The 26 October 1986 seemed like a typical late Sunday in October. The clocks went back for Greenwich Mean Time, Bullseye and Howards Way was on the telly and the weather was barely worth writing home about.
For regular bus users and employees, this was far from the idyll painted in last paragraph. It was a lull before the cutthroat economics of the free market unsettled their industry. In Greater Manchester, GM Buses only gained two thirds of the tenders set up prior to October. The semi-deregulated period up to October saw Mayne of Manchester and Citibus increase their operations.
In Dukinfield, the lull before the storm brooded till January 1987. GM Buses operated all of the town’s routes. The 346 had a 20 minute frequency, with the evening and Sunday service running once hourly. This was cut back from every half hour. Circular routes 339 and 340 operated as before with an hourly service on each route. The 330 offered a frequent service as of now in 2011. Though no longer limited stop, the 220 and 221 combined to offer a half hourly direct link from The Albion Hotel to Manchester (Victoria Railway Station), with the former terminating at Stalybridge bus station and the latter at Tennyson Avenue.
On the upside, the 343 route had an improved Sunday service between Oldham and Hyde. Prior to deregulation, there was a hourly service between Mossley and Hyde. Journeys north of Brookbottom to Oldham operated every three hours! Post deregulation, the whole Oldham to Hyde service became once hourly. This was augmented with Stalybridge to Mossley part route journeys (also once hourly) operated by S.M. Tandy/Checkmate Coaches. Today’s Sunday service on the 348 covers similar ground up to Carrbrook.
In the Manchester Evening News, there was reports of chaos regarding ticket validity and bus blocking on key routes. At the moment, Dukinfield had a charmed life; GM Buses’ Tameside depot were keen to expand their presence. In Ashton-under-Lyne, they embraced the minibus revolution with the A1 service from Crowhill to Hazelhurst (via Ashton). This was a repackaging of the 337 service with half hourly double deckers replaced by minibuses operating every seven minutes. These operated under the banner of Ashton Minilyne.
Pick you up tomorrow as usual? It seemed that way and things were looking up. The 400 Trans-Lancs Express consolidated its presence further with coach seated Olympians the norm. In Oldham, it spawned a sister route, the 401. This called at Middleton, Bury and Bolton before terminating at Wigan.
* * *
I was excited at the prospect of seeing more weird and wonderful buses. Being seven years old at the time, I was blind to the bigger picture and the machinations of government policy. In later years, I would see first hand how the pursuit of profit has ruined services in less profitable areas, and improved in more profitable areas.
For the time being, it seemed like ‘business as usual’. It seemed as if Dukinfield would have been sheltered from the worst excesses faced by Mancunian passengers in the northern and southern parts of the city council boundary. The worst was yet to come…
Part Two follows tomorrow.
S.V., 01 October 2011.