The Continuing Saga of the Metamorphic 343 Route
I was made redundant from my steady job in the centre of Manchester and put on gardening leave for six weeks prior to the end of my contract. Then I walked into another post, in the centre of Altrincham. Even so I still found time for serious bus bashing, whether intentionally or otherwise.
* * *
Following the success of the ‘no’ vote, it seemed as if any chances of transport investment would have been postponed indefinitely. The Transport Innovation Fund money went towards the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway and Crossrail extensions. In place of a £3 billion version of the ‘Yes and No game’ (where no one listened by saying ‘no’ instead of ‘definitely not’ thus triggering the gong), a more modest fund at a third of the amount would be made available. This time, there would be no congestion charging involved. The Metrolink would open slightly later than previously expected, so instead of going for the car, they were happier with a Crackerjack pencil. Except for the fact this pencil led to a scaled down version of the original bid.
In Stagecoach-land, the Dukinfield bus scene was dominated by Enviro 400s. MANs were the main feature aboard the 346, 217, 218, 236 and 237 routes. Volvo B10Ms, though diminished, still featured on the 220 and 221 routes. Some of the former Mayne of Manchester buses were shared between Hyde Road and a new Ashton depot, accessible from Clarence Street, Stalybridge. Stagecoach’s new depot is a short distance from the former GMT garage, replacing both Ashton New Road (Mayne) and York Street (Glossop) garages.
First Pioneer’s Dennis Arrows had established themselves at Rothesay Garage, featuring on a variety of routes. These were supported by Optare Solos, which became a regular feature on subsidised services and the 331/333 Ashton – Smallshaw/Hurst circular routes.
Back in Dukinfield, it was as you were: more revisions, cuts and fare increases. Oh, and a few network improvements. On the 343, April 2009 saw SpeedwellBus’ Saturday service taken over by JPT Travel. Their yellow and blue Plaxton Primos and Enviro 200s became a regular and popular feature. Also in the same month, we paid our last respects to the 389 in its original form. The end of April saw First Pioneer’s Sunday service to Marple curtailed to operate between Ashton and Gee Cross. This would complement Stagecoach’s curtailment by September, again between the same points.
After a brief foray by First Pioneer the previous year, the 1455 [from Tameside General Hospital] and 0753 [from Piccadilly Gardens] 220 journeys changed hands. This time, Checkmate Coaches, taking on their third Dukinfield route.
Easily taking First Prize for Most Changes to a Single Bus Route was the 343. Not to be content with April’s changes affecting the Saturday service, the Sunday and Bank Holiday route would operate via Lees Road. This follows the original 416 route, with the changes effective on the same Sunday as the 389’s curtailment. The 29 June saw Carrbrook Village and Staley Road omitted from the timetable
The 05 October saw SpeedwellBus relinquish their journeys to First Pioneer. With the frequency of the changes and differing operators, regular users of the 343 would deem the option of buying a single operator pass as a non-starter. To clarify this further, the 13 December saw SpeedwellBus regain the route, following the expiration of First Pioneer’s emergency tender.
At around the same time as the 343’s numerous changes, the 41 service changed hands. Daytime journeys hitherto operated by SpeedwellBus were taken over by Stott’s Tours. First Pioneer was London Weekend Television (Saturdays and Sundays) to Stott’s Tours’ being the bus equivalent of Thames Television.
Amid this game of operational ping pong, SpeedwellBus gained column inches over the launch of a new service from Mossley [Hey Farm] to Manchester. Under the new SpeedwellValue brand, the S50 would follow First Pioneer’s 350 service to Ashton, then the 216 to Manchester. Whereas the Manchester to Ashton section of the route carried fresh air in most cases, the Ashton to Mossley section was an immediate success. The £1.00 single fare (50p for children) gave the established incumbent a run for their money with an equally attractive 20 minute frequency.
The end of 2009 saw a return to the competition extolled as a force for good by the late Nicholas Ridley. Even so, it was and still is nothing on the Wilmslow Road corridor as 2010 would prove.
* * *
My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2009:
One away from the GMPTE boundary and one within the boundary.
- Bridlington to Middlesborough – a EYMS 120 to Scarborough, then an Arriva Tees 93 to Middlesborough, and a Stagecoach in Teesside 611 to Stainton-in-Cleveland. Method of the madness? Another autie related seminar the following morning;
- Altrincham to Chez Val – following my interview for the position in Altrincham, I found out about my success as soon as I got home – after boarding a 371, 330 and 346 of the Stagecoach variety.
Part Twenty Five follows tomorrow.
S.V., 24 October 2011.