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We're improving Irwell Line from 26 January

1 week ago Fri 29th Nov 2019

What’s happening?

From Sunday 26 January we will be improving Irwell Line to replace Red Express and Red 4, which will no longer run.

Everyone will still be able to make the same journeys they make now and in most cases this is at the same fare – but some journeys may now involve a change of bus. Some brand new links, in response to customer feedback, are being introduced too.

Why are we making the changes ?

The current Red 4 and Red Express routes were created in good faith on the back of customer feedback and consultation, but we’re not seeing enough people using them which means they’re losing money by around £300,000 per year.

We have done extensive research, both using our own data and exploring external factors, to understand why these routes are not performing well when many of our others are.

Red 4, between Ramsbottom and Bury, simply isn’t sustainable given that we have two bus companies both running every 15 minutes. Ramsbottom to Bury will be connected by an improved Irwell Line, and the route via Holcombe Brook will still be served by a frequent bus from Diamond North West. 

Fewer people are using Red Express since customers now have the option to use the same ticket to connect from the 464 from Accrington & Haslington to Witchway at Rawtenstall to Manchester. As both Witchway and 464 are every 15 minutes, this is more convenient for many people, and the result has been many fewer customers using Red Express. Unpredictable congestion in Manchester is also making the whole service unreliable, and the Ramsbottom-Manchester link has not been as popular as we’d have hoped. 

What’s changing?

We’re improving Irwell Line which already links Rawtenstall with Bury, Blackburn, Haslingden and Burnley. 

Irwell Line will also serve Ramsbottom 

There will still be four Irwell Line buses an hour between Bury and Rawtenstall. Two buses per hour - as buses 481 and 483 - will continue to run direct via Shuttleworth, and two buses an hour numbered 482 - will also go via Ramsbottom. This will offer a new direct link between Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom. 

Irwell Line will also be extended to Haslingden and Accrington

We will also provide a new branch of Irwell Line (as bus 482) extending from Rawtenstall to Helmshore, Haslingden and Accrington which will run every hour. It will also mean that Helmshore will have twice as many buses to Rawtenstall – two every hour. 

This also means that, in response to customer feedback, Accrington gets its link back to Bury without a need to change buses.

We are also introducing an additional journey is on the 464 from Accrington at 5.32am to connect to Witchway at Rawtenstall, giving a 7am arrival into Manchester Monday to Friday. The improved Irwell Line from Haslingden at 6.13am and 6.55am which also call at Helmshore, give connections to Witchway buses arriving into Manchester at 7.25am and 8.10am Monday to Friday.

The 6.16pm & 6.46pm journeys from Rawtenstall on the 464 which currently finish at Haslingden will also be extended to Accrington Monday to Friday. 

What does this mean for me?

Based on where you live, we have summarised the changes for you. There’s also a map at the bottom of this article so you can see what your new routes will look like.

Accrington and Haslingden

If you catch Red Express from stops between Accrington to Haslingden and you’re heading to Manchester, catch the 464 to Rawtenstall and change to the Witchway for Manchester. It’s the same price as you're paying now and both the 464 and Witchway run every 15 minutes -  so you have many more journey possibilities than you did before. And with the new bus station in Rawtenstall, changing buses is as easy and as comfortable as it could ever be.

connect in rawtenstall

If you usually go anywhere else on Red Express, like Edenfield or Ramsbottom, the new Irwell Line will be your best route. You can also now reach Bury without changing buses.


There will now be two buses per hour to Rawtenstall instead of one every hour. If you’re heading into Manchester, catch Irwell Line and change to Witchway in the new Rawtenstall Bus Station. The fare will be the same as now. Because there’s a Witchway bus every 15 minutes you’ll never have to wait long.


The changes to Irwell Line mean you now have a bus every 30 minutes with us to Bury, and if you use a System One ticket, you can use this either on our buses or with Diamond North West.

If you’re heading to Manchester, change in Bury for the Metrolink tram. System One tickets can be used across both parts of the journey.

You also will now have a direct bus every 30 minutes between Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. This is something a lot of customers have said they wanted to see.

If you usually go to Helmshore, Haslingden or Accrington on Red Express, you can still make this journey on the new Irwell Line.


If you’re heading into Bury or Rawtenstall there are still four buses an hour in each direction. The new link to Ramsbottom is every 30 minutes, so better than the connection it is replacing.

For journeys into Manchester, head to Bury and change to the Metrolink. System One tickets can be used across both parts of the journey.


Here’s a map of what this all looks like, but please do let us know if you have any questions please do contact us. We will upload some timetables here shortly.

Irwell Line map


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Timetables & Maps

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