Farewell All Saints and Citibus, Hello GM Buses North and Glossopdale
1995 was a pivotal time for me and my bus habits. Prior to leaving school, my experience of bus travel involved occasional visits to my Grandma’s house and subsequently my Auntie’s in Fitton Hill. Or the odd shopping trip. The rite of passage was also commemorated by doing battle with adult fares. Instead of 35p, it was 70p on GMS Buses, or 65p on Pennine. On Sundays and Bank Holidays (when bus usage is lower), GMS Buses insisted on charging an extra 20p on adult fares (ouch!). In 2011, you are lucky to find a 70p fare as a child’s half fare!
The middle of 1995 saw me complete my GCSE examinations and attendance at a youth training centre the following month. From £6.50 a week to a £46.65 a week YT Allowance, it was quite a windfall. It enabled me to do some serious bus bashing and follow The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic, then members of the GM Vauxhall Conference. The vagaries of night matches and day release at Tameside College of Technology enabled me to grapple with the local bus network even more.
College attendance meant walking to Beaufort Road and (on the way back) boarding the 237 to Stalybridge (GMS Buses), followed by the 1716 Oldham – Hyde 343 (1805 at Stalybridge; GM Buses North) or the 1810 Stalybridge – Manchester 220 (GMS Buses). Night lessons meant a taxi home.
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Both northern and southern versions of GM Buses had rooted into the conurbation’s psyche. This was reinforced by their ranges of bought-on-the-bus season tickets, 1995’s New Thing.
GMS Buses stuck with the Network 7 brand at £10.00. Launched in 1993 by GM Buses as a replacement for the Busabout ticket, the weekly bought-on-the-bus ticket in its new guise offered access to all GMS Buses routes. GM Buses North by contrast ditched ‘Network 7’ in favour of ‘The Big Orange’ ticket. The Big Orange was accompanied by a range of smaller area specific bought-on-the-bus season tickets.
For unlimited travel within each area (for example Oldham), a segment ticket would cover the metropolitan borough boundary and specific Manchester bound routes to and from that boundary. The Oldham Segment would cover all routes in the Oldham MBC area operated by GM Buses North. There was no Tameside/Ashton segment as the borough was split in the middle by GM Buses North and GMS Buses. For ultra-local season tickets, they introduced The Slice in some areas. One example was the Moston Slice.
Pennine also had their own weekly ticket. Known as the Tripper 7, this offered unlimited travel on all Pennine routes. Unlike Network 7 and The Big Orange, this could only be bought at GMPTE Travelshops in Ashton, Hyde and Stockport. Ditto the above for the SuperGeM season ticket, cheerfully accepted by both GM Buses companies, North and South.
The Badgerline, now FirstBus owned Pennine, took over some of Dukinfield’s local routes. The 1 would be operated in PMT’s yellow and red livery. Daytime 339 and 340 journeys would be replaced in July by the new 40 service. This became the first bus service to link the then new Richmond Park estate with Richmond Road seeing Mercedes minibuses every 20 minutes. The whole of Richmond Road, along with Armadale Road South, eschewed bus stops in favour of becoming ‘hail and ride’ sections of the route.
The evening service of the Dukinfield circular was still the 339 and 340 services. The Sunday service was taken over by Glossopdale Bus Company, who gained a foothold in Tameside through the acquisition of Tame Valley Motor Services. Monday to Saturday evening journeys were taken over by Dennis’s Coaches. As a consequence of Tame Valley’s takeover, evening 343 journeys were taken over by Glossopdale.
Instead of secondhand double deckers, Mercedes minibuses dominated. Whereas the original purpose of minibus services (according to Harry Blundred and The Book of Bee Line Buzz Company) meant high frequency services in place of infrequent big buses, the trend turned towards small buses at big bus frequencies (as seen with GMS Buses’ Sunday service on the 343 at the time). The only part of Dukinfield experiencing competition in the Wilmslow Road Corridor sense of the word was King Street. Both GM Buses, North and South vied with Bee Line and Stuarts Bus and Coach for market share along the 330 route.
Further uphill, there was a sense of calm and slight competition between Dennis’s and Pennine around Thorncliffe Avenue and Armadale Road. Mayne competed with Pennine and GM Buses North on their 221 route. The summer of 1995 saw the Yew Tree Lane to Hyde section discontinued. Instead, journeys would be extended to Stalybridge from Tennyson Avenue (though there was, and still is a more pressing need for Quarry Street to be served by a bus route of some description).
Outside Dukinfield, the latter part of 1995 saw Citibus Tours succumb to GM Buses North. Its aim was to make Citibus a cheap and cheerful value operator in the Magic Bus mould. Minibus services would be marketed under the Citimini name, appearing on the 419 route, hitherto operated by JP Executive Travel, GM Buses and Citibus before then. The Big Orange became The Slightly Bigger Orange. Unlike its southern counterpart it had more modern low floor vehicles, though they were still step entrance. These included Wright Endurance bodied Volvo B10Bs and Northern Counties bodied Volvo B6s. GMS Buses were the poor relation, though this would change the following year.
At odds with contraction and consolidation, some welcome news came in the form of a rebrand. September 1995 saw the rebranding of GMPTE’s multi-system passes. Instead of SaverSeven/SaverMonthly/SaverAnnual and Every Bus Saver tickets, they came under the System One banner. Therefore, the tongue twisting Every Bus Saver became the System One Buscard. The SaverSeven type tickets became System One Countycards, offering travel by bus, train and the Manchester City Zone of the Metrolink network. Promoted by a newly formed company [Greater Manchester Travelcards Limited], each operator has a stake in System One Travelcards, with validity of their passes a condition of gaining GMPTE tenders. Today, System One’s passes are a must for anyone who travels to work on more than company’s buses or trains.
Further proof of its usefulness would be made apparent the following year when GMS Buses and GM Buses North would succumb to the big bus owning groups.
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My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 1995:
- A 343 journey from Mossley to Chez Vallantine with my dog (my first Jack Russell Terrier, Brandy) in tow. After walking him from my house to Mossley. Fare: £1.50 and zip all for the JRT;
- Seeing The Phantom of the Opera at the Opera House, Manchester, following a journey on Dennis’s 216 from Dukinfield to Manchester. Though my late Nana thought the journey took too long, it was quite nippy.
Part Eleven follows tomorrow.
S.V., 10 October 2011.