Good clean bus fun for all the family, ages 5 and up
The summer holidays are in full swing. Yes, four to six weeks of “Mum, I’m bored”, or trying to find suitable childcare options. Or trying to budget for six weeks of lunches without breaking the bank. On some occasions you may wish to leave the house. A bus trip could be a good excuse for visiting Greater Manchester’s finest attractions, or somewhere further afield. Or for notching up your Pokémon Go score.
Besides being a good time to alter the services, it is a good time for operators to entice families onto the buses. It is said that 225 million people a year travel on Greater Manchester’s buses – almost ten times that of rail ridership. The bus is usually seen as an accessory to longer journeys, or for more straightforward trips to local town centres. In the latter category, travel is more expensive than that of the former. In other words, it is cheaper to travel from Ashton-under-Lyne to Ashton-in-Makerfield than Ashton-under-Lyne to Dukinfield.
The most fun way of travelling by bus is the sense of adventure one gains from epic scenic journeys. Cross-boundary journeys. Or speeding along the guided busway from Leigh to Manchester. The quell the summertime blues, here’s our look at the latest fare deals for family groups.
The good thing about Stagecoach Manchester’s tickets is how they refrain from peak hour restrictions. All of the special offer tickets are valid on Stagecoach Manchester and Magic Bus services in Greater Manchester. What’s more, they cover the whole of the 236 and 237 routes in Glossop, meaning no need to juggle with Derbyshire’s and Greater Manchester’s child fares. All tickets can be bought on the bus so, thankfully, no smartphone related frippery (we could leave that for spotting Pikachu outside the Crown and Cushion).
In reference to the price reductions, Stagecoach Manchester managing director Christopher Bowles, said: “The discounted ticket offer means families can truly let the adventure begin this summer through affordable travel and with so much to see and do throughout Greater Manchester why not let us do the driving this summer.”
Dayrider Plus One (One Adult, One Child)
For the summer school holidays, this ticket has been reduced from £6.00 to £5.00. At the special price, this means a child and parent or guardian could travel from Dukinfield to Hyde and return home for free.
Group Dayrider (Two Adults, Two Children)
The Group Dayrider has been reduced from £9.20 to £7.00. Once again, using the 346 from Dukinfield to Hyde as an example, this means two adults could travel for £2.50 each and a quid per child. For the return journey, free of charge.
Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire
For bus users of a certain age, this was the southern part of the Ribble Motor Services boundary. If you live in the north-western part of Greater Manchester (Bolton or Wigan), their services dovetail with Stagecoach Manchester routes in Wigan. The Merseyside portion was hitherto GTL Coaches, Glenvale depot’s chunk of Merseybus. If you’re travelling within Lancashire and Merseyside, or further afield, Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire offer some pretty good family tickets.
Lancashire Dayrider (group version: two adults, three children, or one adult and four children)
This covers all Stagecoach buses in Lancashire, plus the 113 from Wigan to Preston, and the 125 from Bolton to Preston via Chorley. The group version will cost you £12.00, making a trip from Bolton to Blackpool a cheaper yet less crowded alternative (125 to Preston, 68 to Blackpool via Lytham). It also covers the X2 from Preston to Southport.
Therefore, a trip to Southport or Blackpool from Bolton could be £3.00 for adults and £2.00 per child if three children are boarding.
Explorer (group version: two adults, three children, or one adult and four children)
In Stagecoach circles, the Explorer ticket is their last word in cross-boundary travel. With the exception of Stagecoach Manchester and Stagecoach Wigan routes, it covers all Stagecoach buses in the North West of England, including Cumbria. From Bolton, you could be really adventurous and go to the Lake District (125 to Preston, 41 to Lancaster, and the 555 to Kendal, Windermere and Keswick).
The price: £25.00, or £30.00 if travelling before 9.30am on weekdays. Even so, for a group, it is cheaper than the train if you wish to do some hardcore bus travelling outside of Greater Manchester. It is also valid on the 79 from Carlisle to Dumfries, and the 685 to Newcastle-upon-Tyne from Carlisle. For ninja-style bus bashing, this really is the ticket.
System One Travelcards
The System One Travelcards brand has been in circulation for the best part of 21 years. In September 1998, after a one-day experiment on the 16 June that year (I know, I did some serious bus hopping that day and I turned nineteen), came the day rover equivalents of their Buscards, Traincards, and Countycards.
If you wish to travel on every bus in Greater Manchester, the any bus DaySaver range of tickets are the only ones that offers peak hour travel. Its multi-modal brethren have peak hour restrictions.
DaySaver plus One (One Adult, One Child)
For one adult and one child, the freedom of Greater Manchester’s bus network would set you back for £7.50. To get the best out of the DaySaver plus One, a trip to Bury from Hyde* may be preferable to a trip from Hyde to Dukinfield. As well as flexibility, the adult and child is rewarded with greater savings on longer bus trips. It is also valid on the weekend late night services as well as on peak hour journeys.
Plus you can purchase your ticket from a TfGM Travelshop and a convenience store with a PayPoint sign, as well as the bus.
Group DaySaver (Bus Only: Two Adults, Three Children)
If you wish to do some serious bus hopping in Greater Manchester, System One’s Group DaySaver enables you to do that. Priced at £11.00, there are no peak hour restrictions and – if you wish (though your offspring should really be tucked up in bed by then) – you could even use it on the late night 216s and 219s. At eleven quid, it is wasted on the 346 from Dukinfield to Hyde unless you are making a return journey. If you add the 330 (to Stockport), or the Monday and Wednesday Only 304 (to Marple) to the mix, it is a worthwhile purchase.
Of the tickets we have discussed in this round-up, you can purchase the System One tickets from a TfGM Travelshop or any convenience store with a PayPoint sign, as well as the bus. You could do the driver a favour by purchasing your ticket at your nearest Raja Bros. before producing it to your driver on the first bus you board. Please note that some shops may add a small transaction charge if you pay with a credit or debit card.
First Greater Manchester
Second only to Stagecoach in fleet strength, First Greater Manchester has a varied network of services in the northern part of the TfGM boundary, and parts of South Manchester. They also operate a few juicy cross-boundary services that extend the core network to Warrington at its westerly point (on the 100 service), and Halifax at its most easterly (on the 590 from Rochdale).
First Greater Manchester’s FirstDay tickets also cover the whole of the 100 service to Warrington, plus the 589 and 590 buses from Rochdale to Burnley, and Halifax. One of Northern England’s most scenic bus routes, the 184 to Huddersfield is also covered.
Greater Manchester Group FirstDay (Two Adults, Three Children)
For coverage, First Greater Manchester’s network is of great interest to both the enthusiast and casual bus hopper. If you are travelling north of Hyde, any of FirstGroup’s FirstDay tickets are an essential purchase for lengthy journeys. The Greater Manchester Group FirstDay ticket is priced at £9.00, and is valid for two adults and up to three children.
For young bus enthusiasts, First Greater Manchester’s Vantage, and Cross Connect services are of interest. A trip to Bury usually means bendibuses out of Piccadilly Gardens on the 135. For lovers of scenic routes, you cannot go far wrong with the full 184 route from Manchester to Huddersfield, via Saddleworth and the Colne Valley villages of Marsden and Slaithwaite. The 350 service from Ashton-under-Lyne to Oldham has stunning views of the Pennine foothills in Mossley and Saddleworth (especially the section from Delph to Waterhead).
Whereas the solo FirstDay ticket at £4.20 is valid all hours, its gregarious counterpart has peak hour restrictions. On weekdays (except Bank Holidays) it is valid after 9.30am. Therefore, the Group FirstDay ticket is best enjoyed on weekends and Bank Holidays. Its £9.00 price tag works out at £3.00 per adult and a £1.00 per child (or £1.50 per child if two rather than three are travelling).
Of late, Rosso have expanded their network towards the Oldham and Tameside areas, away from its traditional territory. This is largely due to TfGM contracts and a sizeable base in Rochdale and Bury. The arms-length municipal operator continues to offer good value day rover tickets, for travel on all of its buses, and for Rosso buses within the Greater Manchester area.
£10.00 gives you and three others the freedom of Rosso’s buses from Oldham to Accrington. As well as the usual Two Adults and Two Children combination, the ticket can also be used by four adults. It is available at all times from your bus driver.
More of the same though for two people. This could be one parent or guardian with a child, or two adults. Priced at £8.00 and valid on all Rosso buses, there is also an evening version (for travel after 6pm) priced at £5.00. Again, this is available from your bus driver.
Transdev (Lancashire Bus/Burnley and Pendle)
Since 2002, Transdev and its predecessors [Blazefield Holdings] have changed the face of cross-boundary bus travel in Greater Manchester for the better. So much so that FirstGroup poached its one time head, Giles Fearnley, to take over from Moir Lochhead. With emphasis on branded routes (i.e., the X43 being the Witch Way bus), they have succeeded in winning new custom.
In the North of England, this includes the Yorkshire Coastliner services from Leeds to the Yorkshire Coast seaside resorts. Also local services in Burnley, Blackburn, Keighley, and Accrington. As well as local day rovers, they also do a wealth of longer distance day rover tickets. If you’re prepared to do some hardcore journey planning, you could go from Manchester to Scarborough for £15.00!
Mainline DayTripper ticket
If you fancy nipping to the other side of the Pennines, or exploring hitherto uncharted parts of East Lancashire, the standard Mainline DayTripper can take you as far east as York. This permits travel on all Transdev buses to the historic city, including Yorkshire Coastliner services from Leeds to York railway station.
All tickets are available from your driver or via Transdev’s own app. The standard DayTripper ticket is £9.00 for adults. For another tenner, £19.00 gets you the Group DayTripper ticket. This covers up to five adults, though children can also be part of the group.
Mainline DayTripper Plus ticket
If you thought the standard DayTripper ticket offered good value for money, you could take a trip to Scarborough for less than the standard rail fare. The DayTripper Plus ticket covers the Yorkshire Coastliner routes in their entirety; to Whitby, Scarborough, and Bridlington. The standard DayTripper Plus ticket is £15.00 (which on Transpennine Express can only get you as far as Leeds from Manchester Piccadilly).
The group version (same conditions as the Mainline DayTripper, five adults maximum) is £31.00. A serious amount of bus for your money – £6.20 per head from Manchester to Scarborough! As well as the Yorkshire Coast, Harrogate and Ripon (courtesy of the 36 from Leeds) is within reach. Plus you can do the York City Sightseeing bus as well as the usual service buses.
Arriva North West
Arriva’s campaign to boost summertime patronage comes under the banner of Do Summering. There is a number of online options for families travelling on Arriva buses within the North West including Greater Manchester-wide tickets. If you wish, you could take the family to Llandudno on a single rover ticket.
With the ethos on reduced boarding times at each stop, family tickets are only available online.
Family Day ticket: Greater Manchester zone
If you wish to take a trip on Arriva’s spiffy Sapphire buses to Altrincham or the Manchester United Museum on the 263, Arriva’s £9.00 family ticket offers unlimited travel on their buses within Greater Manchester. Arriva’s network in Greater Manchester mainly covers Bolton, Wigan, Trafford and parts of South Manchester. With two adults and two children, a trip works out at £3.00 per adult and £1.50 per child.
Family Day ticket: North West zone
Fancy a trip to Ormskirk or Southport on the 375 from Wigan? The North West zone family day ticket gives the train a run for its money over Northern’s service from Wigan Wallgate (which is also run by Arriva Rail North!). For £12.00, a trip to Southport could see two adults and two children see the roundabouts at Skelmersdale, and Ormskirk’s famed market place. This works out at £4.00 per adult and £2.00 per child.
Furthermore, the North West zone ticket offers scope for travel in Merseyside and Cheshire as well as Greater Manchester. If you’re heading to the eastern part of Cheshire, the 130 shall whisk you towards Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Macclesfield.
Family Day ticket: North West and North Wales
Definitely one for the most dedicated of passengers and high octane bus bashing families. The North West and North Wales zone family ticket gives you access to all Arriva buses from the Lleyn peninsula to Piccadilly Gardens and Broken Cross. What’s even more delightful, is the fact it costs £12.00, the same price as the North West zone equivalent. Llandudno to Liverpool is a possibility, as is Wigan to Rhyl, or Altrincham to Abergele.
The story of Yorkshire Tiger’s arrival deserves a blog post of its own. In brief, it all began when Stagecoach took over the Yorkshire Traction Group. With the Competition Commission having kittens over the Perth giant’s market share, the northern part of Yorkshire Traction was sold to Huddersfield Bus Company, a newly formed company with a substantial non-controlling stake from Arriva. This would sow the seeds for Centrebus.
Then, Yorkshire’s corner of Centrebus would become Yorkshire Tiger. This was bolstered by the purchase of K-Line in Huddersfield. In Huddersfield, the former K-Line services come under the Tiger Blue banner. Services operated with Optare Solo minibuses are known as Calder Cubs. As for the livery and tiger-striped seats, superb.
Family Day (Two Adults, Three Children)
From Greater Manchester, Yorkshire Tiger only operate one service. But, boy, what a service! £8.00 not only gives you access to the superb X58 Calder Cub service from Rochdale to Halifax. You can also use your ticket on other Yorkshire Tiger routes within West Yorkshire. Catch another Calder Cub in Halifax, board a Tiger Blue in Huddersfield.
The X58 was formerly First Halifax’s 528 service, which was inherited from its predecessors, Yorkshire Rider (later Calderline). Before then, it was Hebble’s 28 service. It takes in fantastic views between Littleborough and Ripponden via Blackstone Edge. It is well worth a trip, but the last Sunday and Bank Holiday journey to Rochdale leaves Halifax at 1610 (Saturday may be a better option, the last bus to Rochdale leaves at 2120). Tickets are available from the amiable chauffeur of your X58 bus out of Rochdale.
High Peak was spun off from Trent Barton with a stake from Arriva (via Centrebus’ ownership). The company took over Bowers Coaches’ bus operations and operate a small number of routes in Greater Manchester leading to parts of Derbyshire. Recently, they have added the 304 from Hyde to Marple (Mondays and Wednesdays).
PeakPlus Xtra family ticket (Two Adults, Three Children)
High Peak’s PeakPlus Xtra ticket offers unlimited travel on all High Peak Buses and TM Travel routes within Cheshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire. It also covers the Skyline 199 service from Manchester Airport to Buxton, the Transpeak service to Derby, and the 341 service from Hyde to Glossop.
Though the family ticket costs £23.00, it is the only one to cover the Transpeak service in its entirety. The 61 service from Glossop to Buxton (covered on TfGM’s Wayfarer though not the Derbyshire Wayfarer) is fully covered. Though you may balk at the price, it is fine for covering their Sheffield routes. Tickets are available from your High Peak driver.
South Pennine Community Transport
A newcomer to the Greater Manchester bus scene arriving in Autumn 2014. South Pennine Community Transport are a community interest company ran for the benefit of its passengers. They mainly serve the Holme and Colne valley villages around Holmfirth and Meltham. In Greater Manchester, their first route was the 352 from Uppermill and Greenfield to Holmfirth. In Autumn 2015, this was joined by the X50, an express service from Ashton-under-Lyne and Mossley to Holmfirth.
Four Day ticket (Up to four adults, or two adults and two children)
Four can travel to Holmfirth for £12.00, and have the freedom of South Pennine CT services within West Yorkshire. The journey to Holmfirth takes in marvellous views of the Greenfield reservoirs and the sometimes bleak (though great in the summer) Isle of Skye Road into the village. Tickets are purchased on the bus.
The 352 service (Saturdays only) from Uppermill to Holmfirth has five return journeys. The first bus leaves Uppermill at 1025 with a nippy journey time of 25 minutes. The last bus out of Holmfirth is 1455, giving you a four hour stay in the village famed for Last of the Summer Wine.
For a shorter stay in Holmfirth, the Thursdays only X50 allows only 90 minutes. The times for travelling from Holmfirth to Ashton-under-Lyne permit a longer stay in the Lancashire town (2 hours, 45 minutes). Journeys stop outside the Market Hall. From Top Mossley, the journey time to Ashton is nine minutes – half that of the 350! Plus they accept System One passes and DaySaver tickets within TfGM boundaries.
Group Wayfarer (Two Adults, Three Children)
No round-up of group day rovers is ever complete without this beastie. Launched in May 1981 to boost recreational travel to the Peak District, the Wayfarer is Greater Manchester’s original multi-modal ticket. For £23.00 you not only get every bus, train and tram within Greater Manchester. You also get access to the Peak National Park boundaries taking in Derwent Dams, Chatsworth House, Buxton, Matlock Bath, and the Crich Tramway Village.
By train outside of Greater Manchester, you can go as far as Macclesfield, Holmes Chapel (and Goostrey for Jodrell Bank), Northwich, Warrington, Parbold, Chorley, Darwen and Grindleford. Within Greater Manchester, up to Orrell, Littleborough, Greenfield. The whole Hadfield line (as is the case with System One’s season tickets) is covered, as is the train service to Buxton.
You can use your Wayfarer ticket on the buses at all times. On weekdays, you also use them aboard trains and trams from 9.30am. On weekends and Bank Holidays, they are valid on the trains and trams all day. Another good thing is you can use them on trains during weekday evening peak times (4.01pm to 6.29pm).
The TfGM Wayfarer can be purchased from TfGM Travelshops, staffed railway stations, and any convenience store with a PayPoint sign.
Unmissable Bus Routes
Here’s a selection of bus routes within Greater Manchester that are well worth trying. These have been chosen on their scenic merits, historical value, and with some of the places that are served.
- 50: East Didsbury – Burnage – Manchester [Albert Square] – Pendleton – MediaCityUK: a cross-city route since the absorption of the 9 QuaysLink service. Great for visiting Victoria Baths. Serves both the Salford Art Gallery and The Lowry Centre.
- 53: Pendleton – Old Trafford – Belle Vue – Bradford – Cheetham Hill: an iconic near-circular Manchester bus route which (still) links up with both City’s and United’s grounds. Some changes from original route which used to terminate at Old Trafford and Cheetham. Also takes in MediaCityUK and Salford Quays.
- 125: Preston – Chorley – Bolton: recently upgraded to Stagecoach Gold status, this route is a good starting point for a trip to Rivington Pike.
- 130: Macclesfield – Wilmslow – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]: good for Nether Alderley Mill, Wilmslow and Macclesfield.
- 135: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – Heaton Park – Bury: the best service for visiting Heaton Park, the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport, and Bury’s East Lancashire Railway. Great for bendibus enthusiasts.
- 184: Manchester – Hollinwood – Oldham – Uppermill – Huddersfield: excellent scenery and breathtaking views. Board in good time to bag the front seats!
- 200: Manchester Airport – Airport Viewing Park – Wilmslow: besides being another way to Wilmslow, the piece de resistance is a direct connection with Concorde, and a chance to do some aeroplane spotting (at the Airport Viewing Park).
- 263: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – Old Trafford – Stretford – Sale – Altrincham: one of Arriva’s Sapphire routes, this is the best bus for both Old Traffords (football and cricket varieties). Also good for getting to Altrincham, which has become some sort of a foodies’ paradise of late.
- 340/343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde: best bus routes for exploring the hills that frame Mossley and Stalybridge. Great views between Millbrook and Hey Farm section of routes.
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Uppermill – Delph – Oldham: best bus for exploring the Saddleworth villages, and awesome views.
- 464: Rochdale – Rawtenstall – Accrington: a great route for combining part of your trip with a steam train ride on the ELR, or for boarding the Witch Way bus.
- 590: Rochdale – Todmorden – Hebden Bridge – Halifax: the slower yet equally interesting route into Halifax. Also good for the Gordon Rigg Garden Centre in Walsden, Todmorden, and Hebden Bridge.
- Transpeak: Manchester [Central Coach Station] – Buxton – Bakewell – Matlock – Derby: a beast of a bus with connections to a fair number of attractions in the Peak District. There are considerably more journeys between Buxton and Derby.
- V1: Manchester [Stevenson Square] – Salford – Irlam O’Th’Heights – Leigh: worth catching for the new-fangled Leigh Guided Busway. Especially if they have the Vantage branded buses aboard.
- X43: Manchester [Chorlton Street] – Rawtenstall – Burnley – Skipton: the Witch Way bus offers frequent journeys to Burnley. With its extension to Skipton, you can well and truly use your DayTripper ticket to the max.
- X50: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – intu Trafford Centre: the fastest bus to intu’s neo-Italianate shopping centre. Also good for Imperial War Museum North.
- X58: Rochdale – Ripponden – Halifax: staggering views around Blackstone Edge end of route. Also the fastest bus from Rochdale to Halifax.
One more thing…
- For child passengers, the iGO pass may need to be produced if his or her age could be disputed by the driver.
- Some smaller independent operators may not issue their own day rover tickets. Instead, any of System One Travelcards’ day rovers are available for purchase. TfGM Wayfarer tickets are also valid.
- Most importantly, all prices and validity conditions may be subject to change.
If you are planning longer journeys, it is always a good idea to allow enough time between connections and plan for suitable lunch breaks. Wherever you are going by bus, have a good trip and take in the views.
S.V., 31 July 2016.