Where Did You Go On Your FirstDay? Halifax Bus Station.
The tedium of unemployment (following the end of my contract at Groundwork Tameside) and attending an interview skills workshop did more to quench my desire for longer distance bus travel. The willing was there, but the finances weren’t (though the Manchester Megarider sufficed on most occasions).
Then FirstGroup decided to extend the validity of their FirstDay ticket to cover West Yorkshire.
Bad. Move. Now, where’s that 562 from Oldham…?
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From a operational point of view, 2002 was a stable one for Greater Manchester and Dukinfield. It was also the year of The XVII Commonwealth Games, which were held in Manchester. To meet the demand, extra buses were ordered by Stagecoach Manchester and First Manchester, for the ferrying of spectators and staff to and from the venues. For three weeks, Dukinfield benefited with its evening 220 service operating every half hour – double the usual frequency.
January 2002 saw Pennine gain the 220’s evening service. This would be followed by their acquisition of the 343’s Sunday service in autumn of this year. The norm would be Dennis Darts or Mercedes minibuses. On the down side, the 389 lost its full evening service with journeys finishing at Gee Cross instead of Marple. The Gee Cross to Marple section was replaced by a demand responsive transport service.
October saw the end of the 238, Ashton to Hattersley and Glossop circular (via King Street). This was replaced by a rejigged 397, operating between Hyde, Ashton and Tameside Hospital. The 239 compensated a little for the lost Ashton to Stalybridge and Mottram section, as did an extended version of the 201.
Dennis’s Coaches have in the last year expanded their operations and outgrew their Crickets Lane depot, in favour of a new site on Charles Street, Dukinfield. This was accompanied by the purchase of new single decker and double decker buses, mainly bodied by East Lancashire Coachbuilders. After upping the ante on Ashton New Road, Dennis’s Coaches decided to compete on the 330 and 347 routes. Secondhand purchases from The Go-Ahead Group (mainly Wright Handybus bodied Darts) enabled them to compete with Stagecoach on the 330 from Ashton to Hyde. On the 347, they would compete with their popular route and the last 1.5 miles of the 204 route from The Top House pub [Haughton Green] into Hyde.
FirstGroup’s progress in working on a national brand continued to pay dividends with their FirstDay ticket. Spring of 2002 saw them extend the validity of Greater Manchester’s ticket to West Yorkshire. Therefore the 365, 528, 562, 589, and 590 cross-boundary routes were available to anyone purchasing their FirstDay ticket on a 409 from Ashton or Oldham. This was accompanied by the FirstWeek and FirstMonth season tickets. Regular passengers could purchase a ticket for travel outside or inside the M60 motorway. Or, they could purchase one which covered both. Pennine routes too were covered, given that one of the first changes in their September 2000 acquisition concerned the ticket machines (ERG becoming the standard make). Prior to 2000, Pennine services used the Almex Timtronic machines.
Typical fare on the buses were Volvo B10Ms on Stagecoach’s peak hour 220s and 221s. Northern Counties MCW Metrobuses were seen on any First route other than the 400, with standard single deckers (instead of dual purpose ones) being seen. Leyland Olympians of Stagecoach and First varieties were a common sight on the 346 (with Stagecoach’s journeys co-working with the 236 and 237 routes). Former Brighton and Hove Scania N113s were a common sight on Mayne’s 220 journeys.
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Due to unemployment, most of my journeys were for signing-on. Then there was the odd journey with my Dad and Stalybridge Celtic matches. The end of 2002 would see me looking forward to a new job in January 2003, and a strengthened bond with Greater Manchester’s bus network. Happy bloomin’ days, prepare to meet thy Buscard.
My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2002:
- Halifax to Oldham on the 562 with hours to go before attending a Christmas do;
- Brighouse to Chez Val (2002 Brighouse Brass Band Contest, Bethel Square) via Halifax and Oldham: missing the 343 home meant cheating a little by getting a taxi to Ashton and boarding the last 339 of the day (2215, Stagecoach Manchester, Sunday night).
Part Eighteen follows tomorrow.
S.V., 17 October 2011.