Plus: some severance of links with Tameside and Saddleworth areas
- Off-peak cuts to 408 service;
- Frequency reductions for 402. 406, and 410/411 circular routes;
- 6pm curfew for 353 and 354 services;
- 64 curtailed to Higher Blackley, though replaced by new route.
Whereas its neighbours in the Tameside area have been royally shafted, the government’s attack on hardworking bus users has left a comparatively slight dent on Oldham and Saddleworth’s bus network.
The borough’s most significant changes affect a number of First Greater Manchester routes, three of which link the borough with Ashton-under-Lyne and Stalybridge. Two in Saddleworth are set to lose their evening journeys, whereas one is set to see a change of operator.
For almost a year, the 408 service, has linked Shaw and Oldham with Dukinfield, Droylsden and Audenshaw. This, compensated for the loss of the 217/218 services in the Tameside area, within Mossley, Stalybridge and Dukinfield. From April, the Droylsden to Stalybridge section will be discontinued, along with changes to five off-peak return journeys. Therefore, ten journeys will only operate on part of the route from Buckstones to Oldham, with peak hour connections along the full route to Stalybridge.
Whereas First Greater Manchester will operate on Monday to Saturday daytimes, Manchester Community Transport will operate the 408’s evening journeys. Stagecoach Manchester will operate Sunday and Bank Holiday services, but journeys will no longer serve the grounds of Royal Oldham Hospital.
The 64 service, which serves Chadderton Hall Park and Middleton before continuing to Manchester, is set to be withdrawn north of Higher Blackley. In its place, a new 412 service, operated by three companies: the present operators of the 64 (First Greater Manchester), Stagecoach Manchester, and Manchester Community Transport.
The 81A, sister route to the 81 route into Derker, will see its evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys taken over by Stagecoach Manchester.
Other than the Stagecoach’s 81A, their 343s will also be seen on Lees on a Tuesday night. Major changes to the 17 mile route from Hyde to Oldham will see Stott’s Tours take over the Saturday daytime service. Evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays will see Stagecoach Manchester buses.
From April, all journeys of the 343 service will observe the present daytime route via Roaches Lock and Staley Road. Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening journeys will be extended to Gee Cross via Waverley Road, terminating at The Grapes Hotel. This takes over part of First Greater Manchester’s Hyde to Gee Cross section of their 389 service.
As with the Tameside area, a number of local services have seen their frequencies slashed. Once again, Manchester Community Transport has become the biggest beneficiary. The 410A and 411A will be incorporated into the 410 and 411 services, with the circular routes via Clarksfield, Roundthorn and Waterhead slashed to once hourly. This is also true of Royton Circular routes 402 and 406, and the 419 service from Ashton-under-Lyne to Middleton, via Chadderton. Its link with Firwood Park will be restored.
Denshaw’s only bus route from Oldham is set to see a change of operator with Stagecoach Manchester taking over from Stott’s Tours on the 407, on its Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime journeys. Of greater significance, and taken over by the same company, will be evening journeys of the 350 service via Delph, Uppermill and Mossley.
However, Saddleworth’s most direct services to Tameside, the 353 and 354, will see the loss of its evening services. Though Roaches would be served by a revised 343 service, the people of Roughtown and Heyrod will be bus-free after 6pm. Thus making The Rising Sun a less attractive proposition for car-less real ale fanatics. Manchester Community Transport will operate its Sunday daytime journeys.
On the 184 service, part route workings to Uppermill will also serve the turning circle of Saddleworth School. Owing to traffic conditions, early morning weekday journeys from Huddersfield will be retimed.
Sholver passengers will benefit from an extra journey on the 83 service. A part route working from Oldham to Manchester will be extended to Sholver, departing at 0605. The X84 limited stop service from Carrcote will be retimed, as will the 425 from Holts Estate to Fitton Hill.
The 415 service sees the withdrawal of a part route journey, the 0816 from Chadderton to Oldham.
At a glance, the following services which have changed operators:
343: Oldham – Mossley – Hyde: Stott’s Tours on Monday to Saturday daytimes, Stagecoach Manchester on Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays;
350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Hey Farm] – Oldham: from First Greater Manchester to Stagecoach Manchester on evening journeys;
353: Ashton-under-Lyne – Carrcote/Denshaw: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes;
354: Ashton-under-Lyne – Carrcote/Denshaw: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes;
402: Oldham – Royton Circular: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport;
406: Oldham – Royton Circular: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport;
407: Oldham – Denshaw: from Stott’s Tours to Stagecoach Manchester on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime journeys;
408: Stalybridge – Oldham – Buckstones: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport on Monday to Saturday evenings and Stagecoach Manchester on Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays;
410: Oldham – Waterhead Circular: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport;
411: Oldham – Waterhead Circular: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport;
419: Ashton-under-Lyne – Chadderton – Middleton: from First Greater Manchester to Manchester Community Transport.
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This could be Oldham’s and Saddleworth’s last changes under the Coalition Government. I hope so myself. Though Oldham’s cuts haven’t been as perverse as the ones Tameside bus users are about to receive, there’s every chance the next set could be worse.
What is clear, as with the changes made to Tameside’s services this April, is FirstGroup’s retreat from a number of tendered services. Perhaps their near monopoly in Oldham and Saddleworth is about to be shaken. Some may say “not before long” but there’s no way they would part with its biggest hitters, the 83, 180, 184 and 409 services in a hurry.
For enthusiasts, from the middle of April onwards, interesting times in terms of the variety of buses and operators. One where the Barbie livery is being increasingly usurped by the white and red of MCT, or the swirls of Stagecoach. The state of Oldham’s and Saddleworth’s buses in the Summer and Autumn 2015 changes is in some part down to us. Vote one way in May, key services saved and a better deal for bus users. Vote another way, expect more swingeing cuts, probably worse than the ones you are about to see next month.
S.V., 25 March 2015.