A tale of two X41s (and a 41X)

X41 X41 41XWhen SELNEC PTE took over the combined bus operations of the Greater Manchester municipals in 1969, there were no fewer than seven routes numbered “1” – in Salford, Bolton, Bury, Leigh, Rochdale, Ashton and Oldham. Many services were renumbered into three-digit route numbers that were (for the most part) unique within the county and remain with us today. How unfortunate therefore that recent service changes have left us with two X41s – and a 41X to boot!

Let’s look at how things used to be. Pre-September 2012, both Stagecoach and Finglands operated plain, simple service 41, from Manchester city centre through the student heartlands of Rusholme and Withington, on through Northenden and Sale Moor (hello Martin!) to the Metrolink stop at Sale. Most Finglands journeys terminated here, whilst Stagecoach journeys continued out along Chester Road to Altrincham – so far so good. Meanwhile, Blackburn-based Lancashire United has operated express service X41 between Manchester, Accrington and beyond since the mid-noughties, branded as “The Lancashire Way” to complement “The Witch Way” X43 to Burnley.

As of September 2012, Stagecoach have made their journeys on service 41 to be limited-stop along Wilmslow Road, in order to let it run faster on that section of route to try and counter timekeeping issues at the Altrincham end of the route. In order to show that it doesn’t stop at all stops, it is now numbered X41. That seems reasonable enough: thankfully the two X41s don’t share any bus stops, but the two termini (outside the coach station for Accrington, Piccadilly Gardens for Altrincham) are just round the corner from each other. For a short section of Portland Street, the two routes run cheek by jowel – a prize for the first photo of the two routes in the same shot!

At the same time, Finglands decided to renumber their service 48 between Manchester and Northenden. Makes sense, as they were essentially short workings on the main 41 service to Sale. But why choose 41X? They could have chosen 41A, if it weren’t for the fact that the few subsidised evening journeys they run into Altrincham use this route number as an internal identifier if not actually displayed (thanks to Nicholas for the correction!). Most other letter suffixes could have worked, but they’re perhaps not as “sexy” as X.

And thus on a bus lane paved with good intentions, Manchester city centre now plays host to two X41s and a 41X. We doubt that Tony Harrison, the first Director General of SELNEC PTE, would have been impressed.

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About James McCollom

Web geek and public transport user
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20 Responses to A tale of two X41s (and a 41X)

  1. Martin says:

    As a Finglands driver I’m amazed that tfgm approved the X41/41X – it causes no end of confusion between our services and Stagecoach; and also catches a lot of people out who expect us to go on to Sale! Almost every trip I do on the 41X ends up with me having to turf people out at Northenden! I’m not sure why it couldn’t have stayed as the 48; it would have eliminated any confusion over destinations!

    I was actually wondering who selects a route number – the operator or TFGM?

    • I would say that operators outside of London are free to suggest their own route numbers on commercial services, though Local Authorities and VOSA would appreciate it if the operator’s chosen numbers were distinct from incumbent services. On tendered services, TfGM holds some sway – hence the Oldham and Bolton Metroshuttles – being numbered as per the 1973 renumbering scheme zones (though previous holders of 400 and 500 were the express routes from Bolton to Stockport and/or Manchester Airport, latter route via Stretford).

      The confusion isn’t only true of the X41 and 41X: at one point, there was two 188s doing the rounds from Manchester with two very different routes (one towards Newton Heath, the other in the direction of Ryder Brow).

      • James McCollom says:

        There are currently two 484s that operate in borough of Bury. Generally Greater Manchester gets off fairly lightly thanks to the 1973 scheme, but also suffers from a lack of prefix/suffix letters to denote route variations, due to four-character route numbers being unwieldy.

        Chester is a confusing place: has three route 1s (Blacon, Liverpool and Wrexham). Halton Transport also leads to confusion with their Liverpool routes having the same numbers (14 and 61) as other routes!

  2. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    To be fair, if your bus was merrily continuing along Accrington Road in Intack rather than along your intended route along Palatine Road in West Didsbury, you might then be realising that it was your own fault for not looking at the destination shown on the front of the bus !!

    • Very true, Paul, not least ones ability to distinguish from Lancashire United and Finglands liveries. Or the stands at Chorlton Street from Piccadilly Gardens.

      • James McCollom says:

        Over August Bank Holiday weekend, I think the LU X41 was using Stephenson Square as a temporary terminus – possible confusion at Portland Street CU next year?

  3. njlawley says:

    Why do the 41X journeys need to be numbered 41X? Why not just 41? The front of the bus would show they are only going part route… after all there are plenty of other services with short journeys! Look at the 42, 83 (at the moment), 192, 350, 378 to name a few.

    As for the 41A, that’s an unofficial number as the Altrincham journeys should show 41 (as per the timetable)… I think Finglands use it internally to denote the different termini – by that right journeys terminating at Sale should therefore show 41F!

    • Paul Sidorczuk says:

      Another “A” suffix will appear on 28th October when the 410 abd 411 service journeys that cover Waterhead Acadamy will carry route numbers of 410A and 411A respectively.

      Information taken from “latest service changes” on the TfGM website.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        Apologies for the mis-spelt word “and” between 410 and 411 on the first line of that posting.

  4. Rob says:

    Historically, I think an X after the route number always indicated a short working – not sure why an ‘X’ was chosen though. I presume it made the fact that the bus is a ‘part route’ service clearer to to see, as destinations were quite small in comparison to the route number.

    Of course, elsewhere (e.g Wilts and Dorset) an X at the start of a route number indicates the route is not express, but a cross-county route!

    • James McCollom says:

      One suffix that I’m familiar with from travels in Liverpool and Birmingham is “E” meaning short route – presumably because it finishes “E”arly.

  5. ely says:

    Can anyone tell me why finglands is now also running route 19 from alty to sale moor?

  6. Shaun says:

    In Leeds, they have a set of services numbered 7, 7A and 7S, which replaced the 71 and 35/45. The reasoning for the A and S are down to its destination, as the 7A goes to Alwoodley and the 7S goes to Shadwell. Also in West Yorkshire, you find some services that run the same routes but are operated by different companies have letters on the end of the number. K-Line run the 301A/302A from Huddersfield to Golcar, which is the same route as First’s 301/302, and 324B from Huddersfield to Meltham, which is the same as First’s 324 (there was a 324A operated by another company).

    Merseyside do like the letter suffixes, as they have A-H on some of their services, although I always find ‘B’ to be an awkward variation, as it may look like an ‘8’ on the electronic destination displays. I remember being in Leicester a few years ago and Arriva’s 28B (now numbered 29) from Leicester to Coalville was displayed as ’28b’ to avoid people thinking it was ‘288’.

    North East also like their letters as prefixes as they have services A1-A3, AD122 (Hadrian Wall service referring to the year AD122), E1/E2/E6, K1/K2, various M services, N services for nightbuses, R3/R4, R5, S1, T1 TB services (TaxiBus), V1-V9, W1-W3 plus the traditional X services.

    Ribble/Blue Bus used to use M on some of their services in Salford, as did Bee Line Buzz Company for a while on the M82 to Rushcroft (to distinguish it with GM Buses’s 82 to Waterhead). Checkmate currently have the C20, which is their positioning service for their 220 journeys.

  7. Back to prefixes, we have also had in the last 25 years in Greater Manchester:

    • SpeedwellBus’ commercial services being prefaced with S (hence S36, S48 and S50);
    • Walls’ W2 service to Gatley;
    • Numerous Little Gem routes being allocated a letter prefix, most relevant to their town (hence O4 and A1 for Oldham and Ashton routes);
    • The P1 and 50p Budget Bus services (Pine Coaches’ routes from Ashton to Dukinfield, and Ashton to Carrbrook – the latter given the number owing to the flat rate 50p fare).

  8. Watcherzero says:

    Takes me back to my school days, I knew I could get on any bus that ended in a xx2 (352, 362, 372, 382) along with the 640 and 639 (though that involved a fair walk as it turned short), dont think most of them exist anymore.

    • Paul Sidorczuk says:

      Was that 639 that you describe the one that was run by Shearings many years ago with orange and yellow livery and went throuh Parbold ?

      • Watcherzero says:

        Dont think it was shearings, it was always a midibus as there were a number of low bridges, the main difference was at the Boars Head instead of going straight into Standish it went towards Red Rock then back up Rectory Lane then through some back streets before coming out at the Globe heading back towards Wigan.

  9. over an hour now and im still trying to find out if it is possible to get a bus from Altrincham to West Didsbury, i need to get to the Barlow Moor road/Princess road junction………………why is it so hard to inform yourself of how to get anywhere in Manchester? I went to live in London for 3 years and it was all just sooo easy, information for travelling was easy to find and work out within minutes how you could get to anywhere via 2 or 3 bus routes if was needed………Move back home then i realise how bad we’ve got it, i’ve struggled to get all the info i need to make a journey so i end up getting the metrolink to as close as possible, then either walking or Taxi if it’s too far….I love getting the bus, i like the journey.

    I want to be able to go online, search the words “bus from Altrincham to West DIdsbury” and it will give me a simple option, with route, times etc all in one place. I end up getting .pdf pages of not what i need, timetables for buses in other places, timetables for buses that don’t exist anymore, AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH, i know i could go to the bus station and find out, but i thought this is one of the reasons we have the internet…..to share information.

    Plus, one more annoying thing, i couldn’t believe when i took a bus and couldn’t get on it with my return ticket because it was a different bus company…..they were the same number bus im sure.

  10. Its amazing this confusion has been alllowed to happen. A solution could be just to change the letter on one of them?

  11. sunway212 says:

    Think your Buses need better Lights they look dull

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