There is a rhythm to a night at the Bolton Interchange.

People dart from arriving buses, racing across the concourse to catch departing ones. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Each rush is followed by a brief lull.

Every night, hundreds of lives intersect at the Bolton Interchange. The night-shift workers and commuters, those out on the town and those just a little bit lost.

Each one has their own story, some are happy to chat, most lose themselves in whatever is playing through their headphones.

I spent a week on the night buses. With the election looming, what the politicians are experiencing on their campaign battle buses is not what ordinary people are seeing. Theirs is a very different perspective.

Sky News’s Greg Milam spoke to passengers on night buses

There is an unmistakeable despair about the state of the country, an indifference to what the political process might do about it and a dark humour about the future. There are very few flickers of optimism.

From the bus-spotter who says the country needs “a good clean”, to those who yearn for a Britain of a different age, to Pete, the elderly bluegrass guitarist heading for an open-mic night.

What does he think of Britain today? “Me and 50 mates are going to go to Lake Windermere to take a s*** in the water. We’ll see if they do anything to stop us, because they don’t seem to be stopping the water companies.”

It is just one of the many raw expressions of the frustration and hopelessness that I hear. As Carl, the night supervisor at the interchange, says: “Late shifts are different here. It is a real eye-opener.”

Sophia Talbot

‘Vote? I just can’t be bothered’

With her shock of white hair and ankle-length peach quilted coat, Sophia Talbot is hard to miss as she jogs across the interchange concourse. She turned 80 a few weeks ago but is still working full-time. She is taking the 125 bus home after completing filming in Bolton as an extra on the TV drama, Waterloo Road.

Sophia: The country is a mess. When I first came to Bolton 21 years ago it was a really nice place and now it’s all run down and boarded up and I think that speaks for everywhere.

Every time I go to the supermarket, I seem to get less for my money. I can drive but I can’t afford a car so that’s why I take the bus.

I do the extras work for a bit of extra money. Extra extra money, I call it.

I don’t think I’ll last long enough to see things in this country change for the better. It will take a long time for that to happen because it has gone down too far.

I probably won’t even vote. I didn’t last time or the time before if I remember right. I just can’t be bothered, and I know that’s not good because if you don’t do it, you can’t blame anybody but yourself, can you?

‘I’m treated as third class, common muck’

It is just after 8pm, still light on this early summer evening, and Janey Fairhurst is passing through the interchange on her way from Bury to Wigan, after spending the day with a bereaved friend. She lost her job in medical research in November and, after 10 interviews, is still searching for work.

Janey: My life is drastically different to what it was. There are just not enough jobs. There are jobs down South but I feel the North gets forgotten about quite a lot when it comes to politics. Maybe they need to remember that we started the industrial revolution and they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that so maybe give the North some more funding and more jobs.

The empire is over, Britain has just crumbled, it has been going in the wrong direction for a long time and there’s no trust between the people and the politicians.

When I was in work I felt like I was winning. I could buy the Tropicana instead of Tesco’s own brand orange juice. You don’t really think about the politics of it all when you’ve got the money.

Now, I feel like I’m treated as third class, common muck and I’m not. I come from a good family. I feel frustrated, angry, sad, belittled, in a way – judged. I worked so hard to get where I was and now I can’t get back into it.

Another night bus rider

‘The cost of living has put a lot on people’

Three buses in the morning and three more in the evening are the routine of Saila Shabir’s working life. From her home in Great Lever to her job in Manchester, she says her time spent travelling has given her perspective on the value of community and the state of the country.

Saila: I think it wouldn’t do any harm for everyone to get on the night bus and experience life from this side of things. It might not be their cup of tea but it is a way to understand what people are saying and doing.

I find it uplifting travelling on the bus in the evening because you get to see people from all sorts of backgrounds. It is amazing, really, and it opens your mind that there’s huge prospects and a really expansive community that we could all bring together under one roof.

I’m not going to say I’m despairing but the cost of living has put a lot on people. People need to work together, we can’t just rely on one set of people to do it all. I am hopeful because I do trust the right people will do the job properly. I do see the darker side of life on the buses sometimes but you need the dark to see the light.

Rick Conlon

‘I have never known this country in such a state’

From his blue suede boots to his embroidered collar, Rick Conlon is dressed for a night on the town. It is 11pm and he is making his way home to Rochdale. At 6ft4in with a shaved head, it’s easy to see why he’s well known in local boxing circles. He is jovial despite despairing of Britain today.

Rick: I’m 58 and I’m not political particularly but I have never known this country in such a state. I just think it’s really tough at the moment. I know inflation has come down but there’s a lot of people far worse off than me struggling for food and the basic necessities.

We’re the fifth-richest country in the world, I find it incredible. When I was 16, 17, 18, in Margaret Thatcher’s time, 1981 and 1982, with all that political and social unrest, the country was still a better country. We had massive unemployment but the country was still a better country. People were looked after.

There’s that old saying about how you can judge a country by how it looks after its elderly. It’s just ridiculous how little they’re paid and how little they’re thought of.

If there’s one thing that makes me optimistic, bus fares make me optimistic. Two pounds – you can’t argue with that. Even then they’re probably subsidised but that’s great, because this is a great country, it’s just the government letting us down.

Muj Malik

‘If it was up to me, I’d move country’

Muj Malik is travelling home with his partner Tabitha and five-month-old son, Zair, after another exhausting day searching for a new family home. They have faced months of frustration on growing council house waiting lists and, they say, see countless videos on TikTok from other young families in the same situation.

Muj: Things are not good in this country. My grandma moved here from Pakistan and my mum was born here so I’m third generation but, if it was up to me, I’d move country. I don’t want to live here for the rest of my life. I don’t see the point because the country is just going sideways.

At the end of the day, I’ve got a mixed-race baby, I grew up in a predominantly white area. I like the country and the people and I know there are people far worse off than us. But you’ve got war veterans from this country, people who have gone to war for this country, they’ve put their lives on the line, they’ve lost friends, and you’ve got them sitting outside of Asda homeless with no help whatsoever.

This country is fading miserably. I like the people, it’s not about the people, it’s about the way the country is run.

If you want to watch our special report on Sky News you can tune in at 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm and 8pm.