Almost Everything you need to know about Stalybridge bus station
Stalybridge bus station is a modest, unstaffed bus station with a single island platform. It has four stands and lacks layover facilities. You may argue that the town has two bus stations because of its four stops on Armentieres Square. In recent times, the stops on Armentieres Square have increased in their importance.
Before the 1960s, the main interchange point for Stalybridge’s buses was on the junction of Market Street and Waterloo Road. One shelter was situated beside the Palace Cinema, whereas the second shelter was close to what is now the forecourt of The Q Bar. Like now, other principal stopping points included the Town Hall and the Technical School on Waterloo Road. Westbound buses went via Market Street, whereas eastbound buses went via Waterloo Road.
Before its pedestrianisation in the late-1970s, Melbourne Street and Grosvenor Street were also main thoroughfares for Stalybridge’s buses. Prior to the reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, stops on Trinity Street were situated outside the Aerialite (later Delta Crompton) works and the Fish Market.
Back then, some express buses reached Stalybridge town centre via Thompson Cross before reaching Mottram Road via Portland Place. The 154 and 154A routes to Micklehurst and Uppermill never did either, though this was rectified in 2000 with its forerunners, the 353, 354 and 355 routes.
Stalybridge Bus Station Mark I
As road traffic grew, the need for off-street stops was greater than ever. Shortly after SHMD Joint Board moved its bus operations to Tame Street, there was a need for improved passenger and crew relief facilities. By 1960, work began on Stalybridge Bus Station. A site next to King Street was chosen.
Like its sister bus station in Hyde, toilets were added. Instead of being in a separate block, they were part of the same single storey building. One lavatory faced the Central Hall (now Cosmo Bingo), whereas the other one faced Waterloo Road. Passenger information and tickets were available through an opened window.
The original layout had three slim platforms with seven shelters, all of which in precast concrete. Nearest to King Street was a single shelter, facing the Fire Station on Waterloo Road. This was the terminus of the 216 route, operated by trolleybuses till the 30 December 1966. The middle platform had two shelters, whereas the platform closest to the information office had four shelters.
Before SHMD was replaced by SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport, the layout stayed the same, well after the removal of the trolleybus wires. By the late 1970s, the precast concrete shelters were replaced by six longer Queensbury shelters along the same three platforms.
On the platform nearest to Cosmo Bingo, there was two shelters. The one closest to Waterloo Road was used by Hyde-bound 343s and 344s, and Glossop-bound 236s and 237s. Behind that shelter, nearest to Market Street, was the 351’s stand.
The middle platform had two stands, with one stand being a double stand for Manchester buses, primarily 216s and 218s. The first part of the stand was clearly designed for rear entrance buses, as the entrance was next to that of the second stand, which was designed for front entrance buses. Behind that was a smaller shelter, used by Ashton and Manchester-bound 236s and 237s. The third platform, nearest to King Street, was also used by local routes heading in the Ashton direction.
Back then, Stalybridge bus station was a small but important local terminus. Before the opening of Tameside Depot in 1977, it was an important changeover point for Tame Street drivers and conductors. As well as being the terminus of GMT’s 216, 218 and (later) 220 routes, it was the terminus of the 408 route to Oldham. Some part route journeys of the 344 route finished there.
Remodel and Remake
By the mid 1980s, there were changes afoot that affected the importance of Stalybridge bus station. In the run-up to deregulation, some economies were made by Greater Manchester Transport, and one of them was the closure of Stalybridge Bus Station’s information office. Saver Travel Club season tickets could be purchased at Stalybridge railway station as well as the Post Office on Trinity Street, which made the single storey building redundant. The toilets had closed shortly before then and the clock that topped the flat roof stopped working.
By the 1990s, bus deregulation continued to wreak havoc on the town’s bus network. On a more positive note, changes were made to Armentieres Square, thanks to the remodelling of its car park. Replacing the two shelters on Trinity Street was the addition of three shelters on the northbound section. Two of which backed onto Corporation Street with a third one, used by Manchester-bound buses at the back of Bottom Dollar. With the town’s road network seemingly in permanent revolution, that would be short lived.
With the new millennium on its way, the Huddersfield Canal Society were about to fulfil their goal of reopening the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. This meant the loss of parking spaces with a proper focal piazza flanking the canal. It also meant the severance of a short section of Trinity Street between the Holy Trinity Church and Delta Crompton works.
This was thanks to a regeneration plan, which also saw the opening of a Project Office on Melbourne Street, which later became The People’s Gallery’s first premises. In the regeneration scheme, it was proposed that the forecourt of Stalybridge railway station (and the car park opposite) would form part of a transport interchange.
In reality, the interchange was a repositioning of two stands on Rassbottom Street. Years later, the remodelling of Stalybridge railway station’s ticket office with the early 1960s block replaced by an airier structure.
The main part of the plan was a remodelled Stalybridge Bus Station. Instead of three platforms with seven stands, this was cut to four stands with a single platform. In one sense, a marked improvement from a road safety point. In another sense, this meant GMPTE could demolish the long-vacated single storey building with its broken clock. By 1996, buses no longer used Market Street, in readiness for the bus station’s remodelling.
Before construction began on the new bus station, there was one significant change that affected the 353, 354 and 355 routes. That of their diversion from Thompson Cross into Rassbottom Street via Stalybridge’s bus and rail stations. This allowed for connections with other buses and Manchester bound trains.
Opening in February 2000, the revised layout made for an easier to use facility. Initially, the roadway was paved in the same block material as seen on Armentieres Square. This didn’t last long, so concrete was used instead. On the site of the former single storey building is an extension of the Cosmo Bingo Club and a forecourt. Today, pedestrian access to the Bingo Hall is via Waterloo Road instead of Market Street.
Even with the remodelling, this didn’t solve the problem of finding a true, central location for Stalybridge’s bus station. That could have been achieved by demolishing half of Melbourne Street and Longlands Mill, but that would have been as popular as the one-way system and the bollards on Corporation Street. With the new canal, Armentieres Square’s stands were remodelled with two stands facing the canal for southbound buses. For northbound buses, as you were at the Corporation Street end of the square.
Towards the present day
With the train’s revival in fortunes, at least till COVID-19 came along, Stalybridge ceased to be a terminus for most Manchester buses. The 216s and 219s only call here in peak hours; the 220 from Manchester is just a positioning journey for the peak hour 219s – going from once hourly in 2000 to five times a week in 2021. The 408s have extended northbound from Shaw to Rochdale. This has been at the expense of its Tameside section, ditched in April 2015 – and the 181 and 182 routes – where the Rochdale to Shaw section is covered by today’s 408s.
As the focus of Stalybridge’s commercial centre shifted nearer to Grosvenor Street and Melbourne Street, Stalybridge bus station’s importance has fallen. There had been rumours of its demolition with flats on the site. In May 2011, Stagecoach ceased to call at Stalybridge bus station using Armentieres Square as its main stop in the centre. This was repeated with the 389 route, which they took over in September 2019 after First Greater Manchester’s Tamexit plan. Today, the only Stagecoach routes that use Stalybridge Bus Station are their tendered workings on the 343 and 387 routes (Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes only).
The most bizarre plan was to eradicate any reference of Stalybridge to its bus station. When Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange was under construction, its original name was going to be Tameside Interchange. Stalybridge would have been Tameside Interchange C with Hyde known as Tameside Interchange B. Thankfully, this plan has been ditched.
Yet things could change again in the next five to ten years. One is the possibility of a Bus Franchising Scheme with improved coordination between local buses, trains, and trams. Another could be the return of Metrolink trams. If that was the case, could the fate of Stalybridge’s first bus station be the town’s first tram stop in 90 years? Even so, that would be five minutes walking distance to the railway station. Plus there would be a need for two bus stops nearest to the tram station, and Nexus Move’s little minibuses would have to turn around on King Street.
S.V., 09 February 2021.