The Anonymous Widower

Manchester’s Disorganised Public Transport

Coming from London, you get to know, what properly connected and information-rich public transport can do for you.

Arrive at any Underground station and they’ll be staff to speed you on your way, with proper ticket information booths at many mainline stations like Euston. Nearly every bus stop, in the capital, also has a local map and a spider map for buses in the area. And of course every bus stop now has a full text message information system.

Yesterday, I went to Blackburn to see Ipswich play. I chose to go the direct but slower route via Manchester, as this would allow me to have a decent lunch in Carluccio’s in Manchester Piccadilly station.

I arrived at the station courtesy of a Virgin Train’s Pendolino  just before twelve and without any difficulty, bought myself an Off Peak Return from any Manchester station to Blackburn for the princely sum of £6.15, from a well-staffed Virgin Trains ticket office. At least I didn’t have the ticket problem, that I had at Liverpool on this day, where staff seemed to be non-existent.

I had an excellent brunch in Carluccio’s before setting off to Manchester Victoria by tram to get the direct train to Blackburn. Piccadilly to Victoria is a standard tram journey across the city, if you’re going onward like I was, after coming up from London, but as seems to be common on all Manchester transport, the system assumes everybody knows where they are going. There was no staff on the tram station to ask either.

Some might object, that there was no specific Senior ticket and you have to pay the full fare. I could afford the £1.10, so what does it matter.  But other visitors might not be so affluent. After all, Sheffield allows me on their trams with my Freedom Pass, which of course doubles as an England-wide bus pass. But not on Manchester trams!

The train to Blackburn was one of the clapped out Pacers and Sprinters like these.

Two Clapped Out Trains

Two Clapped Out Trains

It was clean and worked reasonably well, but the passenger information system was very nineteenth century. It was a new line to me and I was no idea, where I was and which was the next station. As it was Blackburn was obvious.

Blackburn station has had a bit of a makeover, but this does not apply to anything to do with the buses.  I was thinking about getting a taxi, when I saw a 1 bus, which said it went to Darwen via Ewood Park. Again, there was no-one to ask about which bus to take and where to get it.

It was then the usual rigmarole of getting a ticket issued on the bus, which I felt like promptly dropping amongst the litter on the floor of the bus. Why can’t we have a UK-wide system for bus ticketing based on London’s successful Oyster?  I hate to use the term no-brainer, but if ever there was one, this is it. But I suppose cities, like Manchester, wouldn’t want to use a London-developed system, just as they won’t use two-door buses or fit good on-board information systems.

I’ll deal with the match later and then it was repeating the process on the bus to get back to the station. There was just a list on the shelter of times and no text message information system, to know how long we’d have to wait in the cold.

Luckily, I just caught a train to Manchester Victoria and the helpful inspector, said it would be easier to change at Bolton station. I did change, there but there was no chance of a cup of tea, whilst I waited.

The Closed Buffet At Bolton Station

The Closed Buffet At Bolton Station

Finally, I ended back at Manchester Piccadilly, in the little satellite station at the back. I knew where to get the London train and made it with perhaps two minutes to spare. I paid the £15 upgrade to First Class and was one of four in the carriage.  I suppose the television presenter, Garth Crooks, was pleased, as he could just fall asleep for most of the way, without being bothered by large numbers of football experts. I did laugh though, as he pulled a cap low over his face and would a thick scarf round his neck, as he walked through a fairly deserted Euston station.

So if I was the Mayor of Manchester what would I do?

1. Put a proper Manchester Transport information booth in Manchester Piccadilly station. After all, the main bus interchange in Manchester is in Piccadilly Gardens, ehich is not a short walk away.

2. Make sure, it’s obvious how you get a tram from Piccadilly to Victoria.

3 Bring Senior Tickets on the trams into line with the rest of the country.  I would also like to see the ability to use Oyster and bank cards as payment on the buses and trams, so that it is easier for visitors.

4. How about moving to London’s two-door disabled and passenger-friendly information-rich buses?  This one might even get more people out of their cars, as I believe they have in London.

5.  Manchester needs maps everywhere! Or at least somewhere!

6.  A few more staff would help too!

I know Blackburn is outside of the Greater Manchester area, but a lot of the same things apply.

I suppose the problem, is that if you use public transport in large parts of the north, you’re a loser, so you should get lost and not be a drain on car-owning tax-payers!

Manchester public transport, must be a nightmare for the blind. Or don’t people go blind in the north?

February 10, 2013 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,


  1. […] Manchester yesterday, I had a breakfast-cum-lunch in Carluccio’s in Manchester Piccadilly […]

    Pingback by Have Carluccio’s Cracked Wi-Fi? « The Anonymous Widower | February 10, 2013 | Reply

  2. […] save, I could afford a chauffeur-driven limousine  when I need one. Although, these days, like in Blackburn, the bus is probably […]

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  3. […] I can throw in here, one other useful piece of information.  I saw no improvement on my trips to Blackburn or […]

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  4. […] Could it be that Manchester has a terrible bus system, with little information and single door buses, that take forever to load and unload passengers? So buses waiting at stops, slow everybody down. I commented on the public transport system in Manchester here. […]

    Pingback by Manchester In The Slow Lane « The Anonymous Widower | June 1, 2013 | Reply

  5. […] Victoria was a terrible station, with a difficult connection to Manchester Piccadilly. The connection improved with the tram, but […]

    Pingback by Victoria Gets A Posh Umbrella « The Anonymous Widower | November 2, 2014 | Reply

  6. […] Manchester’s Disorganised Public Transport […]

    Pingback by The Proof That Good Design Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive « The Anonymous Widower | October 6, 2015 | Reply

  7. Hi,
    I’ve always thought that public transport in Manchester and GMPTE are pretty good but then again, I’m used to the standards in Mansfield!
    If you bought a ticket at Piccadilly to Blackburn then surely it would cover the tram connection? Or does that not apply if there is another route available, EG via Salford Crescent?

    Comment by Gordon | April 26, 2020 | Reply

  8. That was seven years ago and it’s better now, but there’s still no proper contactless ticketing.

    Comment by AnonW | April 26, 2020 | Reply

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