The old station’s not for turning 

First Greater Manchester Alexander Dennis ALX400, YJ51 RCX, Ashton-under-Lyne bus station
At the Sharp End: Summer 2016’s raft of service changes have gravely affected the people of Oldham. The 409 service will see fewer evening journeys on weekdays and Saturdays.

In an ironic twist of fate, the severance of Diggle Old Station Turning was announced at around the same time as Theresa May’s appointment as Britain’s second female Prime Minister. Whilst the MP for Maidenhead took her cue from Thatcher, the only thing that hasn’t been for turning was First Greater Manchester’s cuts to the 184 service in Diggle.

Throughout Oldham Council boundaries, this summer’s set of changes will affect Manchester-bound services. Most notably Saddleworth’s buses and the thinning out of evening journeys along Manchester Road. Could we point the finger of suspicion towards the trams, or competing indoor forms of entertainment?

Oldham changes

If we could apportion the blame on the decline of Oldham’s evening services on Metrolink, some critics could say that about the 59 service to Rushcroft. Its half hourly evening service (great for seeing the odd show at Playhouse 2) will be cut to once hourly, departing Rushcroft at five to the hour (22 minutes past the hour from Piccadilly Gardens). Between Shaw and Oldham, the tram has considerably more journey options.

A small number of evening journeys will be withdrawn on the 83 service from Sholver to Piccadilly Gardens. This will also be true of the 81 service to Manchester via Moston where some early evening journeys will be discontinued. Could we blame the tram on changes to the 181 and 182 services from Rochdale to Manchester via Chadderton? With the exception of peak hour, evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys (southbound AM, northbound PM), both services will terminate at Shaw [Wren’s Nest]. The 181 will serve St. Mary’s Road in Moston.

Changes to the 24 service (the other Rochdale to Chadderton and Manchester bus via Oldham Road) will see Manchester-bound journeys in the morning peaks. Evening peaks will only see Rochdale-bound buses. A far cry from the years when Bacup used to be its northerly terminus.

This Summer sees the continuation of The Incredible Shrinking 149 Service. Over 20 years ago it offered a rare cross-city connection to Heald Green. From Summer, its Manchester link will be severed. Instead, journeys will terminate at Cheetham Hill, outside the Manchester suburb’s TESCO store.

Besides Manchester-bound buses out of Oldham, the popular 409 service is set to see some changes. In line with its Sunday service, Monday to Saturday evening journeys will be half hourly – cut from every 20 minutes.

There is only one operator change, and this affects the 403 service (Shaw – Rushcroft Circular). From the 25 July, MCT Travel (or Manchester Community Transport if you prefer), will be its new operators. They will take over from Checkmate who are leaving the Greater Manchester bus scene.

Saddleworth changes

Of greatest controversy are First Greater Manchester’s changes to Saddleworth routes into Manchester. The most severe cuts entail affect the 184 service. Though the 184 will help to maintain a ten minute frequency from Grotton to Manchester (co-worked with the 180 service), the 184’s link to one part of Diggle will be discontinued. One journey per hour from Uppermill will no longer Dobcross village and the Old Station Turning circle at Diggle.

Diggle passengers wishing to call in The Diggle Hotel will have to walk the extra distance for 184 journeys to and from Huddersfield. First Greater Manchester’s decision could bite them in the posterior five years from now, if Saddleworth School moves to Diggle. There will only be a smattering of morning journeys from the Old Station Turning stop. Two hourly journeys on Sundays and Bank Holidays will continue to serve Old Station Turning.

There will also be some timing changes to the 180 service, plus the peak hour X84 route via Oldham Way.

Summer Timetables

The following Oldham and Saddleworth area services will operate summer timetables, taking advantage of the reduced traffic volumes in the school holidays.

  • 59: Rushcroft – Oldham – Middleton – Heaton Park – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] (First Greater Manchester);
  • 76: Oldham – Hollins – Limeside – Failsworth – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] (Stagecoach Manchester);
  • 81: Derker – Oldham – Butler Green – Moston – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] (First Greater Manchester);
  • 83: Sholver – Oldham – Hollinwood – Failsworth – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] (First Greater Manchester);
  • 409: Rochdale – Royton – Oldham – Hathershaw – Ashton-under-Lyne (First Greater Manchester);
  • 425: Fitton Hill – Hathershaw – Oldham – Glodwick – Holts Estate (First Greater Manchester).

Whatever Next?

For Oldham and Saddleworth bus users, the last year hasn’t been a good one. In the last five years, Saddleworthians have been at the sharpest end of service cuts. With FirstGroup intending to close one of their Greater Manchester depots, Oldham’s buses lie in the balance. The rest of 2016 could be interesting and gut-wrenching at the same time.

S.V., 20 July 2016.

3 thoughts on “Oldham and Saddleworth Bus Service Changes, Summer 2016

  1. soon the way they are going there will be no buses at all in the area i just hope they do not withdrawn the Huddersfield 184 bit like they did with 562 to Halifax


  2. The 149 is an interesting change as the Stagecoach journies will still run to/from Manchester only not as a 149 but as a 42 from NMGH-Mancheter but using the same vehicle and passengers being allowed to stay on the vehicle


  3. As you say Stuart, the last 5 years have been a bumpy ride for Saddleworth bus enthusiasts, although the first time we saw cuts was October 2012 when the 184 service was cut to 3 buses an hour past Grotton and more dissapointingly the 180 was only hourly.

    Of particular disappointment is the annoyance the removal of the Diggle service has caused for college goers within the Dobcross area in particular as students within the village centre are now without a service to Oldham at all; having said that, I was happy to read an article in this months edition of the ‘Saddleworth Independent’ that the 558 service to Blue Coat School in the morning is now open to public use as well, thus retaining the morning link between Dobcross and Oldham. But it really is disappointing to see Dobcross loose a service to Oldham as it is since 1974 I believe (back in the days of Yorkshire territory) that Dobcross gained its first ever link to Oldham with the 431 and 432 (and subsequently the 427 and the all stopping 184).

    On a more confusing note, I think residents in Kiln Green around the Old Station Turning are fully entitled to show their frustrations, I cannot think of a reasonable explanation that the weekday (and Saturday) 184 journeys have been shunted to not serve Sam Road and the Diggle Hotel (station turning) however Sunday and public holiday service remains unchanged.

    I believe the bus stops up Sam Road, Station Road and Lee Side are well used by the locals (it’s a busy part of the village) and it’s disappointing they have lost their traditional link of bus services (let’s not forget this link had been ever going for decades now since the introduction of the 157 service Mossley to Diggle, and additionally the 432 and of course the ever famous and never forgotten 427). The actual terminus itself I think is something of an icon for buses in Greater Manchester in general with its rural setting and historical significance. Still, it’s nice that I can venture out on Sundays and photograph a modern day Enviro 400 sitting snug in the famous terminus in a cold crisp snowy Winter’s Day!

    Interestingly, this type of situation 5-10 years ago could well of resulted in a more local bus company (e.g Sotts, Speedwell and the like) putting on a service themselves … will be interesting if any of the local affair pick up on customer dissatisfaction and brave it to throw on a local service to see if it is much used.

    In terms of the (possible) relocation of Saddleworth School to Diggle in however many years; if it did happen it would be interesting to see the effect and reorganisation in general of buses in the Saddleworth area; whilst I don’t think the old station turning would be significantly used for the numerous school bus extras in the morning/evening, I’d imagine there would be an actual designated bus turning point within the school grounds. Still, could Diggle, should relocation of the school happen, receive a bus service that heads towards Delph for the first time since probably the 431-434 services in the 70’s and 80’s? (although a passenger boarding a 431 in Diggle in the 1970’s would be disappointed to arrive in Delph within a suitable time!


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