The Road Least Travelled: Hyde’s Other 344 Route

Another obscure bus journey throughout Greater Manchester

Optare Solo MX08 MYJ, Stotts of Oldham, Oldham Bus Station
Our second 344’s more illustrious sister, loading at Oldham Central Bus Station.

At Hyde bus station, there are two 344 routes. One is the Backbower Circular, which co-works with the 342. There is also a lesser known 344, one which comprises of a single journey.

Stotts of Oldham’s 0740 journey from Oldham Central Bus Station. It arrives at Hyde Bus Station for 0858 after ferrying schoolchildren to Mossley Hollins, Copley Academy, All Saints Catholic College and Hyde Technology School.

Stotts’ 344 only operates at the above time, Monday to Friday. It follows their regular daytime 343 route via Roaches Lock, though with one difference: its route between Mumps Bridge and Lees.

Whereas all other 343s pass the two points via Lees Road, the 344 negotiates Greenacres Road, Dunham Street, Stamford Road and St. John Street. Till 2011, First Manchester’s Sunday, Evening and Bank Holiday service took that route. Monday to Saturday daytime journeys took the present route since 2004. Before then and shortly after bus deregulation, the 343 approached Lees via Huddersfield Road (passing Greenacres), Stamford Road and St. John Street. Today’s 343 between Upper Mossley and Oldham largely follows the route taken by the 416, 16 and E services.

Today, it is the only 344 which operates between Oldham and Hyde. Before GM Buses closed their Tameside garage on Whitelands, the 344 was a real sister route to the 343.

The Original 344 Route

Before 1991, there was a 344 route which operated between Upper Mossley and Hyde. Prior to renumbering, it was an SHMD tram route converted to motorbus operation in January 1926. When SHMD started using service numbers, it was allocated the number ‘4’. It approached Mossley via Staley Road, turning left at Egmont Street before reaching Manchester Road and Upper Mossley.

In addition to this, 1956 saw the inauguration of its sister route ‘4A’. This served the then new Winterford Road estate and Station Road, following the 4 to Upper Mossley.

By 1973, SELNEC renumbered the 4 and 4A as the 344 and 343. At the time, the 344 had a number of peak hour extensions to Gee Cross, terminating outside The Grapes Hotel. On the 20 July 1980, the 343 would consume the former 16 route (then numbered 416), and run between Oldham and Hyde, as of now.

By the early 1980s, the 344 operated hourly between Hyde and Mossley. This co-worked with the new 343 route, offering passengers a half hourly frequency between Hyde and Upper Mossley. After deregulation, service cuts saw it reduced to a peak hour service. In early 1991, GM Buses reinstated its hourly service. However, the later part of that year saw its withdrawal, which also coincided with the closure of Tameside garage.

*                        *                        *

Our Next Route on ‘The Road Least Travelled…’

The 332 Ashton Circular route. Be there or be…

S.V., 18 June 2013.

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