The storm after the lull
By 2014, I was working elsewhere in Greater Manchester. This time in Stockport (well, Bredbury to be precise), so most of my observations of the bus scene were biased towards the 330 route. The Young Auties’ pass proved to be a godsend for peak hour journeys and the odd journey to West Yorkshire.
With the flatlining economy, my new job switched from full time to part time after Easter. I changed the hours around to give myself a long weekend. It also meant a lie-in after Sunday and an excuse to do some serious bus hopping. By the second half of the 2014, this resulted in the creation of one of East of the M60’s most popular features, The Ashton Review of Shops.
Just before Christmas, there was the possibility of yours truly, the author, breaking thirty-five years of being without a possible life partner. Months after his sister’s wedding.
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Throughout Greater Manchester, half a decade’s steady growth in bus patronage started to falter. The biggest news was two high profile acquisitions. Firstly, Finglands’ buses would swap the orange, brown, white and black in favour of FirstGroup’s Olympia livery. They would compete with Stagecoach on the Wilmslow Road corridor with their version of the 42 service. Known as Cross Connect, journeys began at Middleton alongside the 18, its cross-city sibling from Langley and Middleton to Rusholme.
The second one had greater ramifications for the people of Dukinfield. After financial problems, JPT Travel ceased operations after the Easter holidays, with services transferring to Stagecoach Manchester. In North Manchester, the three operators on the 112 service in 2012 became one. In Dukinfield, JPT Travel’s Saturday journeys of the 343 were taken over by Stagecoach Manchester. Services were operated from JPT’s Middleton depot.
Furthermore, we saw the end of Dukinfield’s off-peak connection with Manchester city centre. The lengthy Manchester [Shudehill Interchange] to Stalybridge and Mossley [Brookbottom] 217/218 services were butchered. Separate tenders were pitched for the Droylsden to Mossley (via Dukinfield and Stalybridge) section, the original (pre-2008 version of the 217), and the section from Mossley to Ashton via Tameside Hospital.
Instead, the 217 was retained – hourly from Ashton to Manchester, on a largely unaltered route. The Droylsden to Stalybridge section of the 217/218 formed part of an extended 408 into Oldham and Shaw. The Dukinfield to Mossley section, additionally served by the 343, had one modification: the addition of Brushes Estate to its daytime journeys.
In addition to the demise of Dukinfield’s 217/218 routes, Checkmate Coaches’ journeys of the 220 service were scrapped. Its C20 service (two commercially operated positioning from Mossley to Piccadilly railway station via Ashton), was also scrapped.
Therefore, Dukinfield’s Mancunian Way was about as piecemeal as the A57(M) was in Christmas 2015: dominated by a big hole. This left FirstGroup’s tendered services and the peak hour journeys (by Stagecoach Manchester) as survivors of a link created in 1930 as the 21 service. The former, as we shall find in our next part, would be discontinued.
Leaving First Greater Manchester’s Dukinfield garage for the last time this year was 31929, the company’s last Dennis Arrow double decker bus. Unlike the Dart or the Dominator before then, the Arrow didn’t enjoy the same success. On entering service, they started in London as dual door buses (hence the centre position of the stairwell).
Making a timely arrival were a fleet of Wright StreetLite single decker buses. Though prone to rattling – weeks after their maiden journey – the interiors were brighter than the previous Dennis Darts. Even so, Darts still had a role to play – the (truly awful) Marshall-bodied Dart SLFs. Late of First South Yorkshire and First Devon and Cornwall, they would be regular visitors on the 346 and 389 routes throughout ’14 and ’15.
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My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2014:
- Ashton to Reddish [Houldsworth Square], aboard the 7: my main reason being a trip to Houldsworth Mill. Not so for the route, but more for the mill itself and the adjacent Broadstone Mill.
Next up on My Life in the Company of Buses…
Part 30 takes us towards 2015, a year that saw Tameside come off worst in the latest round of service cuts. A month before the General Election (and still, the buzzards got in).
S.V., 29 October 2016.