Is the future orange and white or pink with yellow spots?

Unless we know different by the end of May, we shall be bracing ourselves for a new era of franchised bus operations by 2025. There will be endless chat on social media and blogs as to what bus routes will change, the fares, the cost of running the whole thing, and fun things like the livery.

The suggested livery remains a point of speculation. Had East of the M60 been going in 1968, we might have had one or two comments favouring the smart Stockport Corporation livery. The very thought of orange and white might have got my readers mourning the loss of SHMD’s green and cream, or the blue and cream liveries of Ashton-under-Lyne and Rochdale corporations’ buses.

In this fun little post, we take a look at what could be a possible livery style for Greater Manchester’s bus routes. Here’s our runners and riders.

1. Orange and white

For many children of the 1970s, orange and white meant SELNEC PTE. Also the first livery of Greater Manchester Transport that was superseded by the white, orange and brown of 1981. When the livery was first applied to our City Region’s buses (well, it was South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire Passenger Transport Executive back then), it was striking beyond belief. At the time, it wasn’t exactly popular because of the multiplicity of local liveries that it replaced.

Why was orange and white chosen? It was a neutral colour for the whole area. Using the red and cream of Manchester Corporation would have sent out the message that SELNEC was too Manchester-centric. Plus, red and cream was also used by the North Western Road Car Company as well as Stockport Corporation.

If TfGM opt for the 1969 (or 1974) orange and white livery, expect to see the TfGM logo in black above the entrance door and driver’s cab window. As to where the franchise holder’s logo could be placed, probably in the same spot where the M-blem or Lazy-S would have been placed.

2. White, orange and brown

If a child of the 1970s can get misty eyed for the orange and white livery, any child of the 1980s would feel the same with GMT’s successor livery. I do, taking me back to that era when the 346 went to Droylsden. That era when Leyland Nationals ruled the 354 route.

On today’s more modern buses, I think the white, orange and brown would look better than the 50-year-old orange and white livery. Why, might you ask, did Greater Manchester Transport opt for a brown skirt? It was dirt. A dirty bus in a mainly white livery sticks out like a sore thumb in traffic, which looks unattractive to prospective passengers. This is why you have moquette on bus seats in gaudy colours.

With this livery, the franchise holder’s name is best placed above the entrance doors. As for the TfGM version of the M-blem, as you were with the GMT original: below the lower deck windows.

3. Metrolink yellow and grey

In the last week, we have seen some artistic impressions of TfGM buses in Metrolink livery. Especially in one video clip where we a transition from Greater Manchester Transport buses to franchised buses via the deregulated system.

The notion of franchised buses in Metrolink style livery makes sense two ways. One is the feeling of One Network across the City Region, though our trains need a similar livery to make that work properly. The other is the yellow and black of the bee, as seen in the Manchester coat of arms.

One issue I have with the yellow livery is that yellow on buses reminds of school buses (which could be a tad confusing, when stood alongside dedicated Yellow School Buses). The grey or black detailing, as seen on our Metrolink trams, could work well in other colours. Possibly in orange on a nearly all-white livery with the TfGM rounded M-blem in black. Or white on orange.

4. Vantage violet

I have a lot of love for the Vantage violet. The livery looks well on the Leigh Guided Busway’s modern vehicles. I could imagine it looking well as a new standard livery for Greater Manchester’s buses great and small.

Understandably, this means there will be a need for more distinct branding for the Vantage routes. On the other hand, this could allow for easy cascading of Vantage vehicles, after internal refurbishment and the removal of guide wheels.

What’s more, the Vantage violet is a classy, modern livery that would look superb across the City Region, whatever kind of bus.

5. Green, purple and white

Green, purple and white may sound like an unusual livery choice, but Greater Manchester’s buses could rightfully claim to have that colour combination. It is the home of the Suffragette Movement.

Just off Oxford Road is Emmeline Pankhurst’s house, which is on Nelson Street (near the Manchester Royal Infirmary). Green, purple and white would be a fitting combination due to Greater Manchester’s labour history. It is, presumably those reasons why South Yorkshire County Council originally proposed painting the PTE’s buses in that colour.

With the likes of Best Impressions being able to work their magic, this could make for a swish and uniquely Mancunian livery.

6. Coffee and cream

In the end, South Yorkshire PTE went for coffee and cream, with each bus topped and tailed in chocolate brown. The likelihood of Greater Manchester’s buses going for that colour scheme by 2025 is highly unlikely. Unless you base the premise on Greater Manchester being the home of PG Tips and, ultimately, Brooke Bond.

7. Silver

If the trams are painted in yellow, silver could make for a classy look with Greater Manchester’s buses. Apart from the problems with getting dirty, it could give the impression that Greater Manchester’s bus passengers are riding about in tour buses. Even more so with tinted windows. One downside is that all silver buses – in a plain colour, devoid of decoration – looks unfinished. It looks like the operator couldn’t be bothered to send it to the paint shop.

8. Yellow and black diagonal lines

If there is one livery that would stop you from missing the 221, it has to be the yellow and black of The Haçienda. With diagonal lines, there’s every chance that you could pick out your bus from a great distance. One drawback is that thin stripes would lessen the impact of both the franchisee’s logo and the TfGM rounded M-blem. Apart from that, it fits in with the Metrolink colours and screams “Greater Manchester”.

9. Green and cream

With the exception of Stagecoach’s all-electric buses, green is quite a rare colour choice on Greater Manchester’s bus routes. Blues (dark and light), purples, whites and greys are pretty much the norm. For some old timers, green and cream is associated with Salford City Transport (whom under Charles Baroth changed from red and cream to avoid confusion with Manchester Corporation). In Stalybridge, it means the iconic SHMD, whether the last version of that livery with a lighter green and less cream, or the previous one with a darker green and more cream.

Perhaps green and cream is due a revival. The question is, how does one devise a green and cream livery that is at home with the 2020s instead of the 1950s?

10. Manchester City Transport’s 1965 version of red and cream

Under Ralph Bennett, some of Manchester Corporation’s buses adopted a version of the red and cream livery that has more white than red. The clean lines on the first Mancunian style double decker buses looked strikingly modern back in 1968. As a formal livery by 2021 standards, it still looks amazing today.

Of the heritage liveries that First Greater Manchester applied to some of its buses in 2013, the Ralph Bennett/Ken Mortimer livery looked superb on one of their Volvo B9s. In our view, the best of the bunch.

Under a franchised network, you would have to look at applying the franchisee’s logo above the entrance. The Transport for Greater Manchester rounded M-blem could be set in yellow – the same shade as the ‘Manchester City Transport’ lettering in Univers type. Instead of the Manchester Coat of Arms at the front of the bus, you could have the franchise holder’s logo in its place.

11. Pink with yellow spots

Forget it! The Tories might want to send one of their commissioners along to foist an inferior livery on TfGM. Possibly yellow and red with a bad Banksy copy of a smirking Priti Patel near the engine. Thankfully, Mr Blobby cannot claim to have any Greater Mancunian ties.

What do you think?

What colour scheme should be added to Greater Manchester’s buses? Do you (like the creator of this blog) pine for the white, orange and brown Greater Manchester Transport scheme, or any of our other suggestions? What other colours do you prefer? Feel free to comment. If you are really that geeky, it would be great if you could suggest where the TfGM and/or franchisee logos could be placed.

S.V., 28 March 2021.

8 thoughts on “What Colour for Greater Manchester’s Buses

  1. Personally I would go for GM Buses orange with white top. Simple, bold, and very effective. But I fear we’re heading for something yellow given all the publicity and how TfGM seem to be using yellow a lot more on newer parts of their website. If it comes with a new, bolder, Metrolink livery, all the better


    1. Hi Andrew,

      I am no fan of using the same livery as the trams for our buses. I would like there to be a contrast – in the same way that Leeds Corporation had green buses and red trams. Though I can imagine seeing Metrolink style yellows and greys working fine on TfGM Rail services have in future years, I cannot see it working the same with buses.

      I am with Vantage violet and I like the 1989 GM Buses livery you mentioned in your first sentence. What also made the 1989 livery work well was a bigger version of the GM Buses logotype in Crillee Black. With the TfGM rounded M-blem, I cannot imagine that livery working as well as the 1981 GMT livery.

      Perhaps we may be due a new Metrolink livery in the second half of this decade. The present-day one has served us for twelve years, replacing the original version that had a seventeen-year run. Based on that precedent, there’s another four years left of the 2009 Metrolink livery.




  2. I could go with the Metrolink yellow. Not a huge fan of the orange/white to be honest. I also like the shade of green pictured top, centre. I guess you’re never going to be able to satisfy everyone.


    1. Hi Mick,

      I would happily go along with the same shade of green on Stagecoach’s all-electric buses, possibly with a Metrolink style stippling at the front of the bus. My heart wants a rehash of the 1981 Greater Manchester Transport livery, whereas my head favours Vantage Violet.




  3. I wonder if they’ll go with something really bold that uses the colours TFGM currently uses. Black, Grey and Yellow, done in a way that’s almost a former Blackpool style and with grey instead of solver swoops?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya Wise One,

      I would have an orange version of the Metrolink livery – ideally in the same shade as the GM Buses 1989 livery. (White roof desirable though not essential).

      Among my favourite contemporary liveries is MP Travel’s red, cream and black. It reminds me of the Stockport Corporation livery, yet looks well on Volvo B9s and Enviro400s.




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