My Life in the Company of Buses: Dukinfield and Bus Deregulation: Part 31, 2016

It’s in the air 

So far, 2016 has been an impressive year for me on a personal level. I have settled in my present position and am enjoying the new, more central surroundings. With a move from its previous HQ near Piccadilly station, my employer is closer to Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. Not least some sublime eateries and (inevitably), branches of Starbucks Coffee, Subway, Greggs, and a McDonalds on St. Ann’s Square.

As for the buses, well, yours truly still gets the 220. The sole surviving journey, which is the difference between sitting down or standing up on the train to Salford Central. The 350 also gets some serious whammy, thanks to Boarshurst Silver Band.

What 2017 brings is literally up in the air. How would Brexit – as well as possible government cuts – affect Dukinfield’s buses, and this fellow?

*                    *                    *

It gives me great pleasure to say, up to now, that 2016 has been a quiet year for Dukinfield’s bus users. At this time of writing I may be tempting fate (then again everybody knows what follows a lull). The start of 2016 saw the arrival of new buses on Stagecoach Manchester’s Dukinfield and Manchester routes. Enviro400 MMC double deckers are regularly seen on the 216 and 219 routes. In Dear Old Duki, they are often seen on the 330 route. Also on some journeys of the 346 route.

Both the 330 and 346 routes were the subject of positive changes in 2016. The severance of the 346’s hospital link saw the welcome return of Stagecoach’s 20 minute daytime frequency. Since Summer 2016, the 346’s daytime 10 minute frequency was reinstated.

On the 30 October, Ashton-under-Lyne saw the reinstatement of its bus links with Manchester Airport. Prior to May 1999, Ashton’s link with Ringway was a seasonal one on the 400: Trans-Lancs Express. This time, two journeys per hour on the 330 service, continue to Manchester Airport. In conjunction with High Peak Buses’ 199 service from Buxton, there are four buses per hour along the M60 and M56 from Stockport – non-stop.

Towards 2017

For Dukinfield, and Greater Manchester as a whole, 2017 will be a curate’s egg. Firstly, TfGM’s GetMeThere smart card will have matured. Secondly, this would warrant a modal shift, as the financial penalty for switching modes of transport would be less pronounced. Greater control over its buses, alongside trains, and trams will be key to its success.

Another issue is that of funding. Would Transport for Greater Manchester’s powers be stymied by another round of departmental cuts? Would there be extra money to fund socially necessary services thanks to a franchised model? What impact is Brexit going to have on the continued improvement of our City Region’s public transport network?

A possible game changer in public transport provision is Uber style demand responsive transport. In one way, they could be used to supplement existing bus, train, and tram services. In another way, it be used to replace bus services, but demand responsive transport is only a partial replacement. If you’re travelling from outside the area of a Local Link service and wish to use a DRT cab or minibus, it is impossible.

There is also a societal shift which has affected public transport patronage. Zero Hour Contracts could be one factor. A weekly or monthly season ticket would offer less flexibility – especially if one ZHC worker’s hours is different to their regular bus operator of choice’s hours. Individual fares and day rover tickets may be an expensive option.

Another is that of online shopping. Though Manchester city centre remains attractive for shoppers, towns outside the city centre (with the possible exception of Bury) have suffered. Online shopping also means more time for video gaming and fewer trips to town centres. The car parks are empty, the buses have fewer bums on seats. As a consequence, more service cuts, especially where market forces hold sway.

Then there’s edge of town shopping developments. Parking charges and rising car ownership have deterred people from the town centres in favour of retail parks. The reason? Free parking. Also the cost of motoring compared with bus fares. On the fringes of the M60 motorway, out-of-town retail parks gives the likes of Ashton, Altrincham, and Bolton a run for their money.

Another possibility is that bus travel has an image problem. For many people, it is the mode of last resort instead of their first choice. Great strides have been made to improve its image thanks to TfGM’s work with the Leigh Guided Busway’s Vantage routes. Further afield, the innovative approaches to route branding by Transdev’s operations, The Go-Ahead Group’s routes (how can you not like Whey-Aye-Five-0 for the 50 service from Chester-le-Street to Durham?), and Trent Barton’s buses.

For the time being, we can only sit tight and hope for the best.

*                    *                    *

My Most Memorable Bus Journeys of 2016:

  • Bolton to Belmont, aboard UK Coachways’ elusive 535 service: a supporting role in my legendary walk to Horwich via Winter Hill and Rivington Pike.
  • Blackpool [South Shore] to Fleetwood [Ferry], on Blackpool Transport’s 1 service: the start of a good pub trip – especially for The King’s Arms on Lord Street.

And that’s your lot for now…

We hope you have enjoyed our update on the previous series of My Life in the Company of Buses and that it has brought things up to date.

Shout outs go to:

  • Everyone at the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester in Cheetham;
  • Andrew Fender, Mr. Transport for Greater Manchester since 2011;
  • Everyone at D’Oro café, Ashton-under-Lyne Market Hall;
  • Boarshurst Band Club, Greenbridge Lane, Greenfield: The Mecca of Brass Banding. Say no more.
  • The Fleece Inn, Market Place, Mossley: with a plethora of real ales, it makes waiting for the 340, 343, or 350 a more civilised affair. Especially in winter.
  • Katsouris Deli, John Dalton Street/Deansgate, Manchester: you rock! Seriously. Especially as I have frequented their older sister shop in Bury a few times;
  • The adorable Jack Russell Terrier I saw outside Winter Hill transmission mast on my walk to Rivington Pike (sorry Sammy, I know you’ll accuse me of ‘cheating’ on you, over a fellow JRT);
  • The late great Seb the dog: a legendary hunk of love whose permanent residence was The Station Hotel on Warrington Street, Ashton-under-Lyne.

This series of articles were brought to you under the influence of:

  • Taylors of Harrogate’s Yorkshire Tea: only the best will do, especially with…
  • St. Helen’s Farm’s semi-skimmed goat milk: thanks also to Kirstie-Rose Shaw for introducing me to this stuff (mwah!);
  • Copious amounts of 1980s radio jingles, particularly those by JAM Creative Productions and Alfasound;
  • The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis (1974), which as Genesis albums go, is in my Top Three;
  • Brighten Up Your Life by The Ebony Brothers (1983): an uplifting funk/Italo disco tune that should have charted anywhere within the Top 75;
  • Chips, curry and noodles from the Golden House chippy: Greenfield’s finest Chinese chippy. Also loved by brass banding people owing to its proximity to the Boarshurst Band Club.

An East of the M60 Production, MMXVI.

S.V., 31 October 2016.

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