Can you cross the Pennines by bus for a tenner?

With the £2.00 single fare in full swing on our buses, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to some weird and wonderful places for the price of a red top tabloid’s holiday offer. As well as offering great savings on a bog-standard journey from Preston to Walton-le-Dale, it offers potential for lengthier trips if you don’t mind travelling at a more leisurely pace.

If you want to see your world from a different point of view, the bus is brilliant for that as well as the journey itself. You can watch the world go by or take in a good book, or eavesdrop on the odd conversation en route.

In the last fortnight, East of the M60 wondered if it was possible to cross the Pennines by bus for a tenner. Ten pounds and five buses over a single day. You may be surprised to see how far your tenner would take you. If you have a Concessionary Pass, cheaper still if you do most of your travelling after 9.30am.

1. The easiest coast to coast route for a tenner

Southport or Blackpool to Scarborough or Whitby

Once upon a time, British Rail (later Regional Railways North East and Northern Spirit) used to run a direct train from Blackpool to Scarborough. Today, it is operated by NORTHERN (the DfT’s capitals, not mine!), though only to York.

Thanks to Transdev and Stagecoach, it is possible to go from The Golden Mile to the 199 Steps by bus. On five buses. Three buses would take you across the Pennines with the North Yorkshire Moors five buses away. The first four buses are as follows:

  • 61: Blackpool – Great Eccleston – Preston (Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire) – 1 hour 14 minutes (dep. 0725, arr. 0839);
  • 280: Preston – Clitheroe – Skipton (Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire) – 1 hour 54 minutes (dep. 0915, arr. 1104);
  • 66: Skipton – Keighley (Keighley Bus Company) – 35 minutes (dep. 1120, arr. 1155);
  • 60: Keighley – Leeds (Keighley Bus Company) – 1 hour 25 minutes (dep. 1210, arr. 1335).

Without connection times, a total of 5 hours and 8 minutes from Blackpool. Or 6 hours and 15 minutes allowing for leg stretches and meal breaks.

From Southport, the X2 route from Liverpool (based on our suggested times) leaves Duke Street at 0730 before arriving in Preston bus station for 0834. This bus leaves five minutes later than our 61 in Blackpool, and arrives five minutes earlier (journey time: 1 hour 4 minutes). Before getting our Yorkshire Coastliner bus, a total of 4 hours and 58 minutes from Southport, or 6 hours and 10 minutes including leg stretches.

At Leeds bus station, we meet up with the Yorkshire Coastliner buses. The 840 to Whitby leaves at quarter-past each hour, whereas the 843 to Scarborough leaves at quarter-to the hour. The journey time is 3 hours and 25 minutes on the 840 route, and 3 hours and 1 minute on the 843 route. Based on leaving at 1345 or 1415, an arrival time of 1646 at Scarborough railway station or 1740 at Whitby bus station. Which, after a long journey, means a good excuse to call in The Angel Hotel for teatime before checking in to your hotel/guest house/Airbnb bolthole.

Total journey times by bus including connection times:

  • Southport – Whitby: 10 hours 15 minutes;
  • Southport – Scarborough: 9 hours 21 minutes;
  • Blackpool – Whitby: 10 hours 20 minutes;
  • Blackpool – Scarborough: 9 hours 26 minutes.

Total journey times by train including connection times and train fares:

  • Southport – Whitby: 6 hours 12 minutes (£80.30 – change at Manchester Victoria and Thornaby stations);
  • Southport – Scarborough: 4 hours 27 minutes (£80.80 – change at Stalybridge);
  • Blackpool – Whitby: 6 hours 12 minutes (£86.10 – change at Manchester Oxford Road and Thornaby stations);
  • Blackpool – Scarborough: 3 hours 59 minutes (£78.90 – change at Manchester Piccadilly).

Please note that cheaper fares may be available if you split selected tickets (go to SplitTicketing.com).

Total journey times by Car:

  • Southport – Whitby: 3 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 40 minutes;
  • Southport – Scarborough: 3 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 40 minutes;
  • Blackpool – Whitby: 3 hours to 4 hours;
  • Blackpool – Scarborough: 3 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes.

2. Driving Away From Home, Thirty Miles or More…

Liverpool to Wakefield

Once upon a time, not so long ago, you could get a direct train from Liverpool Lime Street to Wakefield Westgate. It was semi-fast between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria and took 2 hours and 20 minutes to cross four cities (Manchester and Salford as well as Liverpool and Wakefield). Today’s passengers have to change at Huddersfield. Since 2018, a simple train journey from Ashton-under-Lyne to Mossley has been further complicated with passengers having to change at Stalybridge, making the 350 and 356 buses quicker alternatives!

By bus, Liverpool to Wakefield is a complex undertaking as we shall see below, based on a Tuesday excursion.

  • 7: Liverpool – Warrington (Arriva Merseyside) – 1 hour 39 minutes (dep. 0705, arr. 0844);
  • 100: Warrington – Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] (Go North West) – 1 hour 53 minutes (dep. 0850, arr. 1043) then walk to Piccadilly Gardens for the 216 bus;
  • 216: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – Ashton-under-Lyne [Interchange] (Stagecoach Manchester) – 34 minutes (dep. 1104, arr. 1139) – then walk to Henrietta Street for the 357 bus;
  • 357: Ashton-under-Lyne [Henrietta Street] – Holmfirth [Bus Station] (South Pennine Community Transport) – 38 minutes (dep. 1200, arr. 1238) – then a lunch stop before the X1 bus;
  • X1: Holmfirth [Bus Station] – Wakefield [Bus Station] (Team Pennine) – 1 hour 11 minutes (dep. 1340, arr. 1451).

The most arduous part of the journey is probably between Liverpool and Hollins Green. After that point, we follow the Manchester Ship Canal up to Barton Swing Bridge before reaching Eccles and Manchester city centre. Whether Tuesday or any other day ending with ‘y’, we need to transfer from Shudehill Interchange to Piccadilly Gardens. We can either get any bus to Oldham and change for a 184 to Huddersfield, changing there for Wakefield. Being awkward, we can take the 216 to Ashton-under-Lyne and change for South Pennine Community Transport’s 357 route to Holmfirth.

Strictly speaking, we could get the 1240 journey of Team Pennine’s X1 bus to Wakefield. Though Holmfirth bus station is small enough to transfer between the buses easily, the two minute window between the 357 and X1 is a little touch and go. As Holmfirth is well worth a visit, why wouldn’t you want an hour to pop in to Sid’s Café or call into that good chippy on the banks of the River Holme?

Total journey times:

  • By Bus: 7 hours 43 minutes (including 62 minutes for lunch and/or sightseeing in Holmfirth).
  • By Train: 1 hour 48 minutes (£40.20 – change at Leeds);
  • By Car: 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes.

Please note that cheaper fares may be available if you split selected tickets (go to SplitTicketing.com).

3. One Hull of a journey

Hull to Oldham

Kingston-upon-Hull and Oldham have two things in common: one is Rugby League; the other one is art. For Hull, it is the Hull Truck Theatre Company, The Housemartins and the Ferens Art Gallery. For Oldham, it is the Oldham Coliseum, Oldham Theatre Workshop, William Walton and Clint Boon to name a few. Both places are solidly working class.

Despite taking nearly nine hours to do, it is a fairly straightforward journey. There is also a lunch stop at Selby and a 401 route among our five buses (sadly no MCW Metrobuses in Northern Counties bodywork with coach seats a la Trans-Lancs Express).

  • 55: Hull [Paragon Interchange] – Goole [Interchange] (East Yorkshire) – 1 hour 55 minutes (dep. 0900, arr. 1055);
  • 401: Goole [Interchange] – Selby [Bus Station] (Arriva Yorkshire) – 44 minutes (dep. 1108, arr. 1152);
  • 164: Selby [Bus Station] – Leeds [Bus Station] (Arriva Yorkshire) – 1 hour 41 minutes (dep. 1255, arr. 1436);
  • 229: Leeds [Bus Station] – Huddersfield [Bus Station] (Arriva Yorkshire) – 1 hour 25 minutes (dep. 1450, arr. 1615);
  • 184: Huddersfield [Bus Station] – Oldham [Bus Station] (First Manchester) – 1 hour 22 minutes (dep. 1635, arr. 1757).

Total journey times:

  • By Bus: 8 hours 57 minutes (including an hour for lunch in Selby).
  • By Bus and Train: 2 hours 42 minutes (£48.40 including £2.00 fare on 409 route – change at Stalybridge for Ashton-under-Lyne and transfer to Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange for 409);
  • By Car: 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes.

Please note that cheaper fares may be available if you split selected tickets (go to SplitTicketing.com).

4. Towards the Borders

Whitehaven to Berwick-upon-Tweed

For this journey, we start at Whitehaven, which is the closest English port to the Isle of Man. The town has a lovely Georgian style grid layout and a Wetherspoons in part of the former Cumberland Motor Services bus station. Today’s bus station amounts to a few shelters, whereas Workington has the oldest purpose-built bus station in the UK. That we will see once our 29 pulls into Stand C, which we presume becomes the first journey of our 300 route to Carlisle.

The 685 closely follows the Carlisle to Newcastle railway line and Hadrian’s Wall. Another bus or two would take us towards the Scottish Borders to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Firstly, the X18 to Alnwick, which gives us an hour in the town. As the bus station backs on to the town’s Morrisons store, the supermarket café could be a good lunch stop.

After Berwick-upon-Tweed, there are five buses that would take you into Scotland: the 34, 60, 235, 236, 253. Combined, all five buses make for an hourly frequency with some going to Galashiels and Edinburgh.

  • 29: Whitehaven [Bus Station] – Workington [Bus Station] (Stagecoach Cumbria) – 27 minutes (dep. 0555, arr. 0622);
  • 300: Workington [Bus Station] – Carlisle [Bus Station] (Stagecoach Cumbria) – 1 hour 25 minutes (dep. 0625, arr. 0750);
  • 685: Carlisle [Bus Station] – Newcastle-upon-Tyne [Eldon Square Bus Station] (Arriva Northumbria) – 2 hours 25 minutes (dep. 0810, arr. 1035 – transfer to nearby Haymarket Bus Station for next bus);
  • X18: Newcastle-upon-Tyne [Haymarket Bus Station] – Alnwick [Bus Station] (Arriva Northumbria) – 1 hour 52 minutes (dep. 1108, arr. 1300 – lunch break in Alnwick);
  • X15: Alnwick [Bus Station] – Berwick-upon-Tweed [Railway Station] (Arriva Northumbria) – 1 hour 25 minutes (dep. 1400, arr. 1500).

Total journey times:

  • By Bus: 9 hours 5 minutes (including an hour for lunch in Alnwick).
  • By Train: 4 hours 1 minute (£53.50 – change at Carlisle and Newcastle Central stations);
  • By Car: 2 hours 50 minutes to 4 hours.

Please note that cheaper fares may be available if you split selected tickets (go to SplitTicketing.com).

5. The Strongest Linc [sic]?

Stockport to Lincoln

Once upon a time, not so long ago, you could get a bus from Stockport straight to Lincolnshire. That was the X67 from Manchester to Lincoln, which was known as The Lincsman – so-called as it linked the two cities via Chesterfield. In the summertime, you could get a direct train from Manchester Piccadilly to Lincoln Central – albeit as part of British Rail’s summer Saturday journeys to Skegness and Great Yarmouth. A journey from Manchester to Skegness on service buses alone means catching seven buses.

Sticking to our original premise of five buses for a tenner, we shall travel from Stockport to Lincoln. This South Pennine jolly would take us through Buxton, Sheffield and Gainsborough. The first two buses would take us into Sheffield via the White Peak.

  • 199: Stockport [Mersey Square] – Buxton [Market Place] (High Peak) – 1 hour 9 minutes (dep. 0700, arr. 0809 – breakfast in Buxton before the Sheffield bus arrives);
  • 65: Buxton [Market Place] – Sheffield [Interchange] (Stagecoach Yorkshire) – 1 hour 24 minutes (dep. 0910, arr. 1036);
  • X78: Sheffield [Interchange] – Doncaster [Frenchgate Interchange] (First South Yorkshire) – 1 hour 22 minutes (dep. 1050, arr. 1214 – dinner break in Doncaster before arrival of the Gainsborough bus);
  • 98: Doncaster [Frenchgate Interchange] – Gainsborough [Bus Station] (Stagecoach Lincolnshire) – 1 hour 20 minutes (dep. 1405, arr. 1525 – a quick pint in Gainsborough);
  • 100: Gainsborough [Bus Station] – Lincoln [Central Bus Station] (Stagecoach Lincolnshire) – 55 minutes (dep. 1610, arr. 1705).

Total journey times:

  • By Bus: 10 hours 5 minutes (including three stops for breakfast in Buxton, lunch in Doncaster, and a pint/posh coffee in Gainsborough).
  • By Train: 2 hours 37 minutes (£40.80 – change at Sheffield);
  • By Car: 2 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes.

Please note that cheaper fares may be available if you split selected tickets (go to SplitTicketing.com).

How much for concessionary pass holders?

After 9.30am, each journey is free of charge for holders of ENCTS (English National Concessionary Travel Scheme) cardholders. Generally, it is full fare before 9.30am, especially holders of senior citizens’ passes. For holders of Concessionary or Concessionary Plus passes for people with disabilities, it may be half fare or free of charge in the AM peak in your locality.

Using our eight ways to cross the Pennines by bus based on our suggested times, the costings are as follows:

  • Blackpool to Whitby: £4.00;
  • Blackpool to Scarborough: £4.00;
  • Southport to Whitby: £4.00;
  • Southport to Scarborough: £4.00;
  • Liverpool to Wakefield: £4.00;
  • Hull to Oldham: £2.00.
  • Whitehaven to Berwick-upon-Tweed: £6.00;
  • Stockport to Lincoln: £4.00.

Useful things to take:

  • A power bank for your mobile devices: not all buses have charging points nor free WiFi.
  • A good book: the bus gives you a great chance to take in a book for the most boring parts of the route.
  • Headphones or earphones: set at a respectable volume to your fellow passengers and the driver, it is a must for passengers with sensory impairments.
  • Sandwiches: apart from cutting your travel costs further, home made sandwiches come into their own between buses if there’s a tight connection.
  • A friend: if you’re in the lucky position of having a bus loving friend or significant other, take them on an unforgettable trip.

Other ways to add to your trip:

  • Find a few great pubs or eateries: it could be a ‘Spoons you want to add to your list or an iconic chippy. Doing your research beforehand is always a great help.
  • Have a short break: after seven to ten hours of hardcore bus bashing, make it part of a short break. What you would save on train fares could pay for part of a night’s hotel or guest house accommodation, or your mate’s Airbnb property. Travel light if you can!

Where will you be going?

Do you have any creative ways of crossing the Pennines by bus? Would you happily be a glutton for punishment just for the sake of a dirt cheap bus journey? Or would you say “stuff it, I’ll drive or take a National Express coach instead”? Feel free to comment; any ways to make your trip better are welcome.

S.V., 14 January 2023.

6 thoughts on “The Trans-Pennine Ten Pound Challenge

  1. Thanks for that interesting article Stuart. You could also mention that those with a railcard get 34% off the quoted rail fares. Also Northern have just had a flash sale of five and a half million single tickets for 50p, £1 and £1.50, which hopefully will be repeated.

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    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the heads up the 34% Railcard discount and the NORTHERN flash sale. Still haven’t had the joy of getting an ultra cheap single from NORTHERN as I have often gravitated towards the more expensive and more flexible fares. To make this as fair a test as possible, I used bought-on-the-day train tickets for my examples, being as single bus fares are seldom booked in advance outside of National Express routes and day excursions.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  2. On Journey no 2, beware the 357 bus from Ashton-u-Lyne to Holmfirth. When a friend and I sought to use it in this direction pre-Covid, we were refused entry to the bus on the grounds that the driver had brought a capacity crowd (all pass-holders) into Ashton-u-Lyne and he wasn’t going to refuse any of them a seat on the way back. It didn’t matter that we would have been paying real money for our seats and were more or less at the front of the queue. Unless they have changed their practice, someone following this suggestion might need recourse to a Plan B.

    Dashed ingenious, though !

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    1. Hi Anthony,

      Sorry to hear about your experience on the 357. Owing to its limited operating hours, I had suggested the alternative of any bus from Manchester to Oldham before catching the 184 to Huddersfield.

      For this workaround, your best Manchester to Oldham bus (the most direct route) is the 83 via Newton Heath, Failsworth, Hollinwood and Werneth. The 84 is the next best one, taking in Hollins and Hathershaw after Hollinwood. If you have time on your hands, the 76 is a good frequent one via Garden Suburb and Limeside after Hollinwood. The most convoluted Manchester to Oldham bus route is the 59 which goes via Heaton Park, Middleton and Chadderton. Despite that issue, it uses Shudehill Interchange, like the 100 from Warrington.

      After getting the 184 to Huddersfield, you will want Arriva Yorkshire’s 231 and 232 routes. Apart from views of Emley Moor Television Tower, it is also good for the National Coal Mining Museum at Caphouse Colliery.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  3. Interesting development on the Transpennine bus front, service 184 will soon transfer operating areas from First Manchester Oldham depot to First West Yorkshire Huddersfield depot.

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    1. Further info about the 184 transferring, the route could well be a lot longer as it’s supposedly replacing the 183 via Linthwaite and maybe Hard End!

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