The Mossley Basic Bus Strategy: 35 Years On

A look at Greater Manchester Transport’s 1980 changes and comparison with present services

Optare Solo First Greater Manchester MA51 AEW, Denshaw
A First Greater Manchester Optare Solo seen at Denshaw, terminus of the 354 service via Greenfield and Bottom Mossley.

The 20 July 1980 was a seminal date in the history of Mossley’s bus routes. Firstly it led to the extension of the 343 route to Oldham. Secondly, it led to the rise in importance of the 350 service. Today, both the 343 and the 350 link Mossley with Oldham; the latter via Uppermill. A lot of the 1980 changes set the framework for today’s services in and around the locality from Quick Edge to Micklehurst.

Before 1980

Before December 1973, Mossley’s routes were as follows:

  • 4: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde – Gee Cross (via Staley Road) (SHMD);
  • 4A: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde (via Winterford Road) (SHMD);
  • 14: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Brookbottom] (Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation);
  • 16: Oldham [Town Hall] – Lees – Mossley [Brookbottom] (Oldham Corporation/SHMD);
  • 154: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Uppermill (North Western Road Car Co./SHMD/Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation);
  • 154A: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Micklehurst (North Western Road Car Co./SHMD/Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation);
  • 157: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Roughtown – Uppermill – Diggle (North Western Road Car Co.);
  • 158: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Roughtown – Uppermill – Denshaw (North Western Road Car Co.).

The 4 and 4A were Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Transport Board services which had their roots in SHMD’s tram service via Staley Road. Most of the original route became the 4, with 4A introduced in the 1950s to serve Winterford Road.

Serving Top Mossley was the 14, Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s link along the Mossley Road.

The 16 – also known as service ‘E’ in Oldham Corporation circles before 1968 – started out in January 1926 along with its SHMD counterparts which replaced the tram service via Staley Road and Huddersfield Road.

The 154 started out on the 11 March 1925 as a service from Mossley to Uppermill. It was extended to Ashton-under-Lyne in the early 1950s, augmented by the 154A. Along with the 4A, this was introduced to serve Micklehurst.

Predating the 4, 4A and E, the 157 and 158 services started out as shuttle buses for SHMD trams from Roaches. The Denshaw extension of the 158 came about in the 1930s.

On the 03 December 1973 they were renumbered as follows:

  • 344: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde – Gee Cross (via Staley Road);
  • 343: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde (via Winterford Road);
  • 217: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Brookbottom];
  • 416: Oldham [Town Hall] – Lees – Mossley [Brookbottom];
  • 354: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Uppermill;
  • 353: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Micklehurst;
  • 437: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Roughtown – Uppermill – Diggle;
  • 438: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Roughtown – Uppermill – Denshaw.

Shortly after the formation of Greater Manchester Transport, Mossley lost a daily link to Diggle. The 21 July 1974 saw the 437 become a Sundays only route. Weekdays meant changing at Carrcote for the 432 service.

The 353 was extended to Hey Farm Estate in October 1974. As some journeys of the 354 terminated at Mossley railway station, they were extended to Ashton-under-Lyne via Thompson Cross the following year.

By the 25 September 1977, the 438 saw another variant, the 436. This would continue to Denshaw via Carrhill Road. The 438 was curtailed to Carrcote.

20 July 1980 changes

Following consultation with its 10,000 residents, the Mossley Basic Bus Strategy was effected on Sunday 20 July 1980. The most marked changes entailed services leading to Saddleworth. The 353 retained its link with Uppermill though the 354 would terminate at Greenfield [Clarence Hotel].

Summer 1980 would see the 350 service assume much of today’s guise. The 343 route would remain virtually unchanged till the 1990s. Most of today’s 343 encroaches on the former 416/16/E service and part of the 344. With parts from the withdrawn 232-5 and the 217/218 services, a real Heinz 57 of a route today.

Therefore the routes after 20 July 1980 were as follows:

  • 344: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde (via Staley Road);
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley [Brookbottom] – Hyde (via Winterford Road);
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Brookbottom];
  • 354: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Greenfield [Clarence Hotel];
  • 355: Ashton-under-Lyne – Top Mossley – Roughtown – Greenfield – Uppermill – Carrcote;
  • 356: Mossley [Brookbottom] – Roughtown – Uppermill – Diggle;
  • 353: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Brookbottom] – Uppermill – Delph – Denshaw.

The 355’s link with Roughtown lasted till deregulation when it was rerouted via Roaches lock and Greenfield. This was replaced by Dennis’ 341 and 342 services. Their withdrawal in 1988 saw the 341 and 342 replaced by a rerouted 353. By 1985, the 354 was extended to Denshaw.

From 1980 to 1986, the 343 and 344 provided a half hourly link from Hyde to Mossley [Brookbottom]. Though Sunday journeys from Hyde to Mossley [Brookbottom] were once hourly, the section between Top Mossley to Oldham was every three hours!

From 1980, the 350 began its ascendancy as Mossley’s prime bus route. Deregulation would see competition from Pennine Blue and Mayne of Manchester against GM Buses. After the closure of its Tameside Garage in November 1991, Pennine Blue became the main operator of the 350 service. This was bolstered by circular 32 – 35 services (33 and 35 via Park Road, Dukinfield). The 232 – 235 would compete with Pennine and offer a direct route to Manchester city centre.

Launched at the start of bus deregulation, the 352 service offered an alternative way to Denshaw. Running every two hours, Checkmate Mini Coaches’ service complemented the sparse 354 (which operated three return weekday journeys). This is largely absorbed by today’s 350 service.

Had East of the M60 been around in 1980, you would have seen a crudely photocopied monochrome magazine with photography courtesy of an Olympus OM-1 with Kodak Tri-X film. It wouldn’t have been called East of the M60 for a start (perhaps East of the A627). Plus, it may have been sold from pub to pub for 20p. Had there been a copy of East of the A627

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Tameside Service Changes, Summer 1980: Dukinfield Gets Direct Oldham Buses

Greater Manchester Transport’s service changes saw a simplification of Mossley’s bus routes. Most of its routes would be operated by Tameside Garage with renumbering reflecting this change. Hence the 437 to Diggle becoming the 356. The 438 will become the 355, complete with an extension to Oldham, and the 436 will be renumbered 353.

The 343 will be extended to Oldham, absorbing the 416 service. Its terminus will remain Oldham Town Hall.

“Show me the way…” (apologies to Peter Frampton)

Before somebody fits a navigation computer in the luggage hold of a typical Leyland Atlantean (a Commodore PET would do nicely), Tameside Garage drivers will be able to find their way along Carrcote quite easily. Dotted around Tameside, Oldham and Saddleworth are a number of orange plaques attached to lamp posts. These are direction markers with stencilled numbers beside directional arrows. Each of these plaques are placed at junctions.

Some, such as the one at the end of the 353 service in Denshaw will be denoted by a roundabout…

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20 July 2015: 35 years on

35 years on, the state of play regarding Mossley’s services is a much simpler beast as seen below:

  • 344: Oldham – Waterhead – Mossley [Brookbottom] – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde;
  • 343: Oldham – Mossley [Brookbottom] – Hyde – Gee Cross;
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Hey Farm] – Uppermill – Oldham;
  • 354: Ashton-under-Lyne – Bottom Mossley – Greenfield [Clarence Hotel] – Uppermill – Denshaw;
  • 353: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley [Brookbottom] – Uppermill – Delph – Carrcote.

A lot of this is the effects of the all-conquering 350 service. Today’s services are shaped by radical changes made after the 31 October 2004. Firstly, the 350 takes in much of the 352 service up to Carrcote before continuing to Oldham via Scouthead. From Delph, this not only absorbs the 431 service of old but also part of the 183 and 184 service.

Prior to 2004, the 183 and 184 used to have a circular section in Saddleworth. From Greenfield, via Uppermill, Dobcross, Delph and Scouthead. One would enter Saddleworth anti clockwise and the other vice versa. Sister route 180 would terminate at The Clarence Hotel as of now.

Following this year’s service cuts, the 353 and 354 have lost its evening journeys. Since April 2009 they originated at Uppermill [Commercial Hotel]. At present, the Monday to Saturday daytime 353s terminate at Carrcote with the 354 terminating at Denshaw. Changes to the 353 will see further curtailment at the end of August, whereby the service will terminate at Dobcross, via the Navigation Hotel and The Swan before returning to Uppermill, turning left at the former Woolpack public house.

Even so, the 350’s half hourly link with Carrcote [Friarmere Drive] is – on an area basis – still better than Dukinfield’s connections with Stalybridge town centre. On the 20 July 1980, The Albion Hotel stage alone had three buses per hour to Stalybridge in the daytime. Today, the whole of Dukinfield only has three buses per hour to Stalybridge. Two per hour after 7pm and on Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays alone.

The sole provider of The Albion Hotel’s link with Stalybridge? The erstwhile 343. Which, not only has part of the 217/218 route withdrawn in April 2014 (the Brushes Estate and Staley Road sections) but also the 389’s former Gee Cross section. Plus, it partially compensates for the loss of evening journeys on the 354 service via Roaches Lock.

Along with the 350, it is one of two bus routes operating after 7pm throughout Mossley. Both routes operated by Stagecoach Manchester after then, with the 343’s Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys also theirs.

Compared with the 20 July 1980, two marked factors could be party to the rationalisation of Mossley’s bus routes. Firstly, new build properties have favoured car-based families. Some of which likely to use the car park at Mossley railway station for Manchester bound trains. Which, could be a factor in the demise of the 153 express service via Millbrook and Stalybridge in April 2005 (which increases the importance of the 343).

Secondly, bus deregulation, in spite of promising lower fares and improved services never did. Though today’s services may be more straightforward, it has come at a cost in terms of frequencies. With the free trade environment, this has meant local companies selling to bigger groups. Gaps have had to be filled by TfGM supported LocalLink services in some areas.

Thanks to the free market environment, small towns like Mossley have suffered just as much as rural areas and inner city areas away from trunk bus routes. As well as car ownership other factors such as Zero Hour Contracts could threaten bus patronage (given how the uncertainty makes a season ticket an expensive option). Internet shopping and working from home could have long term threats to the vitality of residual bus routes.

Towards 2040 and beyond

35 years on from Mossley’s Basic Bus Strategy, it is high time we had another transport strategy for one of our smaller towns in Greater Manchester. In the recently issued pamphlet entitled Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 Our Vision, there is little reference to improving bus patronage outside of trunk routes. One paragraph states that:

“We must invest in a transport system that supports improved health, by enabling people to build more walking and cycling activity into their daily lives. This will reduce the burden on the NHS and cut the number of working days lost to illness.”

The cynical among us may regard this as a shoo-in for fewer residual bus routes and longer walks to bus stops. Near the end of the document it states that:

“Buses play an increasingly significant role at the heart of an integrated public transport network.”

Even more so if there’s greater control of bus fares and frequencies. One where re-regulation could play a part. One where passengers making short journeys pay an equal amount per mile as passengers making long distance journeys. The first paragraph I have quoted may be contradictory to the medium term plan stated on page 46.

A good transport plan demands considerable input from its users. Something on a scale per town akin to Mossley’s plan 35 years ago. Hopefully one which gives bus users a fair hearing.

You can participate in Transport for Greater Manchester’s consultation document by email, or a quick questionnaire. To find out more about Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 Our Vision, click here for further details.

S.V., 20 July 2015.

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