A real turning point, and a new bus station for Ashton
In spite of the Tories’ decree nisi on GM Buses, I retained an interest in local buses and, unlike some of my contemporaries, didn’t turn my attention to fast cars. A Commodore 64 or Amiga with a few games, and a Concessionary Clippercard was enough to keep me happy.
Far and away, the first most significant bus book purchase I made that year was British Bus Publishing’s ‘The North West Bus Handbook’. Though a well thumbed March 1993 edition, it came from a good secondhand book stall on Ashton-under-Lyne indoor market. The best £2.50 I spent using part of my £6.50 weekly wage as a morning paperboy.
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The dawn of 1994 saw Tameside caught in the middle of last year’s arbitrary divorce. South of the M67 was GMS Buses territory. North of Alma Bridge was the preserve of GM Buses North. Between that void, Dukinfield was a frontier town; Greater Manchester’s answer to Biddulph (where NWRCC and PMT buses once met for the benefit of younger readers, by the way). In between the void was the emergent Pennine, buoyed by Badgerline’s enhanced resources.
A review of routes inherited from the previous management saw Pennine:
- Gain the 1 and 1A services from GM Buses;
- The 336 and 351 renumbered as the 32 to 35 routes;
- 32 and 35 routes becoming circulars;
- Become a full time operator of the 346 route.
The latter was facilitated by GM Buses losing the tender to Pennine. New Dennis Dart single deckers were ordered, replacing some Bristol VRTs and Daimler Fleetlines. A further stamp of PMT’s authority saw Eastern Coach Works bodied Leyland Olympians form the mainstay of their double decker fleet. Instead of being managed from a house in Denton, their orders would come from Hobson Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Quite a distance from the Prince of Orange compared with Prince Edward Avenue, its previous offices. Buses were operated at Great Central House, the eloquent name used to describe the former Great Central Railway Carriage and Wagon Works off Astley Street and Globe Lane.
Both GM Buses North and GMS Buses were sold to their management. The former fended off an approach from British Bus, who owned the Bee Line company and Crosville operations in Rochdale and Oldham (inherited from the ill-fated sale of Yelloway to the ATL Group who sold it onto Crosville). The latter stopped West Midlands Travel from making a bid. Had the two been successful, the 192 would be sporting the red and white of National Express; the 409 service would sport Arriva’s cow horns.
To differentiate from its southern counterpart, GM Buses North tweaked the basic livery so that the lower deck window area would be painted black. Single deckers would be treated similarly with the window area above the cantrails. In Merseyside, GM Buses North tried to gain market share from MTL Holdings’ Merseybus company with the grotesque chaos of Merseyside PTE and GMT Standard Atlanteans in competition with each other! Likewise, its southern counterpart revived Birkenhead Corporation Transport’s blue and cream livery, using nostalgia to palm passengers off Merseybus and the Badgerline owned Crosville operation for the Wirral peninsula. A set of GMT standards, painted in the blue and cream livery operated as ‘Birkenhead and District’.
When Manchester locked horns with Liverpool on both sides of the Mersey in a bus operational sense, more of the same was happening in nearby Hyde. MTL Holdings formed a Manchester operation [MTL Manchester] who competed with GMS Buses on the Hyde Road corridor. They picked up from where Mybus left off competing with the 210 and 211 routes.
Also making a symbolic break with the publicly owned past was Ashton-under-Lyne bus station. Though the previous bus station opened in March 1985, a new shopping development facilitated the arrival of a new one which opened in July 1994. The information office, newsagents and control room was integrated with the forthcoming Arcades Shopping Centre. Its information office was one of GMPTE’s first Travelshops, which combined the functions of both the information office and SaverSales points.
On a less happier note, the Dukinfield stop on the 401 was discontinued, thus ending a fast link with Bolton and Bury from King Street. To compensate for this, both GM Buses North and GMS Buses shared the 330 route. Other changes made in 1994 included the extension of Mayne’s 220 service from Stalybridge bus station to Tameside Hospital and their 221 from Tennyson Avenue to Hyde, via Yew Tree Lane and Lodge Lane [Newton].
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My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 1994:
- A 343 journey from Oldham to Dukinfield – my first self-guided bus journey – without the aid of a safety net, but a concessionary day saver ticket and a GMPTE Under 16 photo ID card;
- Numerous jollies on the 1830 Hyde to Ashton 346 bus, following the successful ferrying of my sister to the Festival Theatre for her drama group;
- Coming back home on a Park Royal bodied GMT standard in July on a 343 operated by Tame Valley Motor Services from Hyde, after seeing Sarah [refer to above point after ‘ferrying of my’] make her stage début.
Part Ten follows tomorrow.
S.V., 09 October 2011.