|The Good Old Days on the X60 at Lower Moseley Street Coach Station in Manchester. |
A site now occupied by the Bridgewater Hall concert venue.
The X60 Manchester to Blackpool long-distance bus service was once the most frequent "coach" service in the world. At its peak, on summer Saturdays in the 1950's, buses left Manchester every 5 minutes for the 55 mile run to Blackpool. This of course was a time when few people had cars and nobody took cheap package holidays in Spain, let alone Thailand. Blackpool was the holiday destination of choice for people all over the north of England and for many the best way of getting there was on the X60.
Even in the 1970s when I worked on it occasionally as a conductor (or "guard" as they were known in the north-west) it was still busy enough to require the two regular operators - Ribble Motor Services and Lancashire United Transport to have to hire in extra buses and drivers from operators such as Accrington and Lytham Corporations on a regular basis, although by then it was past its heyday.
The decline accelerated in the 1980s when the service was converted to one-man-operation (as it was then known). So much extra running time was demanded by the Trade Unions - and granted by weak management - that between Bolton and Manchester the "express" X60 was actually slower than the local bus and the service became uncompetitive with faster, although less frequent, trains.
I lost track of the service during my time in Hereford, but when I returned to the north-west last year the X60 was a shadow of its former self. It had already been curtailed to run between Manchester and Preston only (thus abandoning its original raison d'etre) and reduced to an hourly frequency with no evening or Sunday buses. Sections of the original route between Preston and Chorley and through Bolton had been abandoned in favour of the motorway and the service even changed its number to X61 at Chorley to get round the EU Drivers' Hours regulations, which are tighter for bus services over 50km in length than for local runs.
It also appeared to be operated by some of the oldest and dirtiest buses in the fleet, which were no match for faster, modern and now more frequent parallel train service.
Now Stagecoach has pulled the plug. The X60 will run for the last time on 28th January being replaced by a service consisting of just two journeys a day between Preston and Manchester which will run via the abominable Trafford Centre. It's probably just as well it will be known as the X25 instead.
Its a sad end for what was once the most famous bus service in the country, going out with a whimper rather than a bang!