Christmas Day On The Buses, Greater Manchester, 1986

Was 1986 the last year when Greater Manchester had an extensive bus network on Christmas Day?

For many carless households, leaving the house on Christmas Day is nigh-on impossible. As a rule of thumb, it is assumed that many people spend Christmas Day at home. They are more likely to open presents, get entangled with the turkey, or fall asleep in front of the television.

For some, Christmas Day is a day of work. Publicans, taxi drivers, police officers and nurses for example work in this joyous time of the year. Some religions may not observe Christmas Day and see the 25 December as a normal working day.

Until bus deregulation came along, it was a regular operating day albeit with limited services. Today, if you want to travel by bus on Christmas in Greater Manchester, there is only one route that is operating: the 43 from Piccadilly Gardens to Manchester Airport. The Manchester Evening News ran a story on Greater Manchester’s only Christmas Day bus driver Adam Kinsella.

In a marked contrast to Greater Manchester bus operations, Merseytravel PTE have funded a small number of bus services on this sacred day. Each of their ten services link up with local hospitals and are free of charge.

Before bus deregulation, in 1984 and 1985, Greater Manchester Transport had free fares on Christmas Day journeys. Compared with today’s solitary service, there was a comprehensive network. Being as Greater Manchester’s Christmas Day services more or less ceased operation after bus deregulation, East of the M60 will be taking a look at 1986’s yuletide services.

Christmas Day 2018

No bus services apart from the 43 from Manchester Airport to Piccadilly Gardens.

Christmas Day 1986

Limited services on trunk routes across Greater Manchester.

According to GMPTE’s guide to Christmas and New Year services, Tameside and Manchester passengers were well represented. Today, you cannot get a 340 after 6pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Its daytime sister route, the 343, had its own Christmas Day and Boxing Day service.

As I used to see my late Nana and my Auntie Mo in Mossley on Boxing Day, Mum, Dad, my sister Sarah, and myself would catch the 343 to Top Mossley. Which further explains my emotional link with the service that goes from M to S, D, and H. With the winter weather (especially in 1985 with snow on the tops of Mossley, Roughtown and Lydgate), that made my Christmas complete.

1986’s equivalent to Stagecoach Manchester’s 43 was the 44, which used to go to Manchester Airport. In 1986, there was no Christmas Day bus to Ringway; a previous version of the 43 terminated at Woodhouse Park.

Summary of Christmas Day routes in Tameside and Manchester

  • 169: Southern Cemetery – Droylsden: from Southern Cemetery, ten past hour from 1010 to 1910 with additional journey at 2010 terminating at Belle Vue; then four minutes past the hour from 1004 to 2004 in opposite direction;
  • 170: Belle Vue – Droylsden [Lumb Lane]: from Belle Vue, eight minutes past the hour from 1008 to 1908 with additional journey at 2000; 25 minutes to the hour from 1035 to 1935 in opposite direction;
  • 187: Piccadilly – Ashton-under-Lyne: from Piccadilly Gardens, twenty past the hour from 1020 to 1920; twenty to the hour from 1040 to 1940 in opposite direction;
  • 204: Piccadilly – Haughton Green: from Piccadilly Gardens, three minutes past hour from 1003 to 2003; then seven minutes to the hour from 0953 to 1953 in opposite direction;
  • 211: Piccadilly – Hattersley [John Kennedy Road]: from Piccadilly Gardens, 18 minutes past and 12 minutes to the hour from 1018 to 1918 with additional journey from Ardwick at 0956 and to Hyde Bus Station at 1948; nine minutes to and 21 minutes past the hour from 0951 to 1951 in opposite direction;
  • 216: Piccadilly – Ashton-under-Lyne: from Piccadilly Gardens, ten to the hour from 0950 to 1950; ten past the hour from Ashton-under-Lyne from 1010 to 1910, followed by an extra journey at 2000;
  • 219: Victoria [Rail Station] – Stalybridge [Bus Station]: from Manchester Victoria railway station, two minutes past and 28 minutes to the hour from 1002 to 2002; also two minutes past and 28 minutes to the hour from 1002 to 2002 from Stalybridge Bus Station;
  • 331: Ashton-under-Lyne – Smallshaw Circular: ten to the hour from 0950 to 1950;
  • 333: Ashton-under-Lyne – Smallshaw Circular: twenty past the hour from 1020 to 1920;
  • 343: Oldham [Town Square] – Mossley – Hyde: from Hyde, 28 minutes to the hour from 1132 to 1832 with additional journeys from Stalybridge Bus Station to Mossley [Brookbottom] at 0948 and Hyde Bus Station to Mossley [Brookbottom] at 1032 and 1932; from Oldham, quarter to the hour from 1245 to 1845 with additional journeys from Mossley [Brookbottom] to Hyde Bus Station at 1014, 1114, and 1214, and Oldham [Town Square] to Stalybridge [Bus Station] at 1945.
  • 346: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde: on the hour from 1000 to 2000 from Ashton; from Hyde Bus Station, five to the hour from 0955 to 1955;
  • 347: Ashton-under-Lyne – Haughton Green: on the hour from 1000 to 2000 from Ashton; from Haughton Green, 22 minutes past the hour from 1022 to 2022;
  • 348: Ashton-under-Lyne – Haughton Green: half past the hour from 1030 to 1930 from Ashton; from Haughton Green, eight minutes to the hour from 1052 to 1952;
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Micklehurst [Hey Farm]: 12 minutes to the hour from 0948 to 1948 from Ashton; from Hey Farm Estate, 17 minutes past the hour from 1017 to 2017;
  • 351: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield [Park Road] – Carrbrook: 25 minutes past the hour from 1025 to 1925 from Ashton; from Carrbrook School, eight minutes to the hour from 1052 to 1952;
  • 382: Ashton-under-Lyne – Droylsden [Greenside Lane]: five past the hour from 1005 to 1905 with extra journey at 2000; from Greenside Lane, half past the hour from 1030 to 1930 with extra journey at 2025;
  • 409: Ashton-under-Lyne – Oldham – Rochdale: on the hour and half past the hour from 1000 to 1930 from Ashton with additional journeys from Oldham [King Square] to Rochdale [Bus Station] at 0947 and Ashton [Bus Station] to Oldham [King Square] at 2000; from Rochdale Bus Station, quarter to and quarter past the hour from 0945 to 1945;
  • A1: Crowhill – Ashton-under-Lyne – Hazelhurst: three minutes past and 27 minutes to the hour from 1003 to 1933 from Crowhill with an additional journey from Crowhill to Ashton at 2003 and another from Ashton to Hazelhurst at 1001; from Hazelhurst, 11 minutes past and 19 minutes to the hour from 1011 to 1941 with additional journeys from Ashton to Crowhill (0955) and Hazelhurst to Ashton (2011).

Of particular interest with Tameside’s Christmas Day services seen here (other than the lack of them nowadays) is the lack of Stockport services. From GMPTE’s guide, no Christmas Day services were advertised for the 383/384 Bredbury Circular nor the 330 from Ashton to Stockport, nor the 389 which operated all the way to Marple.

Saddleworth had a few Christmas Day services too, as seen below:

Summary of Christmas Day routes in the Saddleworth area

  • 183: Oldham [High Street] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel]: 11 minutes past the hour from 1011 to 1911 from Oldham; 17 minutes past the hour from 1017 to 2017 from Uppermill;
  • 427: Hollinwood – Grotton [Station Road] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel]: 29 minutes to the hour and one minute past the hour from Grotton to Hollinwood, from 1031 to 1931 (eight minutes to the hour from 1052 to 1852 from Uppermill), with additional journeys at 1001 from Grotton to Hollinwood and 1952 from Uppermill to Oldham [George Street]; one minute past and 29 minutes to the hour from Hollinwood to Grotton from 1001 to 1931 (29 minutes to the hour to Uppermill), with additional journeys from Oldham [Mumps Bridge] to Uppermill at 0947 and Hollinwood to Oldham [Mumps Bridge] at 2001.

Even in 1986, it was still possible to go to Uppermill by bus on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day 1986 and New Year’s Day 1987

On many routes, Sunday services were operated on the above days. A far cry from Tameside’s present-day Boxing Day and New Year’s Day offerings. The following services which had a Sunday service were as follows:

  • 169: Droylsden – Southern Cemetery;
  • 170: Belle Vue – Chorlton [Bus Station] and Belle Vue – Droylsden;
  • 187: Piccadilly – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • 204: Piccadilly – Haughton Green;
  • 205: Piccadilly – Dane Bank;
  • 208: Gee Cross – Tameside Hospital (via Hyde and Stalybridge);
  • 211: Piccadilly – Hattersley [John Kennedy Road] – Hollingworth;
  • 216: Piccadilly – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • 219: Victoria [Rail Station] – Stalybridge (via Guide Bridge);
  • 220: Victoria [Rail Station] – Stalybridge (via Dukinfield);
  • 224: Piccadilly – Glossop (via Hyde Road);
  • 236: Manchester [Albert Square] – Ashton-under-Lyne – Glossop (via Woolley Bridge);
  • 237: Manchester [Albert Square] – Ashton-under-Lyne – Glossop (via Tintwistle and Hadfield);
  • 330: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde – Stockport;
  • 331/333: Ashton-under-Lyne – Smallshaw/Hurst Circulars;
  • 334: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hartshead Circular (via Turner Lane);
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde;
  • 344: Carrbrook – Mossley [Brookbottom];
  • 346: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde;
  • 347/348: Ashton-under-Lyne – Haughton Green circulars;
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Micklehurst [Hey Farm];
  • 351: Ashton-under-Lyne – Carrbrook (via Tame Valley and Stalybridge);
  • 355: Ashton-under-Lyne – Uppermill (via Heyrod and Mossley);
  • 382: Ashton-under-Lyne – Droylsden;
  • 388: Ashton-under-Lyne – Gee Cross (via Stalybridge and Yew Tree estate);
  • 389: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Marple (via Cheetham Hill Road);
  • 400 Trans-Lancs Express: Bolton – Bury – Rochdale – Oldham – Ashton-under-Lyne – Denton – Stockport;
  • 408: Oldham – Stalybridge;
  • 409: Rochdale – Oldham – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • A1: Crowhill – Ashton-under-Lyne – Hazelhurst.

The only exception to the Sunday timetable (besides routes without Sunday services) was the 231 route. From Piccadilly, its Boxing Day timetable was three minutes past the hour from 0903 to 2303. In the opposite direction from Lumb Lane, 29 minutes to the hour from 0831 to 2231. In addition to its hourly service, the 231 had an additional journey from Littlemoss [Lumb Lane] to Droylsden [Edge Lane].

Besides the obvious lack of Boxing Day and New Year’s Day services among contemporary operations, it is worth comparing the above list with today’s Sunday services. Much of the 382 is tacked on to the 231 service. The 408 runs from Shaw to Stalybridge – albeit every two hours in the daytime (and hourly along the full route on Monday to Saturday evenings). Since 2009, there has been no direct bus link with Stalybridge and Marple. The 400 Trans-Lancs Express picked up its last passengers in 2005.

Among the curious parts of the above is 1986’s version of the 344 service. Today’s 344 is one of two Hyde – Backbower Circular routes. Before bus deregulation, it ran from Mossley [Brookbottom] to Hyde. A short lived version operated on Sundays between Carrbrook and Mossley [Brookbottom] using minibuses (with Checkmate Coaches its operator).

Among the omissions are the 153 service; on Friday and Saturday evenings, the (often) peak hour service had extra journeys. The 339 and 340 Dukinfield Circulars (part of today’s 41 route) lost its Sunday service at the start of bus deregulation. Its Sunday journeys were reinstated in early 1987.

The pioneering A1 service (a rebadged 337 route with Ashton Minilyne branded minibuses) offered frequent journeys every 7 minutes in the daytime. Today it forms part of the 38 and 39 routes (Ashton – Hazelhurst) and the 339 route from Ashton to Crowhill. The latter’s Sunday service finishes just outside Sunday Trading hours.

For the bored bus enthusiast on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day in 1986 and 1987, a good excuse to leave the house. Possibly to catch a few bus pictures before seeing your relatives a short bus ride away.

Christmas and New Year by train: comparisons between 1986/87 and 2018/19

Barring any comments about the state of present service levels, punctuality and reliability, little change between 1986/87 and 2018/19 arrangements. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, trains. On New Year’s Day, like present arrangements, normal service with an 8am start.

Is there still a case for Christmas Day buses in 2019?

Sadly, given present trends in funding and patronage, not likely. Firstly, it is taking our Andy longer than desired to talk to Greater Manchester’s bus operators over franchising/re-regulation/quality bus partnerships. If Greater Manchester’s buses were still a publicly owned undertaking with a proper pro-Manchester government in Westminster, yes.

Secondly, if Christmas Day buses were ever reinstated, they should offer passengers direct links to hospitals and hostelries. Using Tameside as a model, these should include:

  • 201: Hattersley – Hyde – Piccadilly;
  • 204: Haughton Green – Piccadilly;
  • 231: Piccadilly – Littlemoss – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • 237: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Hadfield – Glossop;
  • 330: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hyde – Stockport – Manchester Airport;
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde;
  • 346: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Hyde – Gee Cross;
  • 348: Carrbrook – Stalybridge – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Uppermill – Oldham;
  • 389: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Hyde (via Ridge Hill and Yew Tree estates);
  • 408: Shaw – Oldham – Stalybridge;
  • 409: Rochdale – Oldham – Ashton-under-Lyne.

Where the passenger needs to change buses, the local buses should be integrated with trunk routes that stop outside hospitals. For example, a passenger on the 346 visiting a patient at Royal Oldham Hospital wouldn’t want to wait too long for a 409 in Ashton. Or a 350 to Tameside Hospital.

Failing that, Greater Manchester should consider a Demand Responsive Transport approach for Christmas Day services. Possibly as HospitalLink which could be a sister of LocalLink, synchronised with hospital visiting hours. Or plain old LocalLink, for any reason to see your relatives.

Or a case for improved Boxing Day buses in 2019 (or New Year’s Day 2020)?

Adopting the same timetable as 1986’s Christmas Day services would improve matters on Boxing Day compared with this year’s arrangements. With the addition of the 237, 330 and 389 routes to the mix, this could improve connectivity with other modes. Particularly Metrolink trams which have a Sunday service on Boxing Day.

Why, might you ask should Boxing Day services be beefed up? Traditionally, the feast day of St. Stephen is noted for sporting events. Due to the lack of 236 and 237 buses, how could Stalybridge Celtic fans get to see tomorrow’s ‘Bridge/Hyde derby fixture at Bower Fold? Boxing Day was, and may still be, a popular date for seeing a pantomime or a good film. As well as seeing your relatives, which I used to enjoy doing thanks to the top deck views from a quiet 343 to Top Mossley.

One more thing…

The only thing which stands in the way of Greater Manchester’s bus network is Westminster. Imagine a bus network that is fully controlled at local level which works for its populace. This is what the Bus Services Act aims to make a reality.

Bus deregulation has had a truly negative effect on our conurbation’s economy, which has been uttered on countless occasions on East of the M60. It has also been eloquently put on Take Control of our Transport, a Greater Manchester with this mission statement:

The people of Greater Manchester to get from a to b as quickly, as safely, as conveniently, and as cheaply as possible.

It is also the aim of Better Buses for Greater Manchester, a group which shares a similar opinion (please sign their petition!) to GMCA’s site and this blog.

A Merry Christmas from East of the M60

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, we hope you are having a wonderful time. If you are spending any part of the yuletide season on Greater Manchester’s buses, trains, and trams (any day but New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day for many), happy travelling.

As always, feel free to comment on this post. If you have any recollections of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day bus operations in Greater Manchester, feel free to share them.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, all the best to our readers young and old.

S.V., 25 December 2018.

7 thoughts on “Christmas Day On The Buses, Greater Manchester, 1986

  1. i think bus services where better xmas 1986 today i think we need more small firms like Nexas travel, South Pennine that run to this area


    1. Hi Michael,

      One thing that some of the small to medium sized firms have is local knowledge, and services may reflect this to some extent. With the bigger guns, you are less likely to be on nodding terms with the driver. Or see the same driver on your usual journey to or from work.

      In many cases I choose Stott’s Tours’ 343 route out of work; sometimes MCT Travel’s 41 route ahead of the more frequent 346 (six per hour on Monday and Saturday daytimes).

      I think the key to future bus operation lies within Community Interest Companies (like South Pennine Community Transport) and private sector companies falling under franchised operations. Obviously with TfGM having full control over fares, common livery, and timetables – accountable to the general public.

      Other than that, I favour a full service publicly owned operation (Greater Manchester Transport style). As GMT did with Mayne of Manchester prior to bus deregulation, joint ticketing arrangements could be made. Particularly with cross-boundary routes (i.e. South Pennine CT’s routes within Saddleworth), plus reduced rates for DRT services on production of suitable paper ticket or e-ticket.

      The only problem with any of the two models I prefer is (as always) they are subject to budgetary constraints. The Tories are still squeezing public sector budgets with the local government grant being squeezed out of existence, which have seen youth services and bus routes first on the chopping list.

      If local authorities are encouraged to raise revenues by other means, municipal bus operations shouldn’t be ruled out as a serious option. But (and a huge BUT at that), they are prohibited from doing this under The Bus Services Act 2017 (which is where a change of government could alter things in that department).

      A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you as well.




  2. Fascinating on the lack of buses in Stockport in 1986.

    I wish more bus companies would be like Southern Vectis on the Isle of Wight who run a good Christmas Day service commercially, with no subsidy, purely as a public service.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Andrew,

      I too would love to see that in Greater Manchester. There is only one thing: should Andy Burnham get the franchising model he desires (which also has the most public support), would Christmas Day and Boxing Day/New Year’s Day services be considered?

      It is worth noting that Stockport did have Sunday services on Boxing Day/New Year’s Day, so I wonder if: a) there weren’t any Christmas Day services besides the 192; or that b) information wasn’t available at the time of press. The 192 (an exception to this rule) had a half hourly service from 0952 to 1952 with three part route journeys.




  3. Hi Stuart, fascinating post. I had always wondered what services levels were like pre d-reg. Some of those frequencies were better than they are on a normal day in 2018. The only place I can think that has a comprehensive Christmas Day network in 2018 is the Isle of White.

    Do you know what the Christmas Day, Boxing Day & NY day levels were like in Trafford?

    Many thanks, and Happy New Year!


    1. Hi Robert,

      The following services which operated in the Trafford area on Christmas Day were as follows:

      • 41: Piccadilly – Altrincham: 13 minutes to the hour from 0947 to 1947, quarter to the hour from 0945 to 1945 in the opposite direction;
      • 114: Piccadilly – Sale [Helsby Road]: four minutes past the hour from 1004 to 2004, sixteen minutes to the hour from Sale, from 1044 to 1944;
      • 255: Piccadilly – Partington [Oak Road]: 28 minutes past the hour from 1028 to 1928, then 14 minutes past the hour from 1014 to 1914;
      • 256: Piccadilly – Flixton [Red Lion]: half past the hour from 1030 to 1930, quarter past the hour in the opposite direction from 1015 to 2015.

      On Boxing Day 1986 and New Year’s Day 1987, Sunday services on the following routes:

      • 41: Piccadilly – West Didsbury – Sale – Altrincham;
      • 52/53: Old Trafford – Belle Vue – Cheetham Hill;
      • 99: Piccadilly – Sale;
      • 114: Piccadilly – Sale [Helsby Road];
      • 245/246: Altrincham – Urmston;
      • 247: Eccles – Partington – Altrincham;
      • 250: Piccadilly – Partington;
      • 255: Piccadilly – Partington [Oak Road];
      • 256: Piccadilly – Flixton [Red Lion];
      • 257: Piccadilly – Flixton;
      • 260: Piccadilly – Altrincham;
      • 263: Victoria Station – Altrincham;
      • 266: Altrincham – Sale Moor;
      • 368: Heaton Chapel – Altrincham;
      • 370: Altrincham – Didsbury – Stockport;
      • 371: Altrincham – Gatley – Cheadle – Stockport;
      • 500: Stockport – Sale – Stretford – Bolton;
      • A11/A12: Altrincham – Halebarns Circulars;
      • A13: Altrincham – Oldfield Brow;
      • A14/A15: Altrincham – Timperley Circulars.

      Quite an exhausting list compared with today’s network!

      I hope you appreciate these lists and that you have a Happy New Year.




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