Thankfully Not The Cruel Summer We Expected…
East of the M60 had expected more far reaching service revisions for 2011, mainly in the form of service cuts. What with SpeedwellBus withdrawing the S48 – S50 and 239 services, we feared the worst. Thankfully, the expected storm didn’t materialise.
First Manchester has emerged as the victor of TfGM’s summer round of tendering and re-tendering of its subsidised routes. The close of July will see them gain a monopoly in Saddleworth by means of the weekday and Saturday 353 and 354 services, gaining the tender from Stotts of Oldham. Therefore First, courtesy of its Dukinfield garage will be the sole operators of the 353/354, along with their 350 route serving most Saddleworth villages, the 180 and the 184 service. The latter two are operated from Oldham and Huddersfield garages.
They too will gain the evening 346 route (Ashton – Gee Cross) from The Coachmasters. This move will see First as the dominant operator along that route, running the service on a full time basis since February 2001. An evening Bank Holiday service will be reinstated, bridging a gap unfilled since 1998! In spite of these improvements to the evening service, this, regrettably would see the fleet age increased a little (the outgoing operator’s vehicles are on average two years) throughout the whole 346 route, though dramatically on the evening route (from two year old Enviro 200s to an average of nine years with the Optare Solos and Dennis Dart SLFs). By contrast, dead time (which to non-bus anoraks relates to the journey between depot and termini) will be reduced dramatically.
Gee Cross seems to be bearing the brunt of this summer’s changes. Firstly, Stagecoach Manchester’s 206 will be rerouted via Stockport Road in both directions. Changes to the peak hour timetable of the 206 will see some journeys replaced by the 204. Following customer complaints about the 206 omitting Hyde bus station, this issue will be remedied. SpeedwellBus’ 344 will be rerouted to serve Waverley Road estate to compensate for the 206’s diversion. Peak hour journeys on the 205 (Manchester – Dane Bank route) will be retimed.
First Manchester also seem to be making further inroads in the Stockport area. Arriva North West’s daytime 380 and 381 services will become First Manchester routes. Evening journeys will be withdrawn and replaced partially by a LocalLink service, plus incumbent evening journeys on the 330, 383 and 384. Also returning to the fold for First Manchester is the 386 Stockport to Greave route. I would assume that the 386 may co-work with the 346 to reduce dead time. The amount of dead time between the 386 terminus at Pennine Road and Gee Cross would be minimal, with the journey taking 5 minutes between 386/346 termini.
The one cloud over this summer’s changes involve the 324 route from Denton to Stockport. The Sunday and Bank Holiday evening service, presently operated by Travelmaster will be withdrawn. Monday to Saturday evening services will be operated by Stotts of Oldham, taking over from JPT Travel. Stagecoach Manchester will take over the Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service.
Though hardly news in itself these days, yet worthy of reminder, the 24 July will see Tameside’s principal services switch to the summer timetable. Given the reduced traffic in peak hours caused by the summer school holidays, services will run to faster timetables than on schooldays. This will affect all Manchester bound services along Hyde Road, Ashton New Road and Ashton Old Road, with the exception of the 220 and 221 services. This will continue till the 02 September 2011.
By the above date we should expect to see the autumnal service revisions. Slated for withdrawal this September is SpeedwellBus’ 397 from Hyde to Glossop via Hadfield. Eagerly anticipated for autumn is Stagecoach Manchester’s proposals to extend the 236 and 237 terminus to Old Glossop, which is subject to discussions with Derbyshire County Council. One change which would be most welcome for Stalybridge passengers along these routes is the reinstatement of Stalybridge bus station as a stopping point.
S.V., 10 July 2011.