Who remembers Greater Manchester’s previous attempts at wooing teenagers onto the bus?

Over the last week, details of Andy Burnham’s Opportunity Pass have been revealed in the Manchester Evening News and on the GetMeThere website. From the 01 September, young people aged 16 to 18 years old – so long as they produce a smart card – will be given free travel on Greater Manchester’s bus routes. Known as Our Pass, it aims to make bus travel more affordable.

In addition to free bus travel, Our Pass holders will also have access to half price weekend and day tickets for Metrolink trams. Though no discounts are available for local train travel, National Rail’s Young Persons’ Railcard bridges that gap.

Historically, full time college students have had to apply for Scholars’ passes through their college. Before the 1980s, 16 to 18 year-old school leavers in regular employment would have paid full fare. Thankfully, Our Pass will avoid this confusion. After paying £10 for a smart card, s/he could scan their card on any bus in Greater Manchester. This would enable them to go to college without fumbling for change.

Why, might you ask, was the 16 – 18 age range chosen? Apart from college and work commitments, some people might be happy to ditch the bus in favour of a cheap car. The National Minimum Wage for teenagers and employees under 25 years of age, is at worst, slightly over half the adult rate. Apprenticeship rates, even lower.

Our Pass is probably the fairest way of giving 16 to 18 year-olds affordable bus travel to college, work, or leisure facilities. Part time college students on day release from an apprenticeship would also benefit. If they keep up the bus habit, their transition to full adult fares would be a more gradual one. By 18, this would mean a jump from Our Pass to the under-21s Young Person tickets.

It is hard to believe how mildly confusing teenage bus travel was at one time. Let’s take a look at how things were from the 1980s.

Acceptable in the 1980s

By 1980, bus patronage in Greater Manchester continued to decline. Despite the launch of its SaverSeven pass in 1975 and the ClipperCard in 1979, a massive rise in unemployment ate into its passenger numbers. Works contracts – for example services to Trafford Park Industrial Estate or Mather and Platt’s works – would become a thing of the past.

For school leavers, the early 1980s wasn’t a happy time in the North of England. Unemployment doubled in Greater Manchester a year into Thatcher’s government. With work related travel demand suppressed, Greater Manchester Transport turned to boosting off-peak travel. Firstly, in cooperation with the National Bus Company and British Rail, the Peak Wayfarer day ticket (1981).

This was complemented by the Sunday Rover ticket, a cheaper day rover (sold on Sundays and Bank Holidays only). Thereafter, a string of three recreational travel clubs. The first was The Young Adventurer Club featuring Footpad as its mascot, which was aimed at under-16s (1982). Then The Travel Companions’ Club (1983), aimed at passengers aged 50 and above.

The Way We Were: Greater Manchester PTE find four knock-off Grange Hill stars for their Teen Travel Club leaflet. On a more serious note, if you were one of the four teens in the leaflet photograph, feel free to comment on your experience. Or add some memories of travelling on Greater Manchester Transport buses ‘back in the day’.

Somewhere between the two was the Teen Travel Club. Also launched in 1983, its introduction catered for teenage bus passengers in full time work instead of college. Or on the government’s new-fangled Youth Training Scheme. Initially, membership was open to teens aged 16 to 18. In 1984, it was extended to cover 16 – 19 year-olds, coinciding with the arrival of the two-year-long YTS programme.

By then, members of the Teen Travel Club (like those in The Travel Companions’ Club and the Young Adventurer Club) received newsletters. In 1985, applicants were invited to state their favourite pop groups or solo artistes. This would allow for market research in terms of competitions (for example: win Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s exciting new album Welcome to the Pleasuredome).

As for reduced fares, Teen Travel Club holders could pay Greater Manchester Transport’s usual fares or buy a Teen Travel Club ClipperCard. This offered generous savings on the adult all zones ClipperCard. Price wise, it was closer to the Shop ‘n’ Save ClipperCard though minus peak hour restrictions.

In January 1986, another product was added to the Teen Travel Club. For more regular passengers in their late teens, the adult SaverSeven, SaverMonthly or SaverAnnual passes were their only options. The launch of the 16 – 19 pass changed that.

Whereas the Saver Travel Club family of passes offered train and bus travel, the 16 – 19 Pass offered a week’s bus travel for £4.00. On launch, the pass was advertised on Piccadilly Radio. From my experience as a sleep-deprived six-year-old, usually about midnight or thereabouts during the station’s Nightbeat programme.

Teen travel post-deregulation

Shortly after the imposition of bus deregulation on Greater Manchester’s passengers, bus operators and service changes changed more often than ITV’s daytime schedules. Though the Saver Travel Club and Teen Travel Club products were sold in Post Offices and Saver Sales counters, there was a plethora of single operator tickets on the market. Some operators refused to accept GMPTE’s all systems products.

Alongside ClipperCards and SaverSevens came Busabouts, Explorers, Tripper 7s, Network 7s, Megariders and Big Oranges. In some cases the single operator pass became a more competitive option. More so if you live on a profitable bus route with a single dominant operator. Even better if you could buy the thing off your driver on the 330 to Stockport. To maintain customer loyalty, GM Buses introduced teen versions of their day saver tickets and weekly passes.

Following the split of GM Buses into North and South companies, through ticketing between GM Buses North and GMS Buses was retained with their SuperGem passes. For teenagers this included a SuperGem day saver which back in 1996 was £2.10. These coexisted with the all systems passes and single operator products.

As for the Teen Travel Club, this continued till 1995. This was absorbed by Greater Manchester Travelcards Limited’s System One brand. The 16 – 19 pass happily coexisted with their Buscards, Traincards and CountyCards (which superseded the SaverSeven, SaverMonthly and SaverAnnual passes). In 1996, the 16 – 19 pass was priced £9.45. If you enrolled on a Careership or Modern Apprenticeship scheme you would get a travel allowance in addition to your training allowance. Therefore, your pass would only cost you £3.00 a week.

By 2001, the SuperGem tickets that permitted travel on First Manchester and Stagecoach Manchester buses were discontinued. This meant the end of the SuperGem Teen Day Saver ticket among other products. Another blow was the discontinuing of ClipperCards which penalised irregular travellers.

In 2004, validity of the 16 – 19 pass was extended to cover passengers aged 21 years old. Shortly afterwards it was renamed the AnyBus Young Person pass.

Today, there are now weekly and monthly AnyBus Young Person passes. Both are available from TfGM Travelshops or any outlet with a PayPoint sign. The GetMeThere variant is also available on buses though does not require a photocard. Present-day prices are £13.50 a week or £47.50 for a 28-day pass.

Adding to the mix is System One’s AnyBus Student pass which is designed for full time students up to the age of 26. At £14.00 a week (or £50.00 for 28 days with an online discount), it makes postgraduate study at a lower price possible. On production of your NUS card or college/university ID card on purchase.

A Brief Timeline of Teen Travel in Greater Manchester

1980: full fare for passengers aged 16 years and up; unemployment rate doubles in Greater Manchester compared with 1979 figures.

1983: launch of Teen Travel Club for passengers aged 16 – 18 years old with purple Teen Travel Club ClipperCard ticket.

1984: Teen Travel Club membership extended to cover nineteen-year-old passengers. Under 16 photocards introduced for 12 to 16 year old school pupils to avoid being forced to pay full fare.

1986: 16 – 19 Bus Pass launched offering unlimited weekly travel on Greater Manchester Transport routes plus other operators within GMPTE boundaries. Launch price: £4.00. After deregulation on the 26 October 1986, this would cover a plethora of privately owned operators as well as GM Buses.

1987: GM Buses launch Busabout tickets with a young persons’ day saver ticket.

1993: Busabout tickets rebranded as SuperGem tickets prior to the split of GM Buses.

1995: Saver Travel Club and Teen Travel Club season tickets become part of Greater Manchester Travelcards Limited’s range of System One products.

2001: SuperGem tickets (covering Stagecoach Manchester and First Manchester – hitherto GMS Buses and GM Buses North) discontinued due to competition ruling.

2004: last ClipperCard ticket discontinued – a concessionary ClipperCard designed for under 16s and pensioners. 16 – 19 passes become AnyBus Young Person passes available for passengers aged 16 to 21.

2011: GMPTE becomes Transport for Greater Manchester. iGo smartcards introduced for 11 to 16 year olds replacing paper based Under 16 photocards.

2015: GetMeThere smartcard tickets introduced for use on buses and trams in Greater Manchester. Shortly afterwards, System One’s travel cards would be available in electronic form.

01 September 2019: launch date for Andy Burnham’s Opportunity Card. Following consultation, the new passes will be known as Our Pass. Like the Teen Travel Club scheme’s ClipperCard 36 years earlier, these too will be in purple.

Before I go…

What do you think about Our Pass? Do you have any memories of teenage travel in the 1980s or 1990s? Or the noughties even? Feel free to comment.

S.V., 14 May 2019.

One thought on “A Brief History of Teen Travel in Greater Manchester

  1. I’m only a young puppy so my first proper experience of public bus travel was when I turned 16 and attended college .. but this was in 2012. Not sure how it is now but back then there was a popular bus pass from First which covered a 3 month period and offered unlimited travel on First bus services (Which I believe covered the whole of Greater Manchester but I’m not overly sure). It was a decent price too I think it was below £100 and it’s ever so handy for a 16-18 year old who’s now travelling not just to college every day or most times a week but also out and about to any part time jobs, friends, parties, pub etc. … parents are unlikely to give you lifts willy nilly by this age!
    In fact sometimes in our free time .. being only 16 and having that bit of freedom along with unlimited bus travel we often engaged in an odd activity called ‘bus roulette’.

    The used car market at the moment for a cheap runner remains on the cheap that’s for sure, in contrast to any insurance which I fully believe is almost too much of a premium for any teenager these days, it’s ridiculous. Bus companies for that reason have a great opportunity to provide a reasonable bus pass for 16-18 year olds.

    These days I’m a little older now and rarely engage in public bus travel as I have other means of transport.


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