My Life in the Company of Buses: Dukinfield and Bus Deregulation: Part 12A, 1998

Magic, Magic Bus

“Us, and a B makes three/Bus, as in the 343/Magic, as in wizardry/Magic, Magic Bus…” (with apologies to Derek Griffiths).

A year on from completing a two year careership, I was still going back to the DHSS on a fortnightly basis. Finding a modest administrative assistant job – or an apprenticeship – was easier said than done.

After passing my DTP course with a NVQ Level 2 qualification, I elected to do a GNVQ Advanced in Media, Communication and Production on a part time basis. The Megarider got even more of a hammering.

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In Dukinfield, the consolidation of the big bus owning groups continued. Stagecoach dominated the 330 route with an extension to Tameside Hospital operating every half hour. They would also take over Stuarts Bus and Coach’s 3 service from Hattersley to the hospital. Stuarts, following an accident on a school contract and maintenance issues on their buses, left the bus scene, fading within a year following the loss of GMPTE contracts.

Low floor buses started to appear on Stagecoach’s 330 route with Alexander bodied MANs standard fare. Some made occasional appearances on their 346 route, later becoming a common sight. Funding by GMPTE enabled operators to modernise their fleet, with true low floor vehicles offering kneeling mechanisms. Dennis’s, Mayne of Manchester, Greater Manchester and Glossopdale took advantage of the scheme. FirstBus’ Greater Manchester subsidiary employed them on the 425 [Fitton Hill – Holts Estate] service, and are still seen on subsidised and commercial routes to this day.

Glossopdale’s transition to low floor buses was far from smooth. State of the art Marshall Minibuses (often seen on the 375 route) had severe defects, losing them months of revenue earning service. Glossopdale took Marshall to court and won, leading to a full refund of their purchase.

Mayne of Manchester also opted for Marshall bodied buses, this time the Dennis Dart. These were gainfully employed on the 171/172 Newton Heath to Withington routes, and on the 220 route. They continued in service till 2008 under Mayne, and saw further service with their [bus operational] successor, Stagecoach Manchester.

Withdrawals and revisions affecting Dukinfield included the 328 route from Stockport to Ashton. The 0815 journey of the 221 (operated by Mayne) was cutback to start from the Old Pack Horse in Audenshaw. The 3 service was no more under Stagecoach’s tutelage and renumbered 398 and 399. From Hattersley, they were extended to cover Glossop.

This was part of a comprehensive review of Stagecoach Manchester services in September 1998. The 210 to Marple and the 211 to Hattersley were withdrawn. In its place was the new 201 service from Manchester to Hattersley [John Kennedy Way], which doubled Hattersley’s link with Manchester to every 10 minutes. The Gee Cross and Marple link served by the 210 became part of a new route, the 397. This linked Marple with Glossop via Hyde. Magic Bus services, numbered 200, were introduced to Denton with peak hour extensions to Hyde. With Dennis’s Coaches competing with Stagecoach on Ashton New Road, the Magic Bus treatment was meted out on the 216.

A new operator came to the Dukinfield bus scene, this time from Littleborough! Taking over the weekday and Saturday evening journeys of the 339 and 340 was Universal Buses Limited. Their vehicles included UVG bodied Dennis Darts and Optare Excels. Other contracts won included school journeys on the 220.

September also saw the opening of The Trafford Centre, with a few existing services modified to serve Peel Holdings’ edifice. Pennine got in on the act with a Saturdays only return journey from Mossley [Hey Farm] to Trafford Centre via Ashton, Denton and Brinnington. Numbered 600, it followed the old 348 route from Hey Farm to Denton before continuing towards Brinnington and Portwood. From there, the limited stop service would run non-stop along the M63 up to Stretford, where it would stop outside the Arndale Centre on Chester Road before continuing to its bigger overhyped neighbour.

For the big guns, things were looking up. As for the passengers, System One launched a series of multi-operator day tickets. These made for a cheaper alternative to the Wayfarer and (unlike its more expensive brother) were available for purchase on the bus or train, at any Metrolink ticket machine, or any staffed railway station.

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The System One Bus Day Saver ticket was a Godsend for anyone with a love of buses. To commemorate Green Transport Day on the 16th June, they launched a special £3.00 Any Bus Day Saver ticket before September. The first of my many circumnavigations along Greater Manchester’s bus network began.

My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 1998:

  • A circumnavigate taking in Bury, Bolton, Wigan and Worsley, before returning home on the 220 (16 June, Green Transport Day special ticket);
  • Another circumnavigate (anticlockwise) celebrating the launch of System One’s new day ticket. Buses included the 500 from Bolton to Altrincham as well as the usual suspects from Ashton and Hyde.

Part Fourteen follows tomorrow.

S.V., 13 October 2011.

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