2018 World Cup of GM Bus Routes: The Long Way from Trafford

Game 2, Group E (Sidebottom): 53 v. 11A  

For our tenth fixture we look at two famous and infamous bus routes. One only just about serves Metropolitan Borough of Trafford boundaries. The other one passes through Frank Sidebottom’s home, Timperley (thank you).

Formerly also known as The Banana Bus

Unless you haven’t lived in Greater Manchester for years (or lack a Michael Gove style GCSE knowledge of Greater Manchester bus routes), you may have come across the 53 service. It started life as a famous tram route between Cheetham and Old Trafford.

In today’s language, its one-time unique selling point was its link between Old Trafford and Maine Road. Today, Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium are served by the same route. At one time it was East Manchester’s main spinal route. It connected the suburbs with Bradford Colliery, Stuart Street Power Station, and the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens. Work, rest, and play on a single semicircular bus route.

At one time, there was almost as many 53s per hour as today’s 192 frequency. In 1975 it was every 4 – 7 minutes for most of the day. Every 10 minutes in 1986 – only a few years after heavy industries left East Manchester. Today’s 53s operate every half hour (or once hourly after 7pm). Due to the amount of bunching – rather than the home of Rita the Tigon – it was known as The Banana Bus.

In recent times it has seen some changes which justifies the Trigger’s Broom reference. In Gorton it now serves the centre properly. At one time it avoided Gorton Shopping Centre taking in Belle Vue Street. It also served Kirkmanshulme Lane, which was ideal for the greyhound track. Its north western terminus is Pendleton (Salford Shopping City) with the 53s taking in Salford Quays.

The original 53 service’s northern terminus was Cheetham, at a bus turnaround opposite Queens Road depot. Recent changes by First Greater Manchester saw a northward extension towards Harpurhey and Cheetham Hill. As for the bus turnaround, a detached house stands on the site.

Altrincham to Stockport zombie style?

In the last decade, journey times between Altrincham and Stockport have been extended dramatically. In 2008, the quickest way by bus was the 371 which took 45 minutes. Its sister route, the 370, roughly the same journey time via Didsbury.

The slowest route between Stockport and Altrincham is the 11 service. This also stops at Wythenshawe bus station. The journey: as long as 1 hour and 39 minutes in the AM peak, though 80 minutes on average. Thankfully the 11A offers a faster alternative: 50 minutes, though the train can do both towns in 15 minutes non-stop (though its another 15 minutes on foot to the Baker’s Vaults or Stockport Market).

At one time, the 11A served Edgeley (like the 11 does to this day). This time, the present 11A route bears more resemblance to the late lamented 371 of old. There are two slight difference: the 371 used to cover the south side of Wythenshawe Park. To compensate for the loss of the 370 route, the north side up to Northenden, then Longley Lane before returning to Wythenshawe Road and Cheadle. Brinksway Bridge is covered instead of Edgeley.

If northern have cancelled your Altrincham train, the 11A beats waiting an hour for another next Pacer unit with ‘Chester’ on the front. That hour wait could be better spent on a bus.

Full Time Score:

53 [Cheetham Hill] 3 – 2 11A [Stockport]

Every bus enthusiast needs to go on at least part of the 53 route. Its history alone is a noteworthy chapter in Greater Manchester’s bus operations. As the 11A, try to get that bus instead of the 11, if you are travelling between Altrincham and Stockport.

S.V., 17 June 2018.

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