Scenic single journeys on a £2.00 single ticket

Three months on from the start of Greater Manchester’s £2.00 fare scheme, the Department for Transport began a similar scheme at the start of this month. In many parts of the UK, a £2.00 bus trip typically covers six stops. Outside Greater London, a five mile journey could be as high as £4.70 one way, encouraging many passengers to plump for the operator’s day rover tickets or season tickets.

As a bid to address the rising cost of living, the DfT has agreed to cap English bus fares at £2.00 a ride. Apart from giving you the ability to travel from Leeds to Whitby for a much reduced price, it means significant reductions on more modest journeys like Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay.

As we have said before with Greater Manchester’s scheme, it is about boosting casual ridership. Season tickets and day rovers are still an option for more complex journeys. Unlike the Office of the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s scheme, the DfT’s scheme is only valid till the end of March.

A more progressive government would have gone for a more generous period than three months, probably twelve months like the GMCA. Three months make it seem like a January Sale or a limited trial with your favourite streaming service.

On the other hand, it sends out a message that public transport fares should be as affordable as possible. Should there be a similar cap for train and tram fares? Should any caps rise at a rate slightly below inflation?

The one thing that stands in the way of its success are service levels. £2.00 bus fares may be fine in built-up areas with good bus territory, but they are of little use to a village with one bus a week. Whether the single fare is £2.00 or £20.00, the car is king for many households.

For seeing many parts of the country, the view from the front seat upstairs will always trump the car. So much so, this has inspired East of the M60‘s first post of 2023.

Our selection of scenic single journeys

68: Blackpool – Lytham – Lea – Preston

Stagecoach has two bus routes from Blackpool to Preston. One is the 61 via Poulton-le-Fylde. The other one is the 68 which goes the longer way of the two. Where it eclipses the 61 is the fact it takes in most of the Golden Mile, St. Annes-on-the-Sea, and Lytham. If you want a selfie with the Bobby Ball statue in Lowther Gardens, this is the bus for you. From Lytham, it continues to Preston via Freckleton and Lea, before approaching the city’s iconic bus station.

Places of interest: Blackpool (say no more, the world’s greatest seaside resort!); the pier and gardens on St. Annes-on-the-Sea; shopping, dining, live music, Lytham Hall and the Lowther Pavilion in Lytham.

152 Hotline: Preston – Blackburn – Altham – Burnley

If you fancy a neat contrast between rural and urban, Burnley and Pendle’s Hotline route fits the bill. It plays an important role in linking Hoghton with Preston, Blackburn with Altham, and Huncoat with Burnley. Between Preston and Walton-le-Dale, it has an urban/semi-rural feel. By Hoghton Post Office, it is distinctly rural up to Blackburn before taking on a semi rural air up to Burnley. The route also stops by Hoghton Tower and Witton Country Park.

Places of interest: Preston city centre (Harris Art Gallery, shopping, iconic bus and rail stations); Walton-le-Dale (antiques shopping); Hoghton Tower and Park; Witton Country Park; Burnley Mechanics Hall.

Pendle Wizz: Burnley – Nelson – Colne – Barnoldswick – Skipton

Formerly the 215, the Pendle Wizz is a most amazing cross-boundary route. It begins in Burnley, taking in the smaller Pendle towns of Brierfield, Nelson and Colne before continuing to Yorkshire. Depending on your viewpoint, we either enter Yorkshire after Earby or on reaching Barnoldswick. Before 1974, Barnoldswick and Earby fell under the West Riding of Yorkshire. Today, the North Yorkshire/Lancashire boundary is north of Earby. The rural aspect of the route (between Earby and Skipton) is just as formidable as the urban one. If you’re looking for a good excuse to go to Skipton, it is two quid well spent.

Places of interest: Nelson (shopping, The British in India Museum); Colne (shopping and two theatres); Skipton (shopping, dining, Skipton Castle).

343: Hyde – Dukinfield – Stalybridge – Mossley – Oldham

Apart from being the only bus to link Hyde with Dukinfield, Stalybridge and Mossley (all four parts of the historic SHMD Joint Board), the 343 is a great route for exploring the area around the Pennine foothills with no fewer than ten potential walks a stop away. For Walkerwood Reservoir, its route in Brushes Estate comes into its own; for Alphin Pike, get off at Carrbrook near Cowbury Dale Reservoir or The Dysarts Arms. From Waterhead, walk into Denshaw via Strinesdale Reservoir, Grains Bar and Bishop’s Park. It is a most versatile bus route for its communities as well as walkers. If there’s a double decker on that route, just drop all plans and go for it straight away!

Places of interest: Stalybridge (Cheetham’s Park, Stalybridge Country Park, Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar); Mossley (great pubs, Emmaus Superstore, Mossley AFC); Oldham (Gallery Oldham, Oldham Coliseum theatre, The Lyceum).

350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Greenacres – Oldham

Since 2004, the 350 has extended beyond its previous terminus at Hey Farm towards Oldham via Saddleworth. It absorbed part of Glossopdale’s 352 route, the 355 route, and the Uppermill to Oldham (via Delph and Scouthead) sections of the 183 and 184 routes. Every half hour (hourly on Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays), the full route north of Hey Farm Estate takes in Greenfield, Uppermill, the southern part of Dobcross and Delph. Apart from linking the Saddleworth villages, its real piece de resistance is the section between Delph and Austerlands Bar. On a clear day, the views are staggering (supposing there’s a double decker bus on your journey).

Places of interest: Mossley (great pubs, Emmaus Superstore, Mossley AFC); Greenfield (great pubs, good starting point for Dove Stone and Chew Reservoirs, Boarshurst Band Club); Uppermill (shopping and bars, Saddleworth Museum); Delph (the excellent Millgate Arts Centre, The Delph Donkey trail); Oldham (Gallery Oldham, Oldham Coliseum theatre, The Lyceum).

184: Oldham – Lees – Grotton – Lydgate – Uppermill – Diggle – Marsden – Slaithwaite – Huddersfield

If you’re looking for a bus route where sheep have the upper hand, you’ll be in for a treat on the 184. Between Diggle and Marsden, the woolly four-legged mammals seem to have first dibs on the road space along the A62. From Oldham, it approaches the Saddleworth villages after Lees. After Grotton and Grasscroft, it skirts the edge of Greenfield till reaching Uppermill. The most scenic part of the route is between Diggle and Marsden where passengers are afforded excellent hillside views. As the aspect becomes more urban, the West Yorkshire section of the 184 is equally interesting. There are excellent views of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Standedge Line.

Places of interest: Uppermill (shopping and bars, Saddleworth Museum); Diggle (The Pennine Way, Standedge Tunnel); Marsden (great walks along Marsden Moor, Mechanics Hall, Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre); Huddersfield.

X93: Scarborough – Robin Hood’s Bay – Whitby – Guisborough – Ormesby – Middlesbrough

With the short-sighted closure of the Scarborough to Whitby railway line under Marples’ cuts, the only way of getting to the two seaside towns on public transport is this route. This scenic bus route takes you past Fylingdales on a straight run along the A171 before drifting towards Robin Hood’s Bay and returning to the main road for Whitby. Later, it skirts the northern edges of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park with Roseberry Topping in view after calling at Guisborough. A few minutes later, as we near Middlesbrough, the route’s setting is more urban and industrial.

Places of interest: Scarborough (castle, seaside attractions, The Spa Complex); Robin Hood’s Bay (agile walking skills a must); Whitby (The 199 Steps, great chippies, Whitby Abbey, anything of a Dracula nature); Ormesby (Ormesby Hall); Middlesbrough (the iconic Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge).

394: Glossop – Gamesley – Charlesworth – Chisworth – Marple Bridge – Marple – Hazel Grove – Stepping Hill Hospital

Before last Tuesday, the section of this route between Marple Bridge and Stepping Hill Hospital fell under GMCA’s fare scheme. Nowadays, you can enjoy the whole of this route for £2.00, whether you travel from Hazel Grove to Marple or Glossop to Marple. With six return journeys every two hours and no buses on weekends, it is an elusive beast to track down. Once tracked down, it is a route you wouldn’t forget in a hurry. After the semi-urban section between Glossop and Gamesley, its route is more rural in character from there to Marple Bridge. South of Charlesworth, the views of the Etherow Valley are amazing. After reaching Marple, it takes in High Lane before reaching Hazel Grove and Stepping Hill hospital.

Places of interest: Glossop (Manor Park, excellent pubs, the Partington Players Theatre); Gamesley (Melandra Castle); Marple (Brabyns Park, the Peak Forest Canal).

357: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Holmfirth

Not all great bus routes are operated with double deckers that have a month’s worth of journeys on the 394 route over a single day. Some are operated by Community Interest Companies and have a tight knit community ethos. Operated by South Pennine Community Transport, the 357 is one of the operator’s most scenic routes. In addition to capturing superb views of Manchester and Winter Hill from Mossley Road, the 357 has staggering views of Dove Stone, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs en route to Holmfirth. It is also possible to alight at the Wessenden Head for the Pennine Way to Edale or Marsden and beyond. Its intimate atmosphere makes the journey as enjoyable as the route.

Places of interest: Mossley (great pubs, Emmaus Superstore, Mossley AFC); Greenfield (great pubs, good starting point for Dove Stone and Chew Reservoirs); Holmfirth (The Last of the Summer Wine – Sid’s Café, museums and bus tours).

587: Rochdale – Littleborough – Ripponden – Halifax

With rail strikes and staffing shortages stymieing the reliability of Rochdale’s Halifax trains, the bus can hold its own thanks to the 587 and 590 routes. The former route is the quickest and arguably the most scenic of the two. After Littleborough, on passing The Moorcock Inn, the view from Blackstone Edge is unbelievable. On a clear day, you could see central Manchester and beyond. A few minutes in, the bus route takes in a more pastoral setting before getting to Ripponden. By Sowerby Bridge, we meet up with the Rochdale Canal before continuing to Halifax via King Cross.

Places of interest: Rochdale (shopping at Rochdale Riverside, the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum); Littleborough (Blackstone Edge); Sowerby Bridge (Rochdale Canal); Halifax (Piece Hall, Eureka Museum, shopping).

Where will you be going?

Are there any scenic journeys you would like to suggest? Will be pleased with the savings for more modest journeys? Should the nationwide scheme carry on for longer than three months? Feel free to comment.

S.V., 08 January 2023.

One thought on “Terrific Two Quid Bus Trip Tips

  1. Another alternative for £ 2 which follows the route of the much missed Workington to Penrith railway is the X5 from Workington to Penrith, stopping at Cockermouth and Keswick, and passing through some excellent scenery and stopping at Rheged, which is a popular tourist attraction. The buses are of coach standard and some have Wifi.


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