The variation of bus fares in Greater Manchester

Published on 28 January 2020 in

A Stagecoach Manchester bus on the 358 route, stood at New Mills bus station

Recently I had to decide what the best single ticket was to buy in order to use four buses. But if I had paid for each of those four buses individually, what would that have cost me? And what was the cost per mile?

I decided to find out.

I was travelling on a Sunday and the four buses I got were:

  • 384 from Marple (where I live) to Stockport. It runs on a circular route from Stockport to Stockport via Marple, running clockwise on the circle.
  • 192 from Stockport to Manchester. It’s apparently Britain’s busiest bus route, and gets a Sunday service that most bus routes outside London can only dream of. The full route starts at Hazel Grove and runs from Manchester Piccadilly. It’s that big a route, it has it’s own Wikipedia page.
  • 23 from East Didsbury to Stockport. Starting at the intu Trafford Centre, this route travels along part of the Wilmslow Bus Corridor, which is often claimed to be the busiest bus corridor in Europe. Although citation is needed.
  • 383 from Stockport to Marple. It’s the anti-clockwise version of the 384 so runs back to Stockport. It is not important enough to warrant mention on Wikipedia.

All buses are run by Stagecoach. That means I could use the Stagecoach website to check the individual fares for each journey. I looked up the distance, and the timetabled journey time (none of my journeys were delayed, and the 192 was probably early.)

RouteFromToSingle fareDistance (miles)Timetabled journey time (mins)
23East DidsburyStockport£2.50319

The first thing to notice is that the shortest journey in times and miles is also the cheapest one. You might expect that.

And the longest journey, well, isn’t. In fact it’s 50p cheaper to travel the six miles on the 192 than the five miles of the 383/384. You may think this is a competition thing, but Stagecoach run the vast majority of services on the 192’s route.

How about we break down those figures a little by fare by distance:

  • 23 – 83p a mile
  • 192 – 50p a mile
  • 383/384 – 70p a mile

The cheapest route here is again the 192. But the most expensive per mile is actually the 23 showing that you pay a financial penalty for making a shorter bus journey.

Finally, cost per minute of travel.

  • 23 – 13p a minute
  • 192 – 11p a minute
  • 383 – 16p a minute
  • 384 – 15p a minute

For whatever reason the 384 is timetabled to make its journeys slightly slower than the 383 on its journey between Stockport and Marple. And that makes the 384 fractionally cheaper, but it’s still a lot more expensive than the other two services.

Of course this is a very small sample of all bus fares in Greater Manchester. There’s no doubt some others that make even less sense.

And equally there’s another thing that’s rather illogical. I didn’t buy single tickets on that day. I bought a Stagecoach Dayrider day ticket. One day of travel for one price. That price? £5. No, I can’t work that out either.