My Life in the Company of Buses: Dukinfield and Bus Deregulation: Part 18, 2003

Fear and Loathing It In John Dalton Street/StalyVegas (delete as appropriate)

The start of 2003 saw me settle into the role of Technical Assistant/SEO Consultant for a now leading search engine consultants in central Manchester. This meant a daily commute on the 220 and 221 routes with nothing but a bag, today’s Guardian and a hope that the seat above the back wheel of a Volvo B10M would be vacant.

Being a man of substation, the bus became a convenient way of connecting with the local rail network. The Young Persons’ Railcard finally found a good use, other than summer holiday transportational needs.

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2003 would be symbolised by the demise of the Trans-Lancs Express as a network and the loss of the former North Western Road Car Company route from Manchester to Derby. May of 2003 saw First Manchester deregister the 400 and 401 [Bolton to Stockport] routes with the 500 [via Eccles] following shortly after. Horwich company Blue Bus and Coach took over the 400 service, with an hourly frequency on weekdays, and a two-hourly frequency on Saturdays. The success of the latter saw the Saturday frequency double to once hourly in September.

The X1 from Manchester to Derby had a worse fate. The full service was relegated to three return journeys on a summer Sunday from Manchester. Autumn saw its terminus moved to Stockport. Worse was to come the following year when it was split into three routes: Stockport to Macclesfield; Macclesfield to Ashbourne; and Ashbourne to Derby.

The close of 2002 saw the Hyde link of the 41 discontinued, with the service operating between Tennyson Avenue and Ashton. The Hyde section was replaced by the 42 between Newton and Hyde. This was withdrawn in autumn of 2003 with changes made to the 389 route. In place of the old 41 and 42 services came the 387, a rerouted 389 journey per hour serving Newton [Shaw Hall].

By 2003, Dennis’s ceased operations on the 330 and the 347 routes, focusing on its established 216 and 219 routes. Mayne of Manchester also withdrew their 221 route, leaving the 220 its sole Manchester connection from Dukinfield. The following year would see that route reduced further.

For the first time, Stagecoach Manchester introduced a Summer Timetable, taking advantage of the reduced traffic outside of schooldays. The 330, along with Ashton’s and Hyde’s trunk routes, would see faster journey times during the summer break. When Stagecoach reverted to the normal timetable, some peak hour journeys on the 220 and 221 were withdrawn. Significantly this included the loss of evening peak journeys from Stalybridge and most morning peak journeys from Manchester. All the former Universal Buses journeys remained, though the next part of the noughties would see operator revisions and withdrawals.

Another 238 was introduced in the same month of the 220’s revision. This time it served Hyde, Hattersley, Mottram and Ashton via Stalybridge, replacing the 201 and 219 extensions.

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Working in Manchester had me more acquainted with the vagaries of city centre traffic. So much so I began to accept The Guardian as a better alternative to the Metro. I used the long bus journeys to write poetry, or read lengthier tomes. After buying Manchester Megariders on my first month of starting work, I went over to the System One Buscard and I didn’t look back: this meant a few scoops after work on Friday and the joys of First Pennine’s 220 thereafter.

Another thing I learned was the fact that the 153 was a better alternative to the 216. If I missed a 220 or 221, or caught a 346 or 349 to Ashton, I would wait for the 153 in Ashton, due to its faster journey times. Soon, I realised the joys of being in Manchester before 8 pm and a laid back yet faster way of getting to work.

My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2003:

  • A post-pub journey on the 220 from Manchester: the journey itself was far from special, but best remembered for completing Donna Williams’ Somebody Somewhere (borrowed from The Central Library) on reaching the Top Astley;
  • A slow journey from Manchester to Stalybridge on the 236 due to an accident on the M60. Stood me in good stead for slower journeys affected by Metrolink works five years later;
  • Newton Abbot to Brixham on the 12 (Stagecoach Devon), after catching a 220 to Manchester Piccadilly railway station and boarding a train between Lancashire and Devon.

Part Nineteen follows tomorrow.

S.V., 18 October 2011.

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2 thoughts on “My Life in the Company of Buses: Dukinfield and Bus Deregulation: Part 18, 2003

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  1. Used to use the 400 a lot, as I liked the fast journey times to take me to various places in Greater Manchester. I think one of the reason why I liked going to Stockport was travelling on the 400. As a Oldhamer, being able to travel to Bolton, Bury and Stockport on just one bus rather than having to go through the hassle of changing buses at other places like Ashton, Manchester or Rochdale. Remember dashing out of college one Thursday evening onto the 400 to get to Bolton quickly and was there in about a hour. Had I gone via Manchester, it would have taken me about 1 hour 45 mins (including connection time).

    I think it’s a shame that there aren’t many non-peak time express services in Greater Manchester now. X50 is probably the only one now. The previous one being the full daytime service on the X35 between Bury and Manchester. Aren’t as many peak-time express services either. Rochdale lost theirs when the 20 was withdrawn and the Bacup journeys were replaced by the 24 (although the Manchester-Royton section was replaced by the X82). None for Bolton, Stockport or the majority of Trafford. Oldham technically doesn’t have one (X84 by-passes the town centre). 236/237 is Tameside’s only one (C20 may be too early to be classed as peak-time). Wigan have the 32, but isn’t as quick (particularly after re-routing it in the Wigan area).

    One of the frustating things of travelling between two major places on a bus is that it’s not fast enough and you’re left dawdling along. Always thought a express version of the 192 would be useful for people wanting faster journeys between Stockport and Manchester. Also thought a express service between Oldham and Manchester would have been useful, particularly after the closure of the train line two years ago. Number it X83 (to fit in with the X82 and X84).

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    1. Hi Shaun,

      I too loved the 400, and its sister route 401. Apart from the issues regarding bus changes at Rochdale or Middleton (using a journey from Ashton-under-Lyne to Bury as my example), the rolling stock was often a cut above the normal stopping services. Till 2001 – 2002, MCW Metrobuses (coach seated Northern Counties bodywork) or Wright Endurance bodied Volvos – branded as ‘Superbus’ – was often the norm. Towards the end of its tenure with First, standard single deckers – more suited to the 346 or 41 rather than the Trans-Lancs Express – were used. Therefore, its exclusively was lost and the passengers voted with their feet.

      Another factor in its demise in September 2004, were that bus lanes between Ashton and Rochdale saw 400 journey times differing less than the all stops 409. Prior to bus lanes (using a journey I made in 1996 as my example year), Ashton to Oldham would take 15 minutes – 5 to 10 minutes less than the 409, off-peak. Rochdale took 45 minutes, but tangible savings were made between Rochdale and Bury (the comparable 471 took 30 minutes, as of now).

      Tinkering with the timetable didn’t help (for example, the disastrous attempt to go non-stop between Ashton and Stockport). Not least the fact that rail offered faster journey times to Manchester Airport.

      The C20 isn’t an express route. It observes all stops apart from Ashton bus station. I have read about the morning journey boasting healthy loads, though the return journey is too soon for the evening peak. Checkmate’s idea with the C20 is that of reducing dead time from their Mossley depot to Manchester for their journeys on the 220 route.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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