It’s just 9.5 miles long but it feels like quite an adventure.
Once named Britain’s busiest bus route – with nearly 10 million passengers a year – it’s so Mancunian it’s been immortalized in song.
It’s been the scene of bus wars – with competing companies flooding the tarmac with vehicles in a desperate fight for passengers – and it stretches from suburban Hazel Grove all the way up to town.
I am of course referring to the 192, one of Manchester’s most famous, and historic, journeys.
As buses on the route pass through some of Stockport’s and south Manchester’s best-known landmarks, people from all walks of life jump on board. You see all kinds of things – the ridiculous, the glorious, and the downright chilling.
I hop on at 5.30pm at the Wellington Road South/Mersey Square stop, where there is a bit of a queue but plenty of seats.
I’m greeted with an ‘alright love?’ from a woman sitting downstairs carrying an empty bottle of wine.
Taking in the last drops from the bottle, she discusses the contents of her shopping bag with a male passenger sitting beside her.
They whisper among themselves, and giggling, she pulls out multipacks of chocolate bars while he joyously shows off large joints of meat from the supermarket.
They’re having a great time.
Glancing upwards, I can see we’re passing the iconic viaduct, the glow of its lights growing brighter as the sun is about to set.
Despite wearing my face mask, I notice a lingering grassy smell – one I’ve not smelt on the 192 before, but have done on trams.
Is it Spice?
I opt to move to the top deck, from where there is a good view of the large Victorian houses of Heaton Chapel.
It’s pretty quiet, with people on board making their way home from work with chatting colleagues, or speaking to loved ones on the phone.
It’s smooth ride so far, with that sense of satisfaction as we slip by in the bus lane, passing a long line of red brake lights from backed-up commuters.
We soon slow down though with a succession of stop-starts as a steady flow of passengers get on and off. Not too busy though, I clock another 192 ahead, and another not far behind.
You can tell we’re approaching Levenshulme by the sweet malted smell of the McVitie’s factory, where Jaffa Cakes, Penguins and Digestives are made, and where Noel and Liam Gallagher’s mum Peggy worked, before they became rock stars.
Crossing the border of Stockport and Manchester here, the streets on either side shine with the bright lights of takeaways and bars, offering plenty of people-watching opportunities.
I’m distracted by the man at the front of the bus, who offers the man in the seat behind him what looks like a Creme Egg.
He says he can’t eat them all. But his act of kindness is politely refused.
The bus travels at a much slower pace after losing its bus lane, almost crawling, as it weaves in and out of traffic to get to the stops along Stockport Road.
The driver takes multiple attempts to rejoin the road, as cars not wanting to be stuck behind a choking bus whizz past.
This is set to be less of an issue as the route slowly becomes greener.
In 2013, Stagecoach invested millions into 40 hybrids and, last year, they invested £12.2m in 52 new Euro 6 buses for the 192s, meeting clean air zone requirements.
However, despite being a frequent passenger, I’m yet to travel on one to see how it compares.
Longsight is a similar hive of activity, with many window displays to gaze at, with brightly colored Pakistani sweet treats.
The drunk woman and man who I’d met earlier downstairs get off outside 422 Manchester (formerly Longsight Youth Centre), with their joints of meat and bars of chocolate, and he reliefs himself up the wall of the building.
On the opposite side, a 192 bus overtakes another 192, before we catch up with yet another 192 in front.
There’s is now a strong smell of hot pasties – someone has brought their tea on board, while a woman gets on in Mickey Mouse pyjamas, still in her dressing gown.
We pass the 02 Apollo now, and the journey feels really rickety through Ardwick, driving over an even road surface.
It reminds me of what the route once was, starting in 1889 as horse-drawn trams before it was electrified in the early 1900s.
It became a bus route after this service was withdrawn and following the Transport Act, went under the ownership of Transport for Greater Manchester.
It was renumbered to 192 in 1969 and, following deregulation in the ’80s, came under private ownership, before being bought by Stagecoach in ’96.
I can see the city’s skyscrapers beginning to poke through the sky in the distance now, and we queue up near Piccadilly station to get into town.
The man with the Creme Eggs asks out loud: “Is it kicking off outside Piccadilly?”
The stranger behind then strikes up a conversation about it being busy for the football, which turns to talk about the players Man United need to get rid of.
We arrive just by Piccadilly Gardens on Portland Street at 6.11pm, and everyone spills out leaving the bus empty.
Town is bustling, like usual, with strangers zigzagging to get past one another, and I see the woman in pajamas has met up with her daughter, where she shouts about some confusion of when she was supposed to get there.
Compared to other buses lined up around the corner, you don’t have to be too careful about timings when traveling on the 192.
Stagecoach boasts they provide a service of up to 18 buses an hour, with them running every few minutes between Manchester and Stockport, up to every five minutes between Manchester and Stepping Hill, and every 10 minutes between Manchester and Hazel Grove.
A Dayrider with the company now sets you back a fiver, which I’d argue is way too expensive for public transport, and I’m outrageously forced into buying a full day pass despite only doing a two-way journey, as it’s cheaper than to return ticket.
So, while it doesn’t come cheap, it’s clear that 192’s best asset is its convenience.
There is even a night bus on weekends, which can be a bit of an after-party in itself.
Unlike trams, you’re free to take your cheesy chips on board, and it feels safe as herds of other revellers jump on board, chatting and laughing the night away.
But there have been times the 192 has been a scary place.
Don’t get me wrong, it does its job and gets me to where I need to be relatively quickly. But, now and then, I’ve found, something dodgy will happen.
My boyfriend has even received death threats – where he has been told his neck would be broken for making accidental eye contact when getting his things to get off the bus.
There’s a lot to take in on the 53-stop journey, which begins at Hazel Grove Park & Ride – the first commercial park and ride facility in the country.
The route gets off to a briefly scenic start, passing Torkington Park before then traveling through Hazel Grove’s main strip on London Road.
The first big milestone is Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital before it passes the recently talked about Mama Flo’s.
The huge Stockport Grammar School is on the left as the bus pulls through the suburbs of Davenport and Shaw Heath.
Then there is Stockport Crematorium on the right and the unmissable St George’s church on the left, before moving on to Wellington Road, where the Blossoms pub is located – from where the band got their name.
Then it’s on to Stockport town centre, with a gorgeous view of the town hall, before heading downhill to where the main shops are, where I boarded.
The 192 connects these places in a way travelers going by car would probably miss whilst concentrating on driving – and doing it by car only shaves off five minutes.
Quick and easy into town, where the last thing I see on the bus, getting off into the Manchester evening, is an empty bottle of wine rolling along the floor.
What is your experience of the 192? Do you have any stories from your journey? Let us know in the comments.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.