Is This The 346? The Not So Perfect Ten

Another ten 346 bus routes across the UK and overseas

Volvo B9TL First Greater Manchester, MX58 EBG, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station
The 346 we know and love: Dukinfield’s 346 route, a product of two former SHMD routes (11 and 15).

Before I begin, it has been a while since our last edition of The Not So Perfect Ten. It has been even longer since we did a Not So Perfect Ten based on a bus route number. The last was a countdown on the 409 service (which only mustered nine entries at the time). The previous one to that was based on the 343 service.For our first Not So Perfect Ten since Easter, we are focusing on another Hyde route. This time, the 346 service. The core service of the one we know and love starts at Ashton-under-Lyne, and terminates at Hyde. Stagecoach Manchester’s daytime journeys continue to Tameside Hospital.

The route itself was originally part of three SHMD routes: the 11 and 11A (from Newton to Stalybridge via Ashton-under-Lyne and Tame Valley – some continuing to Brushes Estate or Grey Street), and the 15 (Hyde – Shaw Hall Circular, south of the 11’s Lodge Street terminus). In 1978, the Newton – Ashton section of the 11/11A (then renumbered 341), and the Shaw Hall Circular (350/351 after the 1973-74 renumbering) were joined up, offering a new link with Dukinfield for Newtonians. One journey per hour continued to Droylsden, which forms part of today’s 168, 169, and 231 services.

In 2010, when we did our entry on the 343, we found that a Cumbernauld 343 co-worked with a 346. It seemed logical to concentrate on the latter for our latest post.

  1. Cumbernauld Railway Station – Wardpark (McNairn Coaches);
  2. Upminster Station – Lexington Way (Arriva London; Blue Triangle from 01 October 2016);
  3. Watford – Meriden (Mullany’s Buses);
  4. Leaden Roding – Great Dunmow (Panther Travel);
  5. Speeton – Filey Schools (Shoreline Suncruisers);
  6. Widgee Road – Morley [Bus Station] (Transperth);
  7. Aurora Village – Northgate (King County Metro);
  8. Amsterdam [Railway Station] – Haarlem (Transdev Nederland);
  9. Kemberg – Oranienbaum (Deutsche Bahn);
  10. Limerick – Whitegate (Bus Eireann).

*                          *                         *

1. Cumbernauld [Railway Station] – Wardpark

For our first 346 of the ten is McNairn Coaches’ service in Cumbernauld. This service has 25 peak hour journeys (13 to Whitelees, 12 to the railway station). Ten of them continue to Wardpark North with an equal number going the opposite way.

McNairn Coaches mainly operate tendered services with Optare Solos and Enviro200s – in white or cream – around Glasgow and Cumbernauld. The shuttle service to and from the town’s railway station only runs on weekdays. A full trip takes fourteen minutes, apart from a single journey that takes 19 minutes. This is the 0523 from Cumbernauld railway station which begins at Central Way (departing at 0518).

2. Upminster Station – Lexington Way

Like Greater Manchester’s 346 route, Greater London’s is another short distance radial route. Another thing it has in common is the type of vehicles used: Enviro200s (like Stagecoach Manchester’s version) and Dennis Dart SLF (though First’s route has the awful Marshall bodied Darts instead of the Plaxton Pointer 2 ones).

With the extra funding that TfL receives, it has a superior Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays frequency to its Tameside counterpart. Buses every half hour compared with once hourly. Its daytime service has a slightly inferior frequency (though identical to Tameside’s 346 prior to 2011). Arriva London’s 346s are every 15 minutes compared with five buses per hour between Hyde and Ashton.

3. Watford – Meriden

Another short distance route, this time, one which seems to be in rude health. Known as the 346 Flyer (how I wish the Albion Hotel version had a catchy brand name!), it is a circular route with a 20 minute frequency. Operated by Mullany’s Buses, typical fare is mainly red with blue Enviro200s. There is, alas, no evening service nor Sunday service.

Mullany’s Buses is the stage carriage arm of Mullany’s Coaches. Their aim is to be the best bus company in Hertfordshire rather than the biggest (sounds like a dig at the likes of FirstGroup and Stagecoach). They are a family run company which operate a number of school buses and offer coaches for hire. One of their most lucrative contracts is as the operator of the Official Tour Bus for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. The 311 service links Watford Junction with the studios.

4. Leaden Roding – Great Dunmow

Panther Travel’s service is a 21 minute long Thursdays only return journey between the small town of Great Dunmow and the village of Leaden Roding. It had previously been operated by Arriva Essex, but the Stansted-based independent took over the Essex County Council contracted route. The company’s major earner is private coach hire, such as bus replacement services and flight transfers.

Its outward journey leaves Leaden Roding at 0915, fifteen minutes before Twirly Time. It calls at Great Dunmow High Street at 0933, prior to terminating at its TESCO store three minutes later. On its return journey, it leaves TESCO just over two hours later at 1137 (1140 at High Street) before returning to Leaden Roding at 1158.

5. Speeton – Filey Schools

Who in the divine being’s name dictates that any 346 bus gets joined at the hip with the 343? Once more, this coincidence is true of Shoreline Suncruisers’ school service from Speeton to Filey Schools. Whereas the 343 offers a return journey, the 346 is a single journey to the Filey Schools that leaves Speeton at 0755. It takes in Reighton (arriving at 0800) and Hunmanby before service Filey School (arr. 0825), Filey Infants (0830), and Filey Juniors at 0840.

If you’ve spent more time than is considered healthy in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough, you will have come across Shoreline Suncruisers. They share the open top bus services along the promenade (The Corner to The Spa) with East Yorkshire Motor Services.

6. Widgee Road – Morley [Bus Station]

For our sixth 346, we go to the Australian city of Perth. Once again, this continues the trend of our 346 routes being short distance journeys. Perth’s co-work with the 347 route and have a basic frequency of once hourly buses, seven days a week. There are extra journeys in the AM and PM peak hours.

Transperth differs a little from common practice outside London. Like Greater London, its buses are franchised. Where they differ from TfL’s model is that services are divided into 11 zones. Each company has a 10-year franchise. Transperth own the buses. Ironically, for Dukinfielders, Perth’s buses were in green and cream… like SHMD.

7. Aurora Village – Northgate

Not to be content with the near incestuous nature that other 346s have with other 343s, Seattle’s 346 also takes the biscuit. The 25 minute journey from Aurora Village to Northgate connects with the… 41 route. Instead of connecting Yew Tree and Broadbent Fold with Morrisons and Ashton-under-Lyne, Seattle’s is a shuttle bus to University Street station.

King County Metro’s service is half hourly during the daytime. Like its Hydonian equivalent, its evening frequency is once an hour. The Sunday service? That’s hourly too. When does the last one arrive? About 2331 – slightly later than the last 346 into Ashton.

As for fares, a two-zone ticket is $3.25 (in the peaks), which is equivalent to £2.24. This is cheaper than the single fare from Ashton to Dukinfield. Even a two-stage journey from The Ash Tree to Old Chapel. As for the livery, very similar to Badgerline’s Bristol livery in the late 1980s (yellow, green and black). The tenuous Duki reference, the company that took over Pennine Blue – later to be part of FirstGroup.

8. Amsterdam [Railway Station] – Haarlem

Of the 346s (including the one I know and love), Transdev Nederland’s is the most frequent one of the bunch. Journeys run every 10 to 15 minutes, with peak hour journeys being every 10 minutes. In the evening, journeys are every half hour with the last bus leaving Haarlem at 0001. Amsterdam’s last 346 departs at 0035, returning to Haarlem at 0109.

Amsterdam’s 346 comes under Transdev’s Connexxion brand. The company was founded in Hilversum in 1999. The company also operates trains, ferries, taxis, and ambulances.

9. Kemberg – Oranienbaum

Deutsche Bahn (owners of Arriva and the Northern rail franchise) also run a shuttle service between Kemberg and Oranienbaum. Their service operates once hourly and complements DB’s rail operations in their native country. Oranienbaum is known for its ornate Chinese gardens. The town takes its name from the House of Orange-Nassau.

Both Kemberg and Oranienbaum are situated in the Wittenberg district, in Saxony-Anhalt. From 1949 to 1990, it was situated in East Germany.

10. Limerick – Whitegate

For our final 346 route of this countdown, we go to the Republic of Ireland for a shoppers’ service to Limerick. It operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays only with the Wednesday service taking up to 55 minutes to get from Tulla to Limerick. The Wednesday service leaves Tulla at 1010, arriving at 1100. Its return journey leaves Limerick at 1730 (arriving at 1825), meaning a long stay in the town.

Its Saturday service does the full route from Whitegate village via Mountshannon, Scariff, Bodyke and Keoghs Cross before getting to Tulla. It leaves Whitegate at 0845 before taking 95 minutes to complete the journey to Limerick (arriving at 1020). Its return journey departs at 1400, arriving at 1535. Both Wednesday and Saturday journeys call at O Callaghans Mills, Broadford and Kilmore. Sixmilebridge and Kilkishen are only served on Wednesdays.

Limerick’s 346 is the only one of our ten 346s to remain in public hands. Bus Eireann is part of Córas Iompair Éireann, who also run most of the Republic of Ireland’s trains.

Are There Any More 346s Out There?

Whilst researching this article, I had noticed the following factors:

  1. Services co-working with other route numbers that are shared with Dukinfield’s buses (41 and 343 in our observations);
  2. A number of limited services (school, shopping and shuttle buses);
  3. A fair number of defunct 346s.

Within the latter category, these include:

  1. Huddersfield – Wilberlee (First West Yorkshire);
  2. Bloxwich – Pelsall (Travel West Midlands/Thandi Bus);
  3. Sittingbourne – Borden (Chalkwell);
  4. Accrington – Blackburn – Darwen (Transdev Lancashire).

Blackburn’s 346 was split in two, with the southern section from Darwen to Blackburn known as the 1 and 2 Spot On routes. Its easterly section became the 6A Hyndburn Connect route.

Have you boarded the Limerick service? Or have you been on London’s equivalent? If you can add to the list, or have any comments on our Not So Perfect Ten 346s, feel free to do so.

S.V., 10 June 2016.

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3 thoughts on “Is This The 346? The Not So Perfect Ten

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  1. I suspect I have travelled on the Blackburn 346 in the dim and distant past, but none of the others listed. Interesting that you quote the King County fares – and these come as no surprise to me. I visited Seattle in 2004 and remember catching a DP style bus from Sea-Tac Airport to Renton, on a journey taking in best part of 10 miles of southern Seattle. I remember the fare was $1.25 (less than £1 at the time), which even then compared very favourably with suburban GM

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    1. Hi Phil,

      When I looked at the present day fares for the King County buses, I was surprised as to how low they were compared with Greater Manchester’s. I was also impressed by the frequencies too.

      What’s amazing is how the Wikipedia article on King County mentions its “higher than average cost boarding”. Compared with Greater Manchester’s fares, they are a bargain. $1.25 for 10 miles in 2004? Almost three times the rate to do the same distance in GM back then (a FirstDay ticket was £2.50 in 2004; doing greater distances made for a cheaper option).

      As for the Blackburn 346, this picture might take you back:
      Blackburn 25 FCK25Y

      Here’s another Blackburn Transport bus for you. This one is outside The Bay Horse pub in Newton, near Hyde on Stuart’s 209 service from Newton to Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens]. Which follows the route of the present-day 346.

      Stuart, Hyde 108 (JFR 398N)

      Stuart’s Bus and Coach ran most of its services in the southern part of Tameside, mainly around Hyde, Denton, Hattersley and Newton. For a time, they ran Bank Holiday journeys of the 346 service from Ashton-under-Lyne to Hyde. The company ceased operations in February 1998.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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      1. Actually, I was well acquainted with Stuart’s if only because Mrs. S was a friend of my Mum back in the day. As you will know – albeit not obvious from the pic of PCN 890M – they lived in the big house behind Haughton Green terminus. Richie Stuart is no longer with us, but you will probably also know that his choice of the original Grampian Atlanteans was because he was a proud Aberdonian by birth. Funnily enough, I don’t recall some of the vehicles pictured in the flickr link, but I think the coach side started when he took over Haughton Green Coachways from a Ron Mather before Deregulation.

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