Tameside Service Changes Special: Swingeing Cuts Planned for Spring

Axe to fall on tendered services

  • Dukinfield’s Mancunian way could be three return journeys on weekdays;
  • Evening services to go on some Stalybridge routes;
  • 343 to follow weekday route on full time basis.
Stagecoach Manchester Enviro400 MX57 DZF, Armentieres Square, Stalybridge
If approved on Friday’s meeting, there may be no 236s after 7pm. Again, here’s another chance to see MX57 DZF, an Enviro400 on the 236 service from Glossop to Ashton in Armentieres Square, Stalybridge.

April 12, 2015 could see the most comprehensive changes to parts of Tameside’s bus network since the split of GM Buses. Owing to Treasury imposed departmental cuts, Transport for Greater Manchester, with great reluctance has had to make cutbacks to the bus routes it subsidises.

The bulk of April’s changes could see the Tameside area taking one hell of a beating. Especially in Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge and Dukinfield where key routes are set to be whittled down, severed forever or partially replaced. Forthcoming changes to the borough’s bus network are set to be discussed by the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee tomorrow [23 January 2015] morning.

No time to be (the ex-)21 (or 21A)

Set to ruffle a few feathers would be the loss of direct links to Audenshaw and Droylsden from Stalybridge and Dukinfield. Since July 2004 saw the demise of daytime 220s, the people of Dukinfield from Cheetham Hill Road to The Globe have enjoyed direct links with Droylsden, thanks to Mayne of Manchester’s 218 service. Five years on, this led to the 218 complementing the 217 as part of a large circular route, after Stagecoach Manchester’s takeover of Mayne’s bus operations.

Ten years after, this arrangement ceased, with a residual 217 from Ashton to Manchester [Shudehill Interchange], and an extended 408 service from Droylsden to Shaw, via Dukinfield and Stalybridge.

Bringing us up to date, the recent addition is set to be scrapped due to low ridership. The 408 along with the 343 combines to offer two daytime buses per hour from Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] to Stalybridge [Bus Station]. After April, the people of Dukinfield may be better off walking! Or they could send for LocalLink, which if the changes went ahead, would be extended further in to Dukinfield from Park Road (which hasn’t seen a bus since January 2001).

Supposing you live on Boyd’s Walk, Dukinfield and fancy a pint at The Sun Inn, Audenshaw, you could at this time of writing catch a 408 before 6pm, or a 220 after 7pm. Since 2001, the latter route’s evening service has been operated by First Greater Manchester, providing an evening link with the city centre. In 2005, its Sunday service was taken over by JP Executive Travel who ran it till January 2008.

Before then, the 220 was at an advantage as the 219 for a short time had no Bank Holiday evening services. Retiming of the 219’s evening service from every half hour to every 20 minutes has had an impact on the loadings of the 220 ever since. Hence of course its proposed withdrawal.

By April, there may only be three return journeys from Dukinfield to Manchester in the peak hours. Its solitary Saturdays only return journey to Tameside Hospital (operated by First Greater Manchester) may follow its evening counterpart to the bus depot in the sky, along with the 408’s Dukinfield extension.

The withdrawal of both the 220 and the 408 service will see Dukinfield’s bus users lose a direct link from The Albion Hotel to Globe Square for the first time since January 1930.

Future trips to Audenshaw and Droylsden would require two buses via Ashton-under-Lyne (219 or 347) from most parts of Dukinfield. For some, walking would be a more satisfactory alternative for the former place.

The potential loss of the 408 would see Dukinfield, between the Albion Hotel and The Stone Jug see a 75% drop in daytime frequencies per hour. That figure being effective from October 2007, which saw the demise of the 349 service.

Furthermore, plans to drop Dukinfield’s link with Audenshaw and Droylsden could be a hot potato for Active Tameside. Should Dukinfield Baths close, in favour of a new leisure centre on Cemetery Road in Audenshaw, a sizeable number of its populace would be denied access to state-of-the-art leisure facilities. Perhaps building a new baths in Dukinfield would be a better idea, but that’s another argument.

Stalybridge changes

Also affecting Stalybridge are plans to axe evening journeys on the 236, 353 and 354 services. The 353 and 354 offer a less convoluted way in to Uppermill and Delph by day, without changing in Ashton or Mossley. Since 2004, improvements have been made to Saddleworth’s bus routes with the 353 and 354 gaining evening journeys to Denshaw and Diggle. Cuts made in 2009 saw the 353 and 354 evening buses cut back to Uppermill with Saddleworth Local Link making up the shortfall.

In Stalybridge, the two services are the sole custodians of Heyrod’s bus network. Withdrawal of the two services will mean a short walk along (the dimly lit) Grove Road for a 343 or 348 to Mossley, Stalybridge or Ashton-under-Lyne.

Remaining with the 343, there are plans to make the service more user-friendly. In other words, by means of sticking to one route. Suggested in the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting are plans to have the evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys adhering to the Monday to Saturday daytime route. In other words, all 343s via Brushes Estate, Staley Road, Hey Farm and Roaches Lock. The last named location, possibly partially replacing a withdrawn 354 at evenings.

Furthermore, the 343’s evening journeys could be extended to Gee Cross, via Waverley Road and The Grapes Hotel. By day, this is served by the 344 Hyde – Backbower Circular. Ironically, The Grapes Hotel was the terminus of SHMD’s 4 service – later the post-SELNEC 344 service to Mossley [Brookbottom]. At present, this is served by First Greater Manchester’s 389 service. Therefore, the 389 would only follow the daytime route on a full time basis.

Also slated for the chop is the 236‘s evening journeys. At present, both the 236 and 237 maintain good frequencies with an above average evening service. Approval of this may be subject to some timetable changes of the 237, to allow for a more even hourly service. Any changes would also have to be agreed with Derbyshire County Council.

Plus it may be goodbye to Stalybridge’s night buses. The 219, which offers an 80 minute frequency after the witching hour (Saturday and Sunday early mornings) is affected by the changes.

Ashton and Dukinfield changes

With this spring’s raft of changes, the people of Dukinfield seem to have been dealt a bad hand. The 41 service is one of a number of local routes from Ashton-under-Lyne which are set to be reduced from half hourly to once hourly. From Tennyson Avenue, a shopping trip to Stalybridge may be more attractive than a trip to Ashton, with the local service slated to fall in line with its Sunday and Bank Holiday counterpart.

Also affected will be the 339 (Ashton – Crowhill) and the 419 (Ashton – Middleton). All the above three services were affected by roadworks on Oldham Road last spring, as well as the already busy Ashton Moss traffic. The above factors and temporary changes may have stymied passenger numbers of the three services.

As well as reduction from half hourly to once hourly, it has been recommended that the 419 would regain its link with Firwood Park.

Ironically at some point, both routes formed a part of Dukinfield’s bus network. The former was SELNEC’s number for the reorganised 10/10A services, which co-worked with the 340. The latter, part of a short-lived extension from Ashton to Stalybridge compensating for the loss of the 349 in Autumn 2007. Only recently, the 41 ran up to Crowhill.

Changes of a slightly revolutionary kind are set to affect the Ashton Circulars. In recent memory (well, 1995 to be precise), the 331 and 333 services had an excellent 10 minute frequency in daytimes. This was cut to 20 and, more recently, every 30 minutes. Funding for peak hour journeys is set to cease, as would the former route’s evening and Sunday journeys.

In place of the 331 on Sundays and evenings would be a new 232 service, offering a new link via Smallshaw and Broadoak. This will complement the existing 231 and 332 services. On the negative side, the 338 service is set to lose its evening journeys

Operator revisions

As well as the cuts, some services may see a change of operator. This will affect the following services, either partially or in their entirety:

  • 41: Dukinfield [Tennyson Avenue] – Ashton-under-Lyne;
  • 232: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hurst Cross – Broadoak (NEW service);
  • 332: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hartshead Circular;
  • 338: Ashton-under-Lyne – Crowhill – Taunton;
  • 339: Ashton-under-Lyne – Crowhill;
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde;
  • 419: Ashton-under-Lyne – Middleton.

*                                      *                                     *

Should the above changes be approved tomorrow, we could be in for a bumpier and longer ride. And they say there may be more cuts to come.

If these are just the tip of the iceberg, our last bus may be leaving the Albion Hotel at 2020. That’s not only the time of the second post-7pm 346 in 2015. That’s the year if, in May 2015, we the electorate, echo a turkeys’ “Yes” vote for an earlier Christmas.

On a more serious note, the aforementioned changes will be mentioned in East of the M60‘s usual Tameside Bus Service Changes bulletin. Stand by for further announcements. By then, we shall find out who may be running the 41, or as to how many of the cuts have been made. Till then…

S.V., 22 January 2015.

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3 thoughts on “Tameside Service Changes Special: Swingeing Cuts Planned for Spring

Add yours

  1. Doesn’t surprise me anymore.

    The 408 extension from Stalybridge to Droylsden is an extremely useful service, essential even, yet I have never seen more than a handful of people on each journey. But this handful of people on each journey will be grossy inconvenienced by its loss. I (now residing in Stalybridge) will be at least two buses away from the nearest Burton’s store – currently I can catch a 408 and make the short walk from the Sun Inn to Crown Point North. Not to mention that new swimming baths planned for Audenshaw.

    On another note, I get a lift back home from Denton to Stalybridge most evenings after work. The stretch down through Shepley gets really congested, and it just begs the question, how many of those people would catch the bus if the services were actually improved a little.

    Third point I would make, is that there are still plenty of services making lots of money (192, 201, 216, 219, 330, 409, those types of service) and quite a lot of buses are used to keep those services going. How great it would be if Stagecoach and First could choose to use some of that money to cross-subsidise some less profitable services, as the publicly-owned bus operators did in the past. Maybe they already do and perhaps it’s a little unfair to ask the bus companies to make up the shortfalls in service generated by the government cuts. It’s not their fault after al, and perhaps the margins aren’t big enough to support loss-making services. But everyone needs to do everything they can in these hard times, and there is evidence that sometimes the big bus companies, having swallowed up all the competition, are/were demanding extortionate rates to operate tendered services.

    One thing is certain. Something needs to change before the only services left are the ones that make lots of money.

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    1. Hi Mark,

      Your final sentence is the ultimate aim of the 1985 Transport Act. When created by Nicholas Ridley (the then Eurosceptic and long deceased Transport Minister), it was claimed the Act would improve services through competition driving down prices. In reality, it was about withdrawing or cutting the subsidy for important yet socially necessary services. Hence the arms-length PTE companies being a shoo-in for privatisation; National Bus Company ‘s privatisation; and, most markedly, outlawing cross-subsidisation. In other words, stopping the profitable 409 from ensuring the 418’s operation.

      In mainland Europe, cross-subsidisation of routes is the norm. Likewise with joint running between municipal operations.

      So far, there’s only the Labour and Green parties which have a coherent policy for bus users. Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher favours reregulation and the restoration of cross-subsidy. The Greens, are pretty much in favour of public ownership – as is The Socialist Party, the Trade Union Socialist Coalition and Left Unity.

      With the proposed leisure centre plans and withdrawal of the 408, it means the people of Dukinfield would have to go to Ashton or Copley. I knew as soon as they ditched the Manchester connection ‘there’s no chance of this section lasting longer than a year’, because of its lack of direct link to Manchester. Seems I could be proven right.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. 236/7 new times are now on the Derbyshire CC website, as are the times for the 394 extension to Stockport. http://www.derbysbus.co.uk, additionally although out of the area, I know some readers will find this of interest as it affects services over the Snake Pass way. Services between Sheffield and Castleton, Bakewell, Chatsworth are to be dramatically revised, the TM Sunday 273 journeys are to be withdrawn and replaced during the Summer with a First 273 which also runs Saturdays (this was the old 244 last year), I’m assuming TM will re-introduce Sunday 273s once the First service has ended. Sunday TM 215s will also be withdrawn as First are running a similar route to the 215 however their’s is numbered 240 and will run until Oct. I’m again assuming TM will re-introduce the 215 once the 240 has ended. Finally service 218 will have a revised Sunday timetable (I’m assuming this will have a straight hourly service via Chatsworth) with Sunday journeys presumably linking on to the New Sunday times for the 217. On a final note, not a million miles from the GM border with Derbyshire Smiths of Marple have ran a 200 between Castleton, Hope, Edale and Chaple en le Frith Mon to Fri. This is to be withdrawn from early April so ride it whilst you can.

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