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