What A Difference a Month Makes
I was getting fed up of paying 75p or 80p each time I boarded the 346 to and from Ashton. On some occasions the 40 provided an alternative connection and a slightly cheaper fare (though no Leyland Atlanteans).
My supervisor suggested buying a weekly pass, taking into account journeys made outside of work hours.
What a move that was! The council transferred the YT centre to Tameside College of Technology’s Beaufort Road campus which also meant extra bus miles by April. Before then I still managed to get my monies worth. One lean Tuesday in March saw us finish at 10.10 am. What did I do? Speed off to Ashton bus station from Heginbottom Mill for the 1017 Trans-Lancs Express (400) to Bury! The start of a beautiful relationship between boy and bus, then in later years, man and MAN (sic).
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Within the space of a month, GMS Buses and GM Buses North ceased trading as management owned companies. They became subsidiaries of the UK’s biggest and second biggest bus operating groups.
March 1996 saw GMS Buses sold to Stagecoach Holdings, trading as Stagecoach Manchester. This was the second Stagecoach Manchester in the conurbation as an earlier one was an offshoot of fellow subsidiary Ribble, prior to selling its routes to Finglands. April 1996 saw GM Buses North sold to FirstBus. Both companies would make an immediate impact by the close of 1996.
Within weeks, the newly formed Stagecoach Manchester halved the price of its Network 7 ticket from £10.00 to £5.00. Stagecoach Ribble services within Greater Manchester were shortly covered by the weekly ticket. From then on, it was clear that regular users would be prepared to pay for a cheaper weekly ticket instead of single or return fares as per le ancien regime. FirstBus decided to retain The Big Orange tickets till 2001.
In October, a reorganisation of services saw Bee Line pull out the Tameside area. They would concentrate solely on South Manchester and Trafford areas before becoming Arriva North West two years later. This affected their 219 service from Stalybridge to Manchester, which I caught most times to and from college. The 330 route would see Stagecoach and FirstBus form a duopoly, augmented only by Stuarts Bus and Coach’s 3 service to Hattersley. The latter company purchased new Ikarus single decker buses and moved to a new depot [Rothesay Garage] on Broadway, Dukinfield.
Also withdrawn by 1996 was Pennine’s Stockport extension of the 346 route. Meanwhile in GM Buses North land, more sweeping changes were made to the network. Some 81 service changes saw FirstBus pull out of Merseyside (GM Buses North’s nascent Liverpool and Southport operations) and fundamental changes to Saddleworth’s buses. Other changes affected routes once shadowed by Citibus’ operations.
Whereas Dukinfield was relatively unscathed by radical service changes (other than minimal retimings), it was changes in ownership and the multiplicity of operators. The bus stop flags at The Albion Hotel read like a who’s who of post-deregulation operators:
- 1: Hyde – Dukinfield – Ashton-under-Lyne (Pennine; M – S daytime);
- 40: Tennyson Avenue – Richmond Road – Ashton-under-Lyne (Pennine; M – S daytime);
- 216: Hyde – Dukinfield – Ashton-under-Lyne – Manchester (Dennis’s Coaches; M – S daytimes);
- 220: Tameside Hospital – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Audenshaw – Higher Openshaw – Piccadilly (Stagecoach Manchester; M – F peak hours only/Mayne of Manchester; journeys from Tameside Hospital, off-peak including Sundays);
- 221: Stalybridge – Tennyson Avenue – Dukinfield – Audenshaw – Piccadilly (Stagecoach Manchester; M – F peak hours only/Mayne of Manchester; journeys from Tameside Hospital, off-peak daytimes excluding Sundays);
- 339: Ashton – Dukinfield Circular (via Boyd’s Walk) (Dennis’s Coaches; M – S evenings/Glossopdale Bus Company; Sundays only);
- 340: Ashton – Dukinfield Circular (via Dewsnap Lane) (Dennis’s Coaches; M – S evenings/Glossopdale Bus Company; Sundays only);
- 343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde (Greater Manchester; M – S daytimes and peak hours/Glossopdale Bus Company; M – S evenings/Stagecoach Manchester; Sundays only);
- 346: Hyde – Newton – Dukinfield – Ashton (Stagecoach Manchester; daily before 7 pm/Pennine; daily, full time operator/JP Executive Travel; 1 morning journey to Hyde).
With Pennine, further signs of PMT’s operation became apparent. As well as the livery, some Mercedes minibuses entered service with the Minilink branding. The chances of finding an Eastern Coach Works bodied Olympian on the 346 were just as equal as find a Northern Counties counterpart on Stagecoach’ equivalent.
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By the end of 1996, my bus miles had shot up dramatically. Most of this was a causal effect of being bored at college since their takeover of Tameside MBC’s YT scheme. Efforts in finding a suitable placement over 1996 were far from forthcoming, which enabled me to concentrate on my BTEC ONC in Electronics and Engineering (with aspirations of joining the railway industry). This, as well as a change of tutor did nothing to enable me to pass the second year.
Solace was found on the buses, with the simple pleasure of a trip to Oldham before night classes most inviting. Not least for the joys of a 400 or 401, a trip to that excellent collectables shop on Waterloo Street, or Andy’s Records in Spindles Shopping Centre for a good listen to the latest albums on their headsets.
My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 1996:
- A 400 Trans-Lancs Express journey to Bury one gloomy Tuesday in March 1996 that began the first of many bus based wanderings in subsequent years;
- A hellish journey on a JP Executive Travel minibus from Bury to Middleton (via Pilsworth Industrial Estate) which could have turned me into Hi-de-Hi’s child loathing Punch and Judy puppeteer Mr Partridge;
- Many a ride on the 1545 Oldham – Mossley – Hyde journey of the 343 route: always lively and buzzy up to Mossley, then more sedate afterwards.
Part Twelve follows tomorrow.
S.V., 11 October 2011.