Horwich and Chorley. After leaving Horwich, you are treated to views of Rivington Pike, the reservoir, and Winter Hill. If you wish to explore Rivington Pike, this service is a good option due to its 10 minute daytime frequency (alight at Scholes Bank).

If you wish to follow the traditional route to Blackpool as closely as possible, combine your journey with the 8 from Manchester city centre to Bolton beforehand. Then continue to Blackpool via Lytham St. Annes on the 68 service from Preston. Sandwiches for the journey or a well timed lunch stop in Chorley or Preston is recommended.

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester and Lancashire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: Lancashire;
  • Highlights: the scenery between Horwich and Adlington. Also excellent daytime frequency;
  • Operator: Stagecoach in Merseyside and South Lancashire.

184: Manchester – Oldham – Uppermill – Huddersfield

Regular readers of East of the M60 may be familiar or bored with the amount of column inches this route gets. I suppose you could say it is worth it. The section from Greenfield to Huddersfield is the best part, though the most rewarding bit is north of Diggle leading up to Marsden. North of The Hanging Gate Inn, it is a stupendous journey comprising of twisty roads, the odd cross wind, and sheep. The sheep wont budge, even in the path of an Enviro400 double decker.

Besides being an important cross-boundary service for Saddleworth residents, it has connections with The Pennine Way. Also the original turnpike roads to Marsden built by John Metcalf (aka Blind Jack of Knaresborough, an ancestor of yours truly, the creator of this blog). Within Marsden, it is a great starting point for walks along Marsden Moor and exploring the Colne Valley villages. If you change at Slaithwaite, the 335 service can take you to Meltham and Holmfirth.

Please note, the full service from Manchester to Huddersfield only operates in the daytime with a reduced service on Sundays and Bank Holidays. There are more 184 journeys from Manchester terminating at Diggle, Uppermill, Grotton and Oldham. On daytimes, frequencies between Grotton and Manchester are every seven minutes. There is some co-working with the 180/X80 routes from Greenfield to Manchester via Oldham.

One word of advice: try to bag the front seat upstairs as early as you can!

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire;
  • Highlights: the section from Diggle to Marsden; sheep with attitude; excellent starting point for walkers;
  • Operator: First Greater Manchester.

202/341: Hyde – Hattersley – Glossop

From Hyde there is two ways of getting to Glossop. One is the slow way without a change of mode; the other is a fast way with a change en route. Instead of going for a 201 to Hattersley (changing there for the Glossop train), there is a scenic alternative you could be missing out on. If you’re not averse to (in the words of Roger Hodgson) taking the long way home, it is worth a look.

By day as the 341, Hyde’s direct bus to Glossop takes in Backbower and is well placed for taking a walk up to Werneth Low and the Etherow valley. Simmondley is also served in the daytime. At night as the 202, it takes a faster route into Glossop. In spite of its sparse evening frequency (every two hours), it is a suitable alternative to waiting in Broadbottom station (which is unstaffed for most of the time). Still, the two hours gap is a good excuse for calling in The Harewood Arms, home to Green Mill Brewery.

By night and day, the 202 or 341 takes in Charlesworth and Gamesley en route to Glossop. The most scenic part is between Broadbottom and Charlesworth village along Market Street and Long Lane.

At either end, Hyde and Glossop have a good number of local shops and markets, though Glossop can be the livelier town of the two. Both are not without excellent pubs, particularly The Sportsman in Hyde, and The Star Inn in Glossop. If there’s a fair wait for a 237 in to Ashton, I found the 202 a viable alternative for connecting with Hyde buses to Chez Vall.

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester and Derbyshire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: Cheshire and Derbyshire;
  • Highlights: Broadbottom to Gamesley – especially Long Lane and the single track bridge over the River Etherow;
  • Operators: Stott’s Tours (341 Monday to Saturday daytimes); Stagecoach in Manchester (202 – Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays only).

352: Uppermill – Greenfield – Holmfirth

A new one to our list! Not to be confused with the former Glossopdale Bus Company service, this route offers the return of direct links to Holmfirth from Saddleworth. Before 1997, Saddleworth’s link with Holmfirth came courtesy of summer Sunday extensions of the 180 or 429 services. Extending the route from The Clarence Hotel, they took in the Isle of Skye Road which made for lively running.

Instead of coach seated double deckers, today’s service – summer Saturdays only – is operated with 16 seater minibuses. Its operator, South Pennine Community Transport, aims to use the 352 as a springboard to improve connections with the Saddleworth villages. Starting at The Commercial in Uppermill, it approaches Holmfirth via Greenfield railway station and Chew Valley Road before joining the A635. If you thought Diggle to Marsden was remote, think again: there is only cats eyes between Greenfield reservoir and The Huntsman Inn.

With three return journeys on a Summer Saturday, it is best to plan your trip beforehand. Perhaps you could use the 352 as part of a circular ride around the Colne Valley.

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: West Riding of Yorkshire;
  • Highlights: the views of Dovestones, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs;
  • Operator: South Pennine Community Transport.

358: Stockport – Marple – Hayfield

Whereas the 184 and 352 are gateways to the Pennine Way, the 358 fulfils a similar purpose with Kinder Scout. At its eastern terminus in Hayfield, Kinder Scout is almost two hours walk on foot. Hayfield is also noted for its Jazz Festival and as the birthplace of Arthur Lowe. New Mills is not without its charms with the old town’s shops and pubs worth visiting. A short walk from the bus station is the town’s visitor centre and the Torrs Millennium Walkway over the River Goyt.

Nearer to Stockport, we see a chunk of (post-1974) Cheshire en route to Marple. It is worth dismounting near Strines for a walk along the Roman Lakes. The centre of Marple is worth a visit squarely for Brabyns Park, its canals and a number of local shops. As the bus moves closer to Stockport, the aspect takes a more industrial turn, punctuated by post-1945 housing in Offerton and the ‘joys’ of the A6.

What makes Stockport special? The Hatworks hat museum on the A6 (Wellington Road South), Staircase House close to its indoor and open market, and the Robinsons Brewery Tour. Also the town’s air raid shelters – available for guided tours – carved in to the town’s sandstone rock. By night, the Plaza Super Cinema and a wealth of pubs are worth visiting.

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester, Cheshire East and Derbyshire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: Cheshire and Derbyshire;
  • Highlights: the section from Diggle to Marsden; sheep with attitude; excellent starting point for walkers;
  • Operator: Stagecoach in Manchester.

X58: Rochdale – Ripponden – Halifax

Without people power, Rochdale would have lost its more scenic trans-Pennine route to the bus depot in the sky. Before January 2015, the 528 service was one of two subsidised services slated for withdrawal. Instead, changes saw the route renumbered X58. Its most dramatic changes entailed cuts to evening and Sunday journeys. Unlike its predecessor, the village of Lydgate is no longer served.

We are most thankful of its retention; the X58 not only offers the quickest way to Halifax from Rochdale by bus. It offers the most scenic route – surpassing the longer 590 service and the Calder Valley line by several degrees. The most exhilarating run is between Littleborough and Ripponden, particularly the horseshoe bend leading to Blackstone Edge reservoir. On a clear day, Winter Hill and Manchester city centre can be seen in the distance.

North of Ripponden, the moorland gives way to Yorkshire stone as former mills and stone housing punctuates the scene. A scene interrupted only by tower blocks in Sowerby Bridge, the Italianette Wainhouse Tower and the Calderdale Way, outside of Halifax town centre.

With today’s route is operated with Optare Solo minibuses, they come under Yorkshire Tiger’s “Calder Cubs” branding. Its tendered services within Calderdale and Kirklees MBC boundaries are operated with the small yet agile minibuses, complete with free WiFi for its passengers.

  • Boundaries covered: Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire;
  • Pre-1974 boundaries covered: Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire;
  • Highlights: the horseshoe bend between The Moorcock Inn and Blackstone Edge reservoir;
  • Operator: Yorkshire Tiger.

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Before I go…

Feel free to add to our selection of cross-boundary bus routes. Elaborate on the octet of routes. Did you enjoy a pint of The Harewood Arms between 202s? Was the X93 part of your plans to visit Whitby or Scarborough? More the merrier.

Oh, and happy bussing. Please remember that a bus is for life, not just for Christmas parties or school days.

S.V., 30 June 2015.

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8 thoughts on “Long Distance Busabout: Essential Cross-Boundary Bus Routes

Add yours

  1. Regarding 358 I’m surprised the terminus in Hayfield isn’t worthy of a metion as its the start of the lovelyt scenic Sett Valley Trail which follows the old railway line from Hayfield-New Mills and is a lovely walk to do on a decent day, I did it myself last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, plenty to see, do and hear aswell.

    Also other Cross Boundry Routes that are quite scenic in my opinion are the following:

    58 Buxton-Macclesfield
    61 Glossop-Buxton
    951 Saturday Only Glossop-Huddersfield via Holmfirth

    There are many more but these are a couple just to keep you going

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    1. Hi Andrew,

      Hayfield is worthy of an article itself, a future edition of ‘Go Cheapway…’ owing to its starting point for Kinder Scout as well as The Sett Valley Trail. I did the Sett Valley Trail in 50 minutes.

      The last time I went along the Peak District 58 and 951 routes? 1987 and 1990 in a Manchester Education Committee red Sherpa minibus with the (late great – now demolished :-() Ewing School. Firstly on a trip to Poole’s Cavern, then as part of a camping trip. The latter, 25 years and one day ago on my way back from Holmfirth to a chippy in Glossop, before returning to Crowden camp site.

      As for the 61, fairly familiar with this service from New Mills to Glossop. Still to do the section to Buxton. I remember when part of it was the 361 to Stockport, whereby after New Mills Newtown it followed the 199 service.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. Vaguely remember the 365 in the late 80’s run by Yorkshire Rider from Manchester Arndale to Bradford Interchange via Oldham, Uppermill, Marsden and Huddersfield. An epic journey!

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    1. Hi Grahame,

      I do too! The equivalent for today’s passengers entails changing at Huddersfield for either the X6, X63 or 363 routes. If I remember rightly they used to use dual purpose vehicles when the service ran to Bradford Interchange.

      Not only that, there was an interesting period between 1995 and 1997 when a Yorkshire offshoot of Blue Bus competed with Badgerline/Rider Group’s Kingfisher (now First Huddersfield) on the 365. Aged persons were nipping across the Pennines to pay 20p to get from Oldham to Huddersfield.

      In 1995, that amount would have only done a single stop on the 346 (GMS Buses’ single adult fare from Ashton to Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] was 75p).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  3. Hi Stuart, several cross boundary routes from Leeds into North York’s are worthy of mentioning as well, these include all Coastliner and Dalesbus routes including those what connect at Otley into other Dalesbus routes. Scenery galore on all of them. Another route worth mentioning is the 580/1 Craven Connect from Skipton to Kirkby Lonsdale via Settle with Sunday Extensions to Lancaster and Morecambe. Mon to Sat, it’s possible to get from Leeds to Lancaster and Morecambe using the X84 (another cross boundary gem) to Skip then the 580/1 to Kirkby L then the 80 and local buses to Lancaster/Morecambe.

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    1. Hi Nicholas,

      I was nearly going to consider the TransPeak as one entry though it didn’t make the final cut. As I have only do the route up to Matlock, I was unable to offer a full description.

      Therefore if I did the service all the way up to Derby it would have been included on the list. First and only time I did a proper journey on the TransPeak, it started from Lever Street Bus Station and finished at Nottingham. Not done it since it became High Peak’s route.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      P.S. (for Andrew) I had the joy of boarding the 951 today, from Glossop to Holmfirth. A lovely route that takes in three pre-1974 counties (including Torside which was part of Cheshire).

      Like

  4. “Please remember that a bus is for life, not just for Christmas parties or school days” How true Stuart

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