Ghostly bus routes in Greater Manchester
Halloween: it is a time of year associated with fancy dress as well as ghostly gatherings. It is a time noted for trick-treating, apple bobbing, and a bit of all round silliness. Of a horror variety of course. It also means films like Hocus Pocus and any instalment of the Halloween franchise.
If you indulge in any Halloween tomfoolery, or happen to be on the way to a Halloween party, you might choose the 192 over a taxi for part of your journey. Inspired by All Hallow’s Eve, East of the M60 takes a look at some spooky bus services within Greater Manchester and beyond. If you are reading this and happen to under sixteen years of age, let an older sibling or a parent share the fun.
Ghostly Bus Routes
By means of ghostly bus routes, we refer to those which have fewer than three return journeys a day. Some of which were previously frequent routes with an hourly frequency or better. They might depart at awkward times at the day, such as early evening or the first thing in the morning.
77: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens or Church Street] – Moston Circular
At one time, the 77 was a frequent circular route which offered a quick way of getting to Manchester city centre. Today’s version of the Moston circular route only has two journeys and they leave at what some might call ‘stupid o’ clock’. They provide a useful link for anyone who needs to work at the crack of dawn and, with this in mind, they are funded by TfGM.
If you fancy getting up early, the first journey leaves Moston [Ben Brierley] at 0445, arriving in Piccadilly Gardens at 0519. This is followed by the 0530, the only circular route of the two journeys. This starts at Church Street, arriving at the Ben Brierley stop for 0543, calling at the Gardeners Arms at 0548. After passing Newton Heath (0558) and Miles Platting (0605), it returns to Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] for 0617.
113: Middleton – Moston – Collyhurst – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]
More than anything, the 113 is a carbon copy of its sister route, the 112. This apart from one subtle difference: its route in central Manchester. From Shudehill, the 112 goes to Piccadilly Gardens via Dale Street and Oldham Street. The 113 also terminates at Piccadilly Gardens, but it goes via Withy Grove, Manchester Victoria station, Deansgate, Albert Square and Portland Street.
The 113 only has two journeys, southbound only ones. They leave Middleton bus station at 0655 and 0715, arriving in Piccadilly Gardens for 0756 and 0826. Alongside the 112, they were among a number of routes that Stagecoach Manchester inherited from Bluebird Bus and Coach.
220: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – Higher Openshaw – Audenshaw – Dukinfield – Stalybridge
Until 2004, the 220 was Dukinfield’s principal bus route to and from Manchester via Ashton Old Road. This changed when off-peak journeys became part of Mayne of Manchester’s 218 route. Gradually, some 220 journeys on the cusp of peak hours were taken over by various companies. Before April 2015, it was Dukinfield’s direct link with Manchester city centre after 7pm. With the 221 being its peak hour equivalent, the 220 is virtually a Lost Bus Route. Apart from one journey.
Its one and only journey leaves Piccadilly Gardens at 0645. It continues to Stalybridge bus station via Higher Openshaw (0700), Audenshaw (0703 at the Trough) and Dukinfield (at around 0720 at the Albion Hotel). It arrives at its final destination for 0728. Then it becomes a peak hour extra journey of the 219 to Manchester (via Ashton and Guide Bridge before rejoining Audenshaw Road).
478: Bury – Brandlesholme – Ramsbottom
Even ghost routes could make a reappearance. From the 477/478 TfGM Bus Guide, the 478 route was reinstated almost a year ago. Its sister route, the 477 only has five journeys from Ramsbottom to Bury, with six in the opposite direction. The last journeys from Rammy and Bury are 1337 and 1400 respectively.
Addressing this shortfall is fellow tendered service 478. This omits Summerseat, taking 32 minutes to complete its journey. On weekdays it departs from Ramsbottom at 1659 (arriving at Bury for 1731) with departures from Bury at 1625 and 1735 (arriving at Ramsbottom at 1658 and 1808). On Saturdays, there are three return journeys: 1437, 1549, and 1659 to Bury, with return journeys at 1515, 1625, and 1635. If you fancy going to the Burrs Country Park or boarding a steam train, the 478 is the bus for you.
654: Walkden – Mosley Common – Astley – Higher Green – Leigh
There is only one journey in one direction, taking 49 minutes to complete via Tyldesley. It leaves the Ellesmere Centre in Walkden at 0728, calling at Mosley Common (0737), Tyldesley (0747), Higher Green (0801), and Astley (0805) before terminating at Leigh bus station for 0819. The weekdays only journey, operated by Diamond Bus, is clearly a positioning journey for its 695 service to Royal Bolton Hospital and Farnworth.
X58: Flixton – Davyhulme – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]
Express bus routes or limited stop routes that operate inside the Greater Manchester boundary are a rarity. At one time, they were pretty abundant and offered a faster alternative to the stopping services. Before 1980, the 220 and 221 were limited stop services, offering an alternative to the all stops 218 and 219 routes between Audenshaw and Manchester. In Flixton, you have the X58 which has one return journey.
The X58, formerly the 258, observes all stops from Flixton to Lostock. From Lostock, it runs non-stop until its gets to Whitworth Street West, where it observes selected stops in Manchester city centre. Its AM journey leaves Flixton at 0715 before arriving in Manchester at 0804. Its return journey leaves at 1725, arriving in Flixton for 1812 (1805 before the 28 October).
Rather than focusing on the lesser spotted bus routes, we take a look at the best bus routes for Halloween Hopping.
350: Oldham – Delph – Uppermill – Mossley – Ashton-under-Lyne
You will always be in high spirits when you take the 350 bus after dark. As well as tremendous Pennine views, it links up with most of the Saddleworth villages. If you like traditional cask conditioned ales, or new fangled craft beers, you could do a little pub crawl on this route.
If you’re looking for spookiness, revellers in Halloween costume in Uppermill may be an obvious sight. Less obvious is the spooky Lodge Lane section of the route, just north of Delph village centre. Don’t blame us if you see pumpkins lighting the way of this single track uphill road.
408: Shaw – Oldham – Stalybridge
The 408 service is almost a ghost route due to its curtailment south of Oldham on most journeys. It only observes its full route on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes and on evenings between Mondays and Saturdays.
The best time to enjoy the 408 is on the journeys close to witching hour. Especially between Abbey Hills Road and Hurst Cross which offers some spirited running. Hold on tight.
V1: Leigh – Tyldesley – Salford – Manchester – Manchester Royal Infirmary
If you are looking for a similar experience to the ‘real country’ scene in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, a sleek Vantage bus could do the trick. With a devilishly delightful fifteen minute frequency (or 30 minute frequency after 7pm), it offers a comfortable way of getting to Manchester city centre from Leigh. Between Tyldesley and Manchester, the fun is doubled with its sister route to Atherton (the V2).
Once you join the Leigh Guided Busway, expect some spirited running. Plus the joy of traffic free bussing on leaving Boothstown. With views of the scenery best enjoyed from the top deck, a good one to catch by sunset.
Any more suggestions?
Can you think of any more ghostly bus routes in and around Greater Manchester due to their elusive nature? Could you think of any routes that wouldn’t have been out of place in a horror film? Feel free to comment.
S.V., 27 October 2017