Farewell to the Trans-Lancs Express
I never got a chance to board the Trans-Lancs Express under Blue Bus’ tutelage. Every time I saw a coach, double decker bus or their Alexander bodied Leopard, I wanted to board it straight away. On one occasion I tried to in Stockport, those dreams faded as it wasn’t there.
On a happier note, my interest in buses intensified with the purchase of a digital camera. This was refreshed by the Museum of Transport’s excellent Big Orange event in October of this year.
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If 2003 saw the passing of one pre-deregulation route, 2004 saw the loss of another one. This time, it was the 400. Though Blue Bus was doing all right, coming close to recapturing its former glory, it put in for funding under the Urban Bus Challenge and failed. Had the opposite applied, it would have formed part of GMPTE’s 2009 plan for orbital bus routes along with the present-day X5 from Stockport to Sale.
The problem was it covered routes taken by more frequent services. Journey times offered little significant difference on (for example) the 409. In its latter years, it lost the air of exclusivity it had under SELNEC, Greater Manchester Transport and GM Buses. One wonders if similar treatment to Transdev’s 36 [Leeds – Harrogate – Ripon] and X43 [Manchester – Burnley – Nelson] routes would have been its saviour.
Closer to home, Mayne of Manchester withdrew their daytime 220 service and replaced it with the 218. This combined parts of the 168, 169 and 231 routes in Droylsden, and the Tameside General Hospital to Audenshaw [Trough] section of the 220 route. Some evening shoulder peak journeys of the 220 (subsidised by GMPTE) were retained for the benefit of schoolchildren. One departure at 1553 from Manchester was taken over by First Pennine with Stagecoach Manchester retaining the 0753 journey from Manchester and its return leg starting from Ashton. The 218 would also co-work with a revised 217 service – also cut back to operate once hourly.
Nearby Saddleworth saw comprehensive changes to its bus network in October. Much of these changes favoured Ashton and Mossley. The 352 and 355 were withdrawn and replaced by an expanded 350 service to Oldham. This was a half hourly extension to the core service from Ashton to Mossley [Hey Farm], with a hourly Sunday service. The 353 and 354 covered the Carr Lane area of Uppermill in the daytime. These combined to create a hourly service between Ashton and Bottom Mossley, via Heyrod and Stalybridge. The operator of the Monday to Saturday daytime 353 and 354 was new to the Tameside bus scene, though only by name: Speedwell Private Hire.
Formed by David Whyatt and Jack Hampson in 2002, Speedwell Private Hire expanded by means of Derbyshire County Council contracts in the High Peak. They were no strangers to Tameside and Oldham, hitherto operating as Tame Valley Motor Services and Glossopdale Bus Company. The second half of the decade would see continued expansion in Tameside, particularly in Dukinfield and Hyde. As well as running the S36 and S37 routes between Ashton and Glossop, they would gain the 41 route from First Manchester and the 365 from Huddersfield to Oldham (First Huddersfield).
Affecting the whole of Greater Manchester was Alistair Darling’s decision to halt Phase Three of the Metrolink project. The £500m construction costs were deemed unsustainable by the then Transport Minister on the 20 July 2004. This coming months after London’s 2012 Olympic Bid led to Manchester’s councillors lining the platform in protest, and a petition in the Manchester Evening News. With the front page headline entitled ‘Stabbed in the Back’, the MEN eulogised the wider benefits of the light rail system along with other modes. Over 50,000 people signed the petition, leading to a revised package (known as The ‘Little Bang’) covering Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Droylsden and the Oldham Loop Line. The rest of the proposed extensions would have been funded by a congestion charge (more to come in the 2008 part of My Life in the Company of Buses).
More immediate improvements concerned a new bus station for Hyde. Opening in time for Christmas, the new bus station was (architecturally) a big improvement on its draughty predecessor. With six stands, all facilities are housed under one roof, with a GMPTE Travelshop by the Astoria Bingo Hall, newsagents, photo booth and a cash machine. Toilets returned to Hyde bus station for the first time since 1977 (when the bus station was moved to accommodate the M67 motorway). At odds with previous designs, departure screens were installed at each stand with general departure screens detailing all routes. Though attractive, the amount of glass makes for a cold bus station in the winter months.
For the time being, Dukinfield’s buses would be dominated by First and Stagecoach. The next five years would see independent operators gain a greater foothold, mainly through GMPTE/TfGM tenders.
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My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2004:
- Copious amounts of bus bashing around Salford and Manchester during Greater Manchester Museum of Transport’s Big Orange event;
- Eine Kleine Nachtbussen from Brixham to Paignton on the 12 after a few scoops;
- A Whitsun break journey on the 562 on a NCME bodied MCW Metrobus to and from Halifax (and one of my last before its withdrawal).
Part Twenty follows tomorrow.
S.V., 19 October 2011.