The Ultimate Guide to Manchester Transport System

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Samir Badawy

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04 July, 2023

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7 mins read

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Manchester is the UK’s third-biggest city and is part of Greater Manchester in Northwestern England. The city has a rich history, especially during the Industrial Revolution, as it was the first industrial city and left a tremendous industrial legacy behind. With that said, the city is notorious for its old buildings and breathtaking parks, all thanks to the city’s Industrial Revolution wealth and old factories and workshops. The transportation system in Manchester is also very reliable, with its most reliable providers being Metrolink and TFGM Buses. In the following sections, we’ll provide more information regarding the Manchester transport system and the cheapest ways to travel for students.

History of Transport Systems in Manchester

Manchester, being the first industrial city in the UK, has led it to become a pioneer in developing a robust public transportation system, most notably for moving goods around Manchester, Greater Manchester, and its surrounding cities. With that said, Greater Manchester developed the first purposely built canal in the UK in 1761, the first bus service in the UK in 1824, and the first passenger railway service in the UK in the 1830s.

 Guide to Manchester Transport System

Travel Products

Various travel products can facilitate your usage of public transportation as a student and offer transportation at a discounted rate for students and young adults; these include:

System One 

System One Adult County Card Monthly (Bus and Rail for 28 days) allows you to travel throughout Greater Manchester by bus or train and costs £145. Please note that you must have a Rail ID or a System One membership to qualify for this card.

Get Me There Card

As a student, you can apply to get the Get Me There 28-Day AnyBus Young Person Card (Bus) up until age 21, which can be extended to 26 if you present your student card. The price of this card is £58 and can be purchased at TfGM Travelshops and PayPoint. 

The card can be obtained by presenting your ID card and student card if you are over 21. By using the AnyBus Young Person card, you can access various bus services across Greater Manchester monthly.

You can also apply for a combined package, the Get Me There 28-day AnyBus & Tram Adult Card, which allows you to travel by bus and tram for £136. To qualify, however, you must be 22 years of age or older.

Other card types will be discussed in the following sections, as will the different modes of payment, fares, and other applicable travel card options.

Different Public Transport Systems in Manchester

There are various transport systems available in Manchester, with the most common being TFGM bus transport and Metrolink light rail services. Other Manchester transport options include trains and cycling. If applicable, walking is another great and affordable option. 

Bus Transport

There are various bus transport options operated by TFGM (Transport for Greater Manchester), which include:

1. Free Bus

Free Bus is a free bus service that operates on two bus routes around Manchester’s city centre. The Free Bus has two timetables for their two bus routes, which are covered by Free Bus 1 and Free Bus 2, each covering a route.

  • Free Bus 1: Timetable




Monday- Friday

7 am-11:30 pm

●       Every 10 minutes (7 am-7 pm)


●       Every 30 minutes (7 pm-11.30 pm)



7 am- 11:30 pm

●       Every 15-30 minutes (7 am-8.30 am)


●       Every 10 minutes (8.30 am-7 pm)


●       Every 30 minutes(7 pm-11.30 pm )

Sundays and public holidays

10 am-6:30 pm

●       Every 10 minutes (Throughout all operational hours)

  • Free Bus 2: Timetable





Monday- Friday

7 am-11:30 pm

●       Every 10 minutes (7 am-7 pm)


●       Every 30 minutes (7 pm-11.30 pm)



7 am- 11:30 pm

●       Every 15-30 minutes (7 am-8.30 am)


●       Every 10 minutes (8.30 am-7 pm)


●       Every 30 minutes(7 pm-11.30 pm )

Sundays and public holidays

10 am-6:30 pm

●       Every 10 minutes (Throughout all operational hours)

2. Yellow Buses 

TFGM’s buses have a route coverage of 1800 miles, covering more than 900 stops. Recently, TFGM has added the Bee Network buses, which are a new addition to TFGM’s bus fleet and offer a more sustainable transportation option. TFGM’s yellow buses are also among the cheapest modes of transport around the city, with a single journey fare costing £2 for adults. 

Alternatively, you can use a weekly pass for unlimited travel by purchasing the 7-Day AnyBus Adult, which will cost you £21 and allow you to use various bus providers. To purchase the 7-day AnyBus Adult card, you can visit the TFGM shop, visit a PayPoint store, or buy it on the bus in cash. Manchester’s bus system has a daily cap of £2.

3. Local Link

Local Link offers more flexible bus transportation and covers ten areas across Manchester. Local Link buses can be booked online anywhere from one hour before the ride to seven days before the ride. At Local Link, adult single fares are £2, while the weekly adult pass is £20. AnyBus adult tickets are also accepted by Local Link.

There are also various bus providers that transport you both within the city of Manchester and other parts of Greater Manchester, some of which include:

4. Stagecoach Manchester

Stagecoach Manchester is among the biggest bus providers in Northern England and has a fleet of more than 750 buses. Stagecoach also accepts AnyBus tickets and has a daily cap of £5 for a 1-day AnyBus ticket and £21 for a 7-day AnyBus ticket. Other ticket options are available, such as MegaRider and MagicRider tickets (for specific areas). For more information regarding tickets and promotions, refer to the Stagecoach Manchester website or the Stagecoach app.

manchester bus

5. First Bus Manchester

First Bus Manchester has 57 different routes covering Manchester and Greater Manchester; as a whole, First Bus covers more than 40 cities and towns across the UK. First Bus Manchester accepts various tickets and travel cards, such as Anybus, System One, and Plusbus Tickets. It also accepts contactless payment systems such as Apple Pay. For your convenience, you can also purchase tickets online through the First Bus app called mTickets, where you can use travel products from your phone.

A single journey ticket costs £2; however, you can get cheaper deals if you select weekly or monthly plan tickets. For students, First Bus offers travel tickets that apply student discounts through its unlimited student travel cards, which can be purchased for one month at £49.50, for one term at £120, and for both terms at £180. 

  • Metrolink Light Rail Services

Metrolink’s light rail services are also among the most reliable modes of transport in Manchester and Greater Manchester. Metrolink has a total of 99 stops, covering an area of 64 miles. The cost of travel for the Metrolink tram depends on the travel zone, with Manchester being divided into four zones. Below are the costs of travel depending on the zone:



To travel in a single zone (1,2,3, or 4)


Two zones ( 1 and 2)


Two zones ( 2 and 3 or 3 and 4)


Three zones ( 1, 2, and 3)


Three zones (2, 3, and 4)


All zones


You can also travel using the pay-as-you-go Get Me There contactless card, which can cost you a minimum of £1.40 to £7.10 for a day pass; daily caps apply based on your travel zone; and for £31 you can have the 7-Day Anytime travelcard with unlimited access to tram transportation for a week, covering all zones.

  • Trains

Various train providers operate in Manchester, which can be used to travel within the city or to neighbouring cities. Some train providers operating in Manchester include Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Northern Railway, East Midlands Railway, Transpennine Express, and Transport for Wales. 

The cheapest way for students to travel by train is the 16–25 Railcard, which costs £30 for one year and £70 for three. You can apply for the 16–25 Railcard on the website. For postgraduate students, you can also access cheap travel options through the 26–30 Railcard, which costs £30 a year.

  • Cycling

In Manchester, you can find a wide range of bike-sharing services, such as Manchester Bikes, Brompton Bike Hire, Bee Network Cycle Hire, and Cycling UK; there, you can find various bike options that include city bikes, cargo bikes, electric bikes, and foldable bikes, among other options. However, it is much cheaper to buy your own bike, with the city having various bike routes.

  • Taxi

Taxis in Manchester have various rates; they have a day rate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., which costs £2.60 before the trip starts and an additional 20 p for every 133 metres. An additional waiting time of 38.89 seconds will cost an additional 20 pennies.

Night rates (10 p.m.–6 a.m.) cost £3 at the start of your trip and an additional 20 pennies for every 99.9m. Additional costs include a waiting fee of 20 p every 29.29 seconds.

Public holidays have a night rate throughout the entire day, and for Christmas and New Year’s, there is a night rate with an additional 50% between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

At Casita, we urge our students to carefully research the city they intend to study, which will facilitate their introduction to the new city and provide good background information. Before arriving in Manchester, the top things to know are the best places to find Manchester student accommodation, the cost of living, transportation types, and what to do in the city. Once you have researched, we at Casita can assist you in finding the most convenient Manchester student accommodation.


How to pay for public transport in Manchester?

You can pay for public transport in Manchester through several modes, which include cash, credit, or even mobile payments through Apple Pay. Buying prepaid weekly or monthly tickets is the easiest way to get around Manchester.

How much is a bus day pass in Manchester?

For adults, a bus day pass costs £5, which provides unlimited usage throughout the day, with the best being the AnyBus ticket.

Are all buses in Manchester free?

The only free buses available are Free Bus 1 and Free Bus 2, which cover two routes around the city centre.


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