MCT Travel bags six tendered services
- First cuts 350 daytime frequency by 20%;
- New Saddleworth service to make up for lost Denshaw connections;
- Changes to 237 night bus journey.
In The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot said that April was the cruellest month. With bus service changes this remains the same throughout Greater Manchester. Amid the 33 services that have been affected by the post-Easter changes, Bolton, Wigan, and South Manchester passengers have been at the sharpest end. This time, Tameside based bus passengers have come off lightly with this spring’s changes being nothing on those made in April 2015.
The biggest beneficiary of this year’s Transport for Greater Manchester’s tender changes is MCT Travel. The Community Interest Company, now a subsidiary of Hackney Community Transport, have continued their expansion in the Tameside area. Most of which have been due to First Greater Manchester’s streamlining.
From First Greater Manchester they have taken over the 232 service with a slight variation to the timetable. The last Sunday and Bank Holiday journey will be at 2206 instead of 2306. On the 332 service more of the same, though with more chipping away at late evening journeys. From the 08 April, the last journey of the 332 route will leave Ashton-under-Lyne at 2148.
Though MCT Travel have also bagged the 338 to Crowhill (again from First), two journeys will be withdrawn on the Sunday and Bank Holiday service. These are the 1708 and 1808 thus meaning the last journey will leave Ashton at 1608. For physically fit Curzon Ashton fans or Crowhill residents, walking is a more realistic option after 4pm. Of the districts that make up Ashton-under-Lyne, Crowhill has been at the sharpest end of bus service cuts since 2010.
The 387 which provides a direct link with Stalybridge and Tameside Hospital will be taken over by MCT Travel from the 09 April. To improve the efficiency of the service, Ridge Hill and Hague estates will no longer be served. Therefore, this leaves two buses per hour each way from Ridge Hill estate with the 389 its sole constituent. First Greater Manchester will be running the daytime services as normal.
After hours (Sundays, Bank Holidays, and Evenings), MCT Travel will be taking over. At the expense of four withdrawn journeys on the 232, 332, and the 338, there will be a new early journey on the 389. On Sundays and Bank Holidays this will leave Hyde at 0903, arriving in Ashton-under-Lyne for 0943.
There will also be changes to the 231 service, prompted by cuts in funding Transport for Greater Manchester’s tendered service. Its Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service from Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester (via Littlemoss and Moorside) will be cut to once hourly. Evening journeys will only run between Littlemoss to Piccadilly Gardens. The two journeys to and from Ashton were inherited from First Greater Manchester, created to reduce dead time from Dukinfield garage to Ashton.
A year after its curtailment between Ashton-under-Lyne and Belle Vue, Stagecoach Manchester’s journeys on the 169 will be withdrawn. These will be replaced by a rerouted 172 service for part of the route. On the other hand, the 168‘s daytime frequency will be improved – from every half hour to every 20 minutes. The aforementioned changes will not affect TfGM tendered journeys on the 168 and 169 routes.
The 217 service will benefit from a slight change, though a most user-friendly one. Journeys to Ashton-under-Lyne will be revised to serve the bus stop within Ashton Moss Leisure Park. At present, passengers on eastbound 217s have to cross the dual carriageway to get to Cineworld, Nandos, and Five Guys. This would see the 217 using a stop outside McDonalds.
Mossley and Saddleworth service changes
As well as Ashton-under-Lyne and Stalybridge, Mossley has been affected by First Greater Manchester’s service changes. The 350 will see a reduction in daytime journeys. Presently every 12 minutes between Ashton and Micklehurst, this will be cut to every fifteen minutes. This is down on every 10 minutes between the two points in 2012. On the plus side, journeys to Saddleworth and Oldham will be every half hour. This is at odds with the present timetable where there is a 35 minute gap at one end, or a 25 minute one at the other end.
With the option of going from Mossley to Greenfield by train stymied by the skip-stop timetable this May, there should be a call for more 350s. Or an offshoot of the 350 to Mossley (Top and Bottom) via Roaches, Friezland, and Greenfield, terminating at Uppermill. Though there will be no changes to its departure times from Ashton and Mossley, the 353 and 354 services will be curtailed. From the 09 April, the 353 will terminate at Uppermill instead of Dobcross. Instead of Denshaw, the 354 will terminate at Dobcross.
To make up for this, a new tendered service will be introduced. The 356 will start at Denshaw before going to Saddleworth Leisure Centre or Greenfield railway station. The service will call at Delph, Dobcross, Diggle, and Uppermill, before terminating at Saddleworth Leisure Centre or Greenfield railway station. Funding for the service formed part of the Department for Transport’s Total Transport project, which is valid for a year. The hourly service will run from Monday to Saturday.
The operator is a new name in stage carriage operation, though a familiar one to many Tameside folk. They are Nexus Move Ltd who are better known in Tameside as Radio Cabs, Cavalier Radio Cars, and A1 Taxis. In the last decade they have operated Local Link services on behalf of GMPTE and TfGM, around Mossley and Saddleworth.
Glossop service changes
For the first time since February 2008 we shall be seeing a change of operator on the 237 route. Since the acquisition of A. Mayne and Son’s stage carriage routes, Stagecoach Manchester have been the sole operator of the 236 and 237 routes to Glossop. From the 08 April, evening journeys on the 237 will be operated by MCT Travel. Unlike Stagecoach’s journeys, could Manchester Community Transport’s 237s stop at Stalybridge bus station for the first time since May 2011?
If you catch the 237’s one and only night journey (Friday night/Saturday morning and Saturday night/Sunday morning), there will be a change of number and route. Instead of being a 237, it will become an extension of the 219’s last night bus. It will depart ten minutes later than the present 237 journey, serving Ashton Old Road instead of Ashton New Road. From Ashton it will continue its merry way to Glossop along the 237 route.
TfGM tender changes:
- 232 (Ashton – Smallshaw Circular): from First Greater Manchester to MCT Travel;
- 237 (Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Hadfield – Glossop): from Stagecoach Manchester to MCT Travel;
- 332 (Ashton – Smallshaw Circular): from First Greater Manchester to MCT Travel;
- 338 (Ashton – Crowhill Circular): from First Greater Manchester to MCT Travel;
- 356 (Denshaw – Delph – Diggle – Uppermill/Greenfield): new tendered route operated by Nexus Move Ltd partially replacing 353 and 354 north of Uppermill and Dobcross.
- 387 (Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Hattersley – Hyde): from First Greater Manchester to MCT Travel;
- 389 (Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Hyde): evening, Sunday, and Bank Holiday journeys from First Greater Manchester to MCT Travel.
In spite of what the local press has said, Tameside has seen worse service changes since 2010. Particularly April 2015’s which saw cuts to a lot of tendered services in the borough. Besides departmental spending cuts, changes in shopping habits have affected patronage. It is cheaper for car-free households to stay at home and do all their shopping online. Which not only affects bus routes, but also our shopping centres, public houses and, in the long run, leisure facilities and communal buildings.
Will the summertime changes, due at the end of July, be plain sailing? All will be revealed nearer the time. By then we shall see how Nexus Move’s 356 service is progressing.
S.V., 07 March 2018.