The Road Least Travelled: Ashton’s Lesser Spotted Circular

Our third lesser known bus route within Greater Manchester

If you’re au fait with Tameside’s bus scene, you may be familiar with the 331 and 333 circular routes from Ashton-under-Lyne. They were originally Ashton Corporation’s 1 and 3 services with the former reaching Hurst in a clockwise direction via Broadoak Road.

There are two circular services which take the counter-clockwise route. One is the 333, which serves Hurst before reaching the Broadoak Hotel. The other one is the 332. One might wonder why Hurst needs two anti-clockwise routes.

If you look at TfGM’s timetable for the 331 – 3 and 393 routes, you will find that the 333 lacks an evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday service (as proved by our map below).

A diagrammatic map of the 331, 332 and 333 routes, as seen in June 2013.

Compare this with the map seen below:

The Ashton Circular routes, as seen in 1974.
The Ashton Circular services, as seen in 1974. (Source: Greater Manchester Transport Route Map).

Just to confuse things, the 332 operated in a clockwise direction 39 years ago. The route between the Broadoak Hotel and Ashton-under-Lyne (via Queens Road) has changed little. At odds with the present route, it served Lordsfields Avenue and Turner Lane. Today, this section is served by Manchester Community Transport’s 395 [Limehurst Farm] and 396 [Newton Heath] services.

It also had a sister route, the 334, which operated in an anti-clockwise direction. Does that make today’s 332 the replacement for the 334? Almost, on account that Lordsfields Avenue and Turner Lane no longer have an evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday service. Today’s 332 follows the part time 333 route between the Broadoak Hotel and Ashton-under-Lyne bus station.

Into 2013:

Today’s 332 route, as stated earlier operates in an anti-clockwise direction. It only operates on evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays. First Pioneer are the sole operators with six evening journeys, an early morning weekday one (departing at 0645, returning to Ashton bus station for 0703).

In its present guise, it has previously been operated by Dennis’s Coaches and Universal Buses. Five of its seven weekday and its six Saturday journeys are supported by Transport for Greater Manchester.

Before its 1830 journey, its route in Hartshead (along St. Alban’s Avenue) is followed by Stagecoach Manchester’s 231 from Piccadilly Gardens via Droylsden, and a diversion of First Greater Manchester’s 408 service from Shaw to Stalybridge via Oldham. The 408 serves St. Alban’s Avenue and Broadoak Road on Monday to Saturday daytimes.

A Brief History:

The 332 service began as Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s ‘2’ route. It was the last route to be launched prior to the transport department’s absorption by SELNEC. It was launched in January 1967 to serve the then new Gambrel Bank estate in Hartshead and became a circular route by the 1970s.

By the start of bus deregulation, GM Buses operated the ‘old 332′ with a modest hourly daytime service (though half hourly in peak hours). In 1990, it assumed its present anti-clockwise route. The Turner Lane and Lordsfields Avenue section was replaced by the A5. Minibuses – well, GM Buses’ Little Gems to begin with – would take over. This remained so till 2012 when shorter Dennis Dart SLFs would supplant them on the 395 and 396 routes. Today, Manchester Community Transport’s Dennis Darts and Wright Streetlites are regular traction.

Throughout the mid 1990s, it became more of a marginal route, leading us to today’s limited timetable.

There was also another version of the 332 route operated by Mayne of Manchester. This would start at Hartshead and continue to Manchester. Part of it was absorbed by the 231, which hitherto terminated at Littlemoss.

*                        *                        *

Our Next Route on ‘The Road Least Travelled…’

The 418, Oldham to Lees Circular. Hold on tight please (ding ding)…

S.V., 27 June 2013.


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