Manchester from Dukinfield by Bus

The rise and fall of the 21/21A and its successors


Since the early 1930s, there has been a direct bus route from Dukinfield to the centre of Manchester. Over the last 80 years there has been numerous changes of termini as well as routes and operators. This history focuses not on one bus route to and from Manchester into Dukinfield but several as seen below.

21/221: Manchester - Dukinfield - Tennyson Avenue
21A/220: Manchester - Stalybridge - (Tameside Hospital)

222: Manchester - Dukinfield - Stalybridge - Ashton

217: Manchester - Mossley Circular (clockwise via Stalybridge and Dukinfield)

218: Manchester - Mossley Circular (anti-clockwise via Dukinfield and Stalybridge)

Doomed from the start?

The latter part of the 1920s saw competition between public and private omnibus undertakings akin to the early years of bus deregulation in the late 1980s. As well as local independents, the area which we later knew as Greater Manchester had a fair number of municipal operators, offering motor bus and tram services. Besides the local independents, the Stagecoach and FirstGroup of that era was British Electric Traction, a national concern whose interests included the Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Tramway and the North Western Road Car Company.

Around that time, Manchester was being criss-crossed by express bus routes. For example, the early 1930s saw direct services from Hyde to Bolton via the city centre. Likewise Chorlton with its direct link to Carrbrook and Audenshaw's direct route to Worsley. The latter was partly revived in 1970 by SELNEC as the 64/66 Ashton - Peel Green route.

The 21 it seemed was going to another flop adding to an already overcrowded marketplace. There was already an express route from Glossop to Manchester in the form of the 6, jointly operated by SHMD and North Western. Manchester Corporation thought there was no way that the 21 would succeed. SHMD were left on their own.

In the early 1930s, the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Board decided to run the 21 route anyway, and were able to keep all takings - inside and outside the Manchester Corporation boundaries. Therefore, Dukinfield's first direct bus link to Manchester was born. Its original terminus was the Albion Hotel, a short distance from the Park Road tramway depot.

In the mid 1950s, its Manchester terminus was moved from Piccadilly Gardens to the then new Chorlton Street Bus Station. The first version was a windswept affair remote from the city centre. This remained so till the service terminated at Piccadilly Gardens once more in 1968, following the (most controversial) rebuild of Chorlton Street Bus Station (underneath a multi-storey car park designed by Leach Rhodes Walker).

Expansion into Yew Tree and Lyne Edge

The 1950s saw Dukinfield expand in an easterly direction towards Hough Hill. New local authority housing was built between Cheetham Hill Road and Yew Tree Lane. This also included new shopping arcades on Yew Tree Lane, Gorse Hall Road and Oak Tree Drive. The Butler Education Act saw the opening of Astley Grammar School on Yew Tree Lane which augmented facilities at Lakes Road. Crescent Road became a Secondary Modern school in the older part of Dukinfield.

This left a yawning gap for a direct Manchester link serving the new developments. Therefore, the 21 was extended to serve Yew Tree Lane, terminating outside Coronation Avenue. Some 21 journeys became the 21A, this time terminating at the Buck Inn, reducing dead time to the then new bus garage on Tame Street.

Shortly after, private housing developments sprouted behind the Gorse Hall and Yew Tree estates. Local authority provision reached Lyne Edge Road, further up Yew Tree Lane. To allow for this, the 21 terminus was shifted a few yards uphill. By the 1970s, private developers built up to Range Road, with semi-detached houses and bungalows the norm. New primary schools were built on Yew Tree Lane and Broadbent Fold. Unlike the previous local authority developments, Broadbent Fold was aimed at the more affluent resident. People more likely to drive to work than catch the bus.

SELNEC, GMT and Tennyson Avenue

November 1969 saw the formation of SELNEC which led to the SHMD green giving way to Sunglow orange and white. During the transitional period, ex-Stockport and Bury vehicles would take temporary residence at the Tame Street depot. 1973 saw another change: the renumbering of all routes to a standardised system relative to each depot. The 21 and 21A were renumbered 221 and 220, which saw Hyde Road buses as well as Tame Street vehicles.

By April 1974 came Greater Manchester Transport. The Tame Street depot was becoming an anachronism, along with the nearby Mossley Road depot late of Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation. The following year saw construction begin on GMT's first purpose built bus garage: the new Tameside Depot off Whitelands Road.

The new depot opened in November 1977. Given environmental awareness and the then recent Oil Crisis (The Yom Kippur War), economy and ecological awareness was key to the design. Waste oil from the buses was collected from the inspection pits and recycled for heating the depot itself.

Further changes were made to the 220 and 221 routes. The Lyne Edge terminus of the 221 was moved further up to Tennyson Avenue, one of the new private developments. The 220 was extended from the Buck Inn and Stanley Square to serve Stalybridge town centre.

At the time, the basic weekday and Saturday frequency between Dukinfield (Albion Hotel) and Manchester (Piccadilly Gardens) was every half hour, with buses every 15 minutes in the peak hours. Sunday services by contrast offered a 45 minute frequency.

Contraction Time Begins

In 1980, budget cuts imposed on Greater Manchester Transport by the Conservative Government saw Greater Manchester Council being forced to accept a 15% fare increase by Transport Minister Sir Norman Fowler. Some economies also had to made with the phasing out of crew operated buses and service cuts. Greater Manchester Transport had seen a rapid drop in passengers from 1980 to 1981 as a result, exacerbated also by job cuts which saw unemployment double within a year in the county.

The 220 and 221 services weren't immune to this. The Sunday service of the 221 was axed with a revised hourly frequency on Sunday's 220 journeys. Limited Stop status was also discontinued. There was some thinning of peak hour extra journeys. Even so, the off-peak Monday to Saturday service remained half hourly, and this was the case till the mid-1990s.

During this transitional period, the 220 and 221 services also changed termini. As well as stopping at Piccadilly Gardens, they would later finish their journeys at Manchester Victoria railway station. This continued till the opening of the Metrolink in June 1992. The start of the 1990s also saw a change of operator for the Sunday and Bank Holiday services. C-Line, an offshoot of Crosville took over Sunday journeys with dark green Bristol VRs and Leyland Olympians forming part of its operation.

In 1993, the daytime 220 and 221 services ceased to be operated by GM Buses. The recipient of these journeys were Mayne of Manchester. By then, the Sunday and Bank Holiday service was reduced to every 90 minutes in the mornings before being hourly in the daytime and every 90 minutes again in the evenings. Among Mayne of Manchester's first moves was the extension of its 220 route to Tameside Hospital. By the end of 1993, they also had the evening service from Manchester to Stalybridge.

In 1994, the 221 service was extended to serve Hyde. From Tennyson Avenue, Hyde journeys would continue along Yew Tree Lane, Cheetham Hill Road, Ashton Road and Park Road, following the 389 route.

Standard fare on Mayne's journeys included Alexander bodied Dennis Falcons (late of Chesterfield Transport), former London Transport DMS Daimler Fleetlines, ex-Greater Manchester Transport Leyland Atlanteans and Fleetlines, and its state-of-the-art Volvo Olympians (ex-Grampian Regional Transport). In the peaks, GM Buses' (later GMS Buses) Atlanteans and Olympians ruled the roost.

By 1996, the 221's Hyde link was discontinued; this time it would terminate at Stalybridge Bus Station like the 220. March 1996 also saw Stagecoach Holdings take over GMS Buses. Their takeover would see the orange and white of its predecessor replaced by the all white livery with Starsky and Hutch style orange red and blue stripes. For the first two years of its tutelage, all was quiet with the 220 and 221 at Clayton and Hyde Road depots. The uneasy peace would end by the close of the decade.

Storm Clouds Brewing

The latter part of the 1990s would see the 220 and 221 services changed beyond recognition. If the earlier changes were radical, the next set would be even more so, though not for the better.

From 1997 onwards, the peak hour service would see continued contraction. Firstly, most of the peak hour journeys were better served by an upgraded 219 service, more so since the 220/221 services lost limited stop status in 1982. Initially, some 219s were extended to Stalybridge. Evening peak hour 221s from Dukinfield were subsequently withdrawn. 1998 also saw Universal Buses test the water by running a return 220 journey to serve schoolchildren. Shortly after, they took over the 0755 journey from Mayne with a further post-school journey leaving Ashton-under-Lyne via Stalybridge for Manchester. Additional journeys at 1455 and 1605 were gained from Manchester to Tameside Hospital.

The daytime service of the 221 was renumbered 222 in February 1999. Following the route of the 220 to Stalybridge, it continued to Ashton-under-Lyne via Park Road, Dukinfield. This bridged a gap left by the rerouting of First Pennine's 33 and 35 service (opting for the Albion Hotel over the Brunswick). This proved to be short lived as January 2001 saw the service withdrawn, reverting to being the 221. The Tame Valley area of Dukinfield would become the first part of Tameside to be served by a Demand Responsive Transport service. The shared taxi service remains in operation and has expanded to serve Stalyhill and the Hydes areas of Stalybridge.

In 2001, peak hour evening journeys to Manchester from Stalybridge were withdrawn with morning peak journeys heading opposite suffering the same fate. On a slightly happier note, evening journeys were increased from every 90 to every 60 minutes from Stalybridge. This was promptly changed with the terminus moving to Dukinfield (Boyd's Walk). The operator also changed to First Pennine.

2002 saw the withdrawal of Mayne's 221 route, with Dukinfield's link with Manchester being once hourly with a few peak hour extras. The following year saw slight changes to the peak hour schedule with subsequent revisions focused on retiming journeys and improving reliability. Boarding a 346 to Ashton and catching the train to Manchester Victoria became more attractive, seats permitting, and more so after 2004.

In the Eye of the Storm

July 2004 saw Monday to Saturday daytime 220 journeys discontinued. In its place was the 218. Unlike the former trolleybus route, it served Droylsden and Clayton rather than Audenshaw and Openshaw. It was co-worked with another route which was struggling, the 217, maintaining a link with Tameside Hospital. It followed the route of its predecessor from Tameside Hospital up to Audenshaw (Trough), then reached Droylsden and Manchester, via Greenside Lane, Edge Lane, Clayton and Ancoats. Serving Greenside Lane and Ridge Hill estate proved to be a nightmare with the Greenside Lane and Ridge Hill links discontinued the following year. The former was well served by fellow Mayne services 232 - 235 with the latter covered by the 238 and 389 routes.

Prior to 2008, this would remain the core route of the 218. Though the journey was a good 15 minutes longer than the 220, it offered Dukinfield, Audenshaw and Droylsden based football fans of a sky blue persuasion a direct link to the City of Manchester Stadium.

Elsewhere, the 220 was shrinking again. May 2005 saw the loss of its evening Bank Holiday service. This was replaced by Bank Holiday journeys of the 219 route (which from 2002 - 2005 had no such service) up to Ashton. JP Travel took over the Sunday evening service which was withdrawn by January 2009, without a replacement shared taxi service. 2008 saw First Pioneer take over the 0755 and 1455 journeys from Stagecoach Manchester (who inherited it from taking over Universal's services from Chadderton). 2009 saw further tender changes with the 1455 journey withdrawn. By then, there was a 3 hour gap between the last 218 of the day and the first 220 of the evening from Dukinfield Town Hall (walking to Manchester would have been quicker).

Thankfully, this gap was bridged in October 2008 with a boost to the timetable. February 2008's acquisition of Mayne's bus operations by Stagecoach Manchester saw Tameside's peripheral Manchester routes reviewed. The 218 would become a circular route in an anticlockwise direction from Manchester to Dukinfield, Stalybridge and Mossley. The 217 would be its clockwise counterpart. This allowed for a half hourly route between Audenshaw (Trough), Droylsden, Clayton, Bradford and Manchester, using the old 217 route. The last bus to Manchester from Stalybridge via Dukinfield would be 1723 - gap cut to 2 hours. However, there would be no Stalybridge bound bus till 1010 (Albion Hotel) - a similar gap inconveniencing potential passengers wishing to catch a Transpennine Express.

What Could Have Been

For transport fanatics of a Mancunian nature, 2008 was dominated by the hubbub of the Transport Investment Fund proposals. The carrot was improved buses, trains and an expanded Metrolink system. Its stick was a peak hour congestion charge (using the inside of the M60 motorway) where motorists would pay to enter Manchester in the morning and leave the city in the evening.

Among the proposals was an upgrade to the existing 220 route. Had Greater Manchester voted in favour of the package, the 220/221 route would have been renumbered X20. The service would have been limited stop with a 20 minute frequency. Instead, Greater Manchester unanimously voted 'no' on a 50% turnout consigning a much needed boost to the 220 to the dustbin along with the Picc-Vic project and other Mancunian Transportation Themed Pipe Dreams.

Later Developments

The early part of 2009 saw the 217/218 rerouted to serve Butler Street. This proved to be short-lived, discontinuing in July 2010 (much to the alacrity of local postmen using the service for Oldham Road sorting office). The Sunday service of the 220 was also discontinued, replaced by short journeys of the 217/218 routes. The section between Stalybridge Bus Station and Tameside Hospital (via Mossley) was omitted. First Pioneer's 0755 and 1530 220 journeys were taken over by Checkmate Coaches, with the latter now retimed to pass the Albion Hotel at 1518.

July 2010 also saw its terminus move from Piccadilly Gardens to Shudehill Interchange - a few yards closer to the 220s terminus at Victoria station during the 1980s. The last Manchester bound 217 from Dukinfield would become the 1629 (Albion Hotel) with its later journey terminating at its town hall.

All was quiet till May 2011. The uneasy peace was disturbed by revisions to the peak hour 220 and 221 journeys operated by Stagecoach Manchester. With the morning peak journeys from Stalybridge to Manchester covered by the 217, peak hour services from Dukinfield to Manchester on the 220 and 221 were halved. The peak hour Monday to Friday 220 service was slashed to a single journey leaving Manchester at 0655. The 221 replaced all other withdrawn 220 journeys which were hitherto close to 221 journeys.

From Manchester, the 1604 220 journey inherited from Universal was withdrawn with all Dukinfield bound journeys covered by three 221s between 1655 and 1812. A short walk to Church Street or a tram to Shudehill Interchange sees a similar number of 218s between 1630 and 1830.

Even the night time 217 didn't escape the changes as JP Travel took over First's evening journeys.

The End?

October 2013 saw the arrival of Ashton's Metrolink line, months after the Droylsden to Piccadilly section opened. This move would affect Dukinfield's 217 and 218 services being as they ran parallel with the East Manchester Line.

By January 2014, the 217 and 218 services' tenders were up for renewal. March 2014 saw no expressions of interest for the Ashton - Mossley - Stalybridge - Dukinfield section of both routes. Cost-cutting saw the circular route broken into three sections in the tendering process.

Apart from passengers west of the Trough, Audenshaw, nobody won. Dukinfield lost its off-peak link with Manchester city centre with an extension of the 408 from Stalybridge up to Droylsden via the 217/218 routes. The section, perhaps retained for connections with the 219 service and the tram. For many passengers in Mossley, Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne, there was - and remains - sound train connections to Manchester city centre. Dukinfield lost out though the Brushes Estate section of the 217/218 was added to the 343.

Then, all 218 journeys became 217s, under the tutelage of S&S Travel Services. The route became an Ashton to Manchester (Shudehill Interchange) service once again. Its 2008 revision via Lord Sheldon Way was retained.

Dukinfield's only daytime link with Manchester was further severed as Checkmate Coaches discontinued its weekday return journey leaving Manchester at 0753, and returning to Piccadilly Gardens at 1550. This also meant the demise of the C20, launched as a positioning route.

Worse was to following George Osborne's announcement of £1 billion of departmental cuts in Autumn 2014. The move meant Transport for Greater Manchester was forced to cut its tendered services. In many cases, frequency reductions and the loss of evening service along some routes. Dukinfield was at the sharpest end of Gideon's cuts.

Withdrawn was all of First Greater Manchester's journeys on the 220, which in the main included its evening service operated since 2001. Furthermore, this included two early morning Saturday journeys. Also severed was the Droylsden to Stalybridge section of the 408. Further changes also saw the 408 service operating between Oldham and Shaw throughout weekday and Saturday daytimes. The full route, peak hours only by First Greater Manchester, plus evening and Sunday journeys being taken over by Manchester Community Transport and Stagecoach Manchester.

Today, there is only one journey on the 220 service: an early morning one to Stalybridge, used as a positioning journey for a peak hour extension of the 216 service. The 221 has three peak hour return journeys: AM to Manchester, PM to Dukinfield (Tennyson Avenue) and a fourth AM journey to Piccadilly Gardens. For many passengers, for the first time since 1930, a trip to Globe Square requires a long walk or a taxi journey. By bus from Tennyson Avenue: the now reduced 41 service (once hourly) to King Street, Dukinfield, then a 335 or 345 to Globe Square and Audenshaw.

Will the eight journeys remain in operation beyond 2020? Could greater control of Greater Manchester's buses ensure their survival? We shall see.

Route Summaries

217: Shudehill Interchange - Clayton - Droylsden - Ashton-under-Lyne

220: Piccadilly - Higher Openshaw - Dukinfield - Stalybridge

221: Piccadilly - Higher Openshaw - Dukinfield (Tennyson Avenue)

Please Note: both the 220 and 221 services only operate on weekdays (Bank Holidays excepted).

Further Reading:

Stuart Vallantine,

12 May 2011 (last updated on 21 May 2015)