Unexpected Titan in the Bagging Area: Supermarket Bus Services in Greater Manchester

A kwik [sic] look at supermarket buses through the ages

Optare Versa Hybrid, Metroshuttle 3, First Manchester, Piccadilly Gardens
Not a supermarket bus in the strictest sense, but the amount of TESCO Expresses covered by TfGM’s Metroshuttle network is unbelievable.

For several years, there has been shoppers’ services operating on market days to larger towns often with one return journey. Furthermore, some bus services only operate during shopping hours and are deemed as ‘shoppers’ services’. The Metroshuttles in Manchester, Oldham, Bolton and Stockport fit in this category, though include more intense peak hour journeys.

Back in the 1970s when out of town supermarkets seemed an alien concept, fewer people had cars and shopped in town centres. Supermarkets would often be situated in town centres, which was great for most people. They added to the retail mix. Then came mass car ownership and a surfeit of derelict industrial sites.

Some supermarket chains started offering a free bus service from town centres, and ASDA were among the most pro-active ones in doing so. In 1985, Greater Manchester Transport operated a free bus from Rochdale bus station to the ASDA store in Castleton. After the closure of its Micklehurst branch in 1980, the Co-op offered a temporary free bus service from there to the store on Waterton Lane, Mossley.

In more recent times, First Pennine operated a free bus from Ashton-under-Lyne bus station to the town’s ASDA store off Park Parade. First Manchester also operated a free bus service from Rochdale bus station to the TESCO superstore in Sudden. Though more modest, TESCO had a free minibus service from Oldham bus station to its then new TESCO Extra store on Featherstall Road North.

Of that ilk, the HD1 from Altrincham to Handforth Dean is a more contemporary example. Operated by Elite Services on Wednesdays and Saturdays (two return journeys), there is now a further two free buses to the out of town centre. One departs from Offerton via Bramhall on Tuesdays and Fridays and another one leaves Wythenshawe (the Tudor pub, Peel Hall) on Mondays and Thursdays (two return journeys).

Throughout Greater Manchester, supermarkets – out of town ones included – were and are well served by incumbent bus services. More so than dedicated free bus routes. In recent years, some have terminated at superstores or called along the superstore’s forecourt. Past and present, these include and included the:

  • 216/219: Hyde – Newton – Dukinfield – Ashton-under-Lyne – Piccadilly (Dennis’ Coaches, via Wm. Morrison’s supermarket, Dukinfield);
  • 230: Piccadilly – Littlemoss – Droylsden [TESCO] (Mayne of Manchester);
  • 300: Stockport Metroshuttle (Arriva North West, via TESCO Extra, Portwood);
  • 317: Stockport – Dane Bank – Denton – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester – via forecourt of Sainsburys superstore, Denton);
  • 341/342: Ashton-under-Lyne [ASDA, Langham Street] – Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley (Dennis’ Coaches);
  • 374: Reddish – Stockport – Hazel Grove (Stagecoach Manchester, via TESCO Extra, Portwood).

Where Next?

Greater Manchester’s bus routes are well connected with supermarkets throughout its boundaries. Many a cotton mill or industrial site, hitherto accessible by bus, sees homogenous superstores in their place. Many of which areas that are still accessible by bus today. Though good for light loads, a service bus is seldom a suitable option for doing ‘a big shop’ with most families. Internet shopping and home delivery schemes are making The Big Shop more attractive to non-car owners with web access (which in the long term isn’t very good for bus patronage).

In the last half decade, the Transport for Greater Manchester boundaries have seen an expansion of demand responsive transport services. As well as those under the Local Link banner, 2010 saw the introduction of more TfGM funded DRT services. Shopping Link, piloted in Tameside, is a modern day replacement for the supermarket chain’s free bus service. Extended to Oldham MBC and Rochdale MBC boundaries, it does more than the free bus (though not free). Local Markets, indoor and outdoor, are served as well as superstores in the locality, though services are only available for people with mobility problems.

Outside Greater Manchester, the shoppers’ service in terms of the single return journey is still alive and well. Other than those funded by superstore chains, some are lying in the balance subject to Local Authority spending cuts.

S.V., 28 August 2013.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Unexpected Titan in the Bagging Area: Supermarket Bus Services in Greater Manchester

Add yours

  1. Stuart you forgot the former 600 ( before the Trafford centre days) that ran the 350 route from hey farm to Ashton Mossley rd then to the bt roundabout to asda

    Like

    1. Hi James,

      I mentioned somewhere in the article that First Pennine ran a free bus to Ashton-under-Lyne ASDA, but I didn’t know it was even allocated a service number. Nor did I know it began at Hey Farm Estate.

      Thanks for clearing that one up! Even though I did remember seeing a bus with a 600 route number in 1997, I thought it was used instead of three zeroes for ‘Sorry Not in Service’. I remember it being anything from the more standard ECW bodied Leyland Olympians to a Knype bodied Leyland Swift! I also remember seeing ASDA’s publicity posters on First Pennine vehicles around then (mainly in the poster windows of the Leyland Olympians or N-reg Dennis Darts, each time I got a 346.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  2. Pennine also ran a 500 which ran from Droylsden Greenside Road through Littlemoss then down Oldham Road to Asda.
    It ran on Wednesdays’ at about lunchtime with one trip in each direction, I think it waited for about an hour outside Asda before making the return journey back.

    Like

      1. Hello Stuart,
        It would have been 1997-1998 when I moved to Ashton from Droylsden. I went to Littlemoss school and remember often seeing it on a Wednesday lunchtime as I waited for the 169 to go home for dinner.
        The Olympians used often carried a blank destination but now and again ‘ASDA’ would be displayed. To this day I don’t know whether it was a free service of whether fares were charged.

        I also remember the shuttle to Ashton Park when Sainsbury’s first opened, but seem to recall it being run by Dennis’s using a Merc minibus. Interestingly there’s been talk recently of a shuttle running from Ashton to the new M&S store, I do believe it might take place this December on the run up to Christmas.

        A temporary shopper service was provided by Bluebird last summer when Tesco closed their Droylsden store for a week for refurbishment. Bosses were worried regular customers would defect to the new Morrison’s store in Openshaw so laid on a hourly shuttle from the Droylsden store to Stalybridge.

        Like

      2. Hi Felix,

        Yes, you are bang on with 1997 – 1998. The vehicle was usually anything they could find at their depot (being 1997, low floor vehicles were an exception rather than a rule).

        The shuttle to Ashton Moss must have been any time till the 01 April 2005, so that would have been late 2002 when it opened as the Sainsburys Savacentre. I’ll believe it when I see the first shuttle bus to Marks and Spencer, but I think the Metrolink might attract a few short hop journeys to M&S and Sainsburys (more so if one has a concessionary pass or a GMT card).

        Thanks for solving the mystery on the Bluebird bus in Stalybridge! I always wondered why I used to see a two-tone blue Dennis Dart SLF or Evolution on Trinity Street. I don’t remember it being advertised; perhaps it may have only been advertised in the Droylsden TESCO store. Then again, Droylsdonians at the time also had a Morrisons store in Dukinfield to choose from (the same bus which also calls outside Stalybridge TESCO). Plus the big ASDA in Beswick being a 216 ride away, and the Openshaw Morrisons (every half hour on the 7 to Stockport).

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        Like

  3. Hi Stuart,

    This article has brought back some very hazy memories on this subject.

    Firstly when the Ashton Moss Sainsburys opened, there was a shuttle service that ran from the bus station to there and back again. I have no idea who ran it or indeed when it finished. It didn’t seem to last very long at all though (probably finishing when the number 7 was diverted up Lord sheldon Way). On that note, I’m too young to remember but do you know if the Snipe Retail Park ever benefitted from a bus/shuttle service at any point in its early history? It seems like an ideal candidate for such a service.

    Also, not strictly in keeping with the article I seem to vaguely recall there being a bus that took passengers pointlessly from Ashton Bus Station again, to the prefabricated Phoenix Market Hall (I can’t remember where it would have terminated, possibly on Old Cross Street, but there was definitely a stop at the bottom of Penny Meadow that was installed for the purpose of serving this area by the 350, 348 etc).

    Like

    1. Hi Ady,

      I remember the Ashton Moss shuttle bus. One thing I do remember was it seemed to have been operated by one of Tameside MBC’s Social Services minibuses instead of a more regular Dennis Dart SLF.

      For a time, the 337 was diverted to serve Ashton Moss (up to Cineworld if I remember rightly), after the shuttle bus’ withdrawal. This section was discontinued after it merged with the daytime service of the 41 [Tennyson Avenue – Ashton] route. If you live in Dukinfield, it is a great little bus for going to IKEA on, or watching Curzon Ashton’s home matches. (I’m a Stalybridge Celtic fan myself but the Tameside Stadium in Crowhill’s a good, though windy ground).

      I doubt as if there was ever a bus to the Snipe Retail Park. Most of the present units date from 1993-94 which was – for negative reasons – a transitional period for GM Buses. However, the retail park started off pretty slowly. At one time (well, Spring 1989 to be precise), there was only MFI, Carpet World and B&Q. Topps’ Tiles occupied the one-time shower block of Snipe Colliery. Even now, it is crying out for a direct bus connection along its forecourt (and I think the 7, 217 and 218 routes are ideal candidates).

      The shuttle bus to the Phoenix Market Hall was the 300. Operated by First Pioneer, it was a circular route from the bus station to the temporary market hall and it reached the bus station via St. Michael’s Square, Stamford Street, Booth Street and Gas Street. It was withdrawn two weeks before the refurbished market hall opened on the 28 November 2008. The temporary stop on the corner of Penny Meadow and Old Cross Street was made permanent.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  4. Hi Stuart, my memory is very vague on this and I don’t remember the number allocated but I do recall a free shuttle service operated by GMT/Buses when TESCO closed it’s Swinton supermarket and opened up the ‘new’ hyper market in Walkden, now a very new huge Extra.
    Also when TESCO opened up the even larger Arndale sized store in Horwich on Mansall Way (Middlebrook) First ran several services, not sure if they still do. They were all once daily each way and the turnaround time was roughly between an hour and 90 minutes.
    T1 Bolton, Morris Green
    T2 Westhoughton
    T3 Lever Park Horwich
    T4 Fourgates via Adlington
    T5 Shakerley, Daisy Hill
    T6 Marsden Road, Heaton
    T7 Atherton, Daisy Hill
    T8 Millners Lane, Hindley
    T9 Hag Fold, Ladybridge

    Like

    1. also there was a C55 which ran on a Tuesday and a Thursday. I think that ran from the Four Gates and Chequerbent areas to Horwich Extra.

      Like

      1. Hi Trystan,

        I’m amazed as to how many more supermarket services operated in Greater Manchester. I’m all the more amazed as to how there was nine TESCO buses in the Bolton area.

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

        P.S. Keep them coming in! Would love to hear your experiences of boarding a supermarket bus as a passenger.

        Like

  5. Hi Stuart. I once recall using a T1 from Bolton bus station with my dad to go to the then new super TESCO at Horwich. I believe at the time of opening it was the biggest TESCO in the whole of the UK. Everything was on pallets and literally stacked up to the ceiling. It was more like a distribution warehouse than your average supermarket. I don’t know if anyone else remembers cocoa cola bottles stacked on shelves 30 foot high!! Anyway, back to the bus.

    We expected it to be a tomato soup Mercedes bone shaker midi bus but were surprised to find it was a relatively new Greater Manchester Wright Axcess Ultralow bodied Scania bus (tomato soup) which was to the old Gold Star standard – not sure if anyone remembers that branding?
    I think it had originally been GMN’S flagship SUPERBUS buses for high frequency. The bus was quite full with little old ladies with those trolley bags and mums with prams. All excited to go and check out this new experience of supermarket shopping.

    The bus that took us had a 90 minute turnaround, no doubt the driver took himself off to the fantastic cafe that was in there as you went through the main doors. There was a dedicated bus stand for up to 2 buses and I do recall us being joined by a Leyland Olympian in tomato soup livery. (The Leylands were my favourite ride)
    The route took forever and it was quicker to go back on a 575 back to Bolton after a trek up Mansall Way to the Beehive roundabout and then a 36 back to Swinton.

    Like

    1. Hi Trystan,

      I never have had the joy of visiting the Horwich TESCO, but it sounds like somewhere closer to a warehouse. Or the first wave of TESCO Extra stores?

      The Greater Manchester Firstbus Gold Star branding was the Quality Service brand. Whereas today’s Overground type routes were given Gold Service status, there was some First Manchester routes which were less frequent yet received the Quality Service brand. Around my way, the 408 [Stalybridge – Oldham – Shaw] was one example. Today it has Enviro200s with WiFi on board! The Quality Service branding was seen on former GMN Superbuses and low floor Wright Crusaders.

      I couldn’t blame the clientele for opting for this service compared with standard routes. The amount of jostling on busier routes nearby made the chartered service a more attractive option. Even if it meant a slower route, and more so if it was free.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

      1. Regarding Tescos at Sudden, they had a network of free Bus Services that operated on a Tuesday using a variety of vehicles from Oldham Depot, I’m pretty sure from what I remember there were services from Milnrow, Stansfield and even as far away as Todmorden and I think at least 2 buses were used, I know quite a few drivers from Oldham Depot used to love doing the Tesco runs especially with the nice run out to Todmorden as I’ve said, from what I remember after Oldham stopped operating these service they were transferred to operate out off Pioneer’s Depot at Dukinfield but I’m not to sure if they still operate now

        Like

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for clarifying this. I too thought there hasn’t been a free supermarket bus within the Tameside area since Bluebird’s shuttle from Droylsden to Stalybridge TESCO.

      Furthermore, the amount of supermarkets accessible on public transport in Tameside may have put paid to the existence of free buses. It is just as easy to get a 346 to Morrisons or a 348 to TESCO and return home with your shopping by bus or taxi.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: