Introducing the Saddleworth Rambler: Nexus Move’s New 356 Service

A look at Saddleworth’s exciting new shuttle service

On Monday 09 April 2018, Andy Buckley and David Littlewood opened another chapter in the history of Saddleworth bus operation. From the turning circle in Denshaw, David Littlewood was Nexus Move’s first passenger aboard the new 356 service to Uppermill and Greenfield. He was chauffeured to his destination by Andy Buckley in a silver 67-reg Volkswagen minibus.

The 356 is the result of a TfGM consultation which had over 1,600 responses. Top of the respondents’ requests was improved local connections. So, thanks to some extra funding from a Department for Transport rural bus scheme and TfGM came a new route.

The 356 begins at Denshaw Turning Circle before continuing to Uppermill via Delph (skipping Friarmere Drive), Dobcross (via The Square), and Diggle. Instead of Old Station Turning, its turnaround loop is Sunfield Lane and Dorset Avenue, prior to returning to Huddersfield Road. It covers the easterly part of Dobcross before continuing to Uppermill [Commercial Hotel].

Outside the peak hours the 356’s southerly terminus is Saddleworth Leisure Centre, approached from High Street to Grove Road, via Carr Lane and Rush Hill Road. Then it returns to The Commercial Hotel stop via Station Road and New Street.

To allow for the creation of the 356 service, First Greater Manchester’s 353 and 354 services have been curtailed. The 353 now terminates at Uppermill (previously Dobcross [Wool Road]) whereas the 354 now terminates at Carrcote.

Therefore, passengers from Stalybridge (via 353 or 354) need to change at Uppermill for the more northern Saddleworth villages. Mossley passengers (via 350, 353, or 354) can either change at Uppermill or Delph if travelling to Denshaw. Whereas connections are guaranteed with Northern’s peak trains, this for now doesn’t apply to bus passengers wishing to change for a 356.

At Uppermill, AM peak hour and evening journeys continue to Greenfield railway station via Chapel Road and Shaw Hall Bank Road. This enables passengers to alight at the same side as the Manchester platform.

Timetable overview

As with all bus routes in TfGMland, you can download the timetable to your device or hard drive. Or you call into a TfGM Travelshop at Oldham or Ashton-under-Lyne bus stations.

The service operates six days a week from Monday to Saturday. There are no Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys. These are covered by MCT Travel’s 355 service (every two hours) and First Greater Manchester’s 350 service (every half hour in the daytime, hourly at evenings). Buses are once hourly.

Monday to Friday: Greenfield/Saddleworth Leisure Centre – Denshaw

  • First buses to Denshaw (from Greenfield railway station): 0730 and 0830.
  • First bus to Denshaw (from Saddleworth Leisure Centre): 0936.
  • Last buses to Denshaw (from Saddleworth Leisure Centre): 1436 and 1541.
  • Last buses to Denshaw (from Greenfield railway station): 2225 (FSX) and 2325 (FO).

Monday to Friday: Denshaw – Greenfield/Saddleworth Leisure Centre

  • First buses to Greenfield railway station: 0700 and 0800.
  • First bus to Saddleworth Leisure Centre: 0910.
  • Last buses to Saddleworth Leisure Centre: 1410 and 1515.
  • Last buses to Greenfield railway station: 2221 (FSX) and 2321 (FO).

Saturday: Greenfield/Saddleworth Leisure Centre – Denshaw

  • First bus to Denshaw (from Greenfield railway station): 1925.
  • First bus to Denshaw (from Saddleworth Leisure Centre): 0836.
  • Last bus to Denshaw (from Saddleworth Leisure Centre): 1736.
  • Last bus to Denshaw (from Greenfield railway station): 2325.

Saturday: Denshaw – Greenfield/Saddleworth Leisure Centre

  • First bus to Greenfield railway station: 1855.
  • First bus to Saddleworth Leisure Centre: 0810.
  • Last bus to Saddleworth Leisure Centre: 1710.
  • Last bus to Greenfield railway station: 2255.

Stalybridge – Denshaw connections

Monday – Friday:

  • 0759: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0826), 0834 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 0857);
  • 0904: 353 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0942), 0943 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1006);
  • 1004: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1031), 1043 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1106).

Then hourly until…

  • 1404: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1431), 1443 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1506);
  • 1504: 353 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1542), 1547 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1610);
  • 1620: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1647), 1659 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1722);
  • 1720: 353 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1758), 1759 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1822).

Saturday:

  • 0804: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0831), 0843 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 0906);
  • 0904: 353 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0942), 0943 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1006);
  • 1004: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1031), 1043 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1106).

Then hourly until…

  • 1404: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1431), 1443 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1506);
  • 1504: 353 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1542), 1543 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1610);
  • 1604: 354 Stalybridge Bus Station – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1631), 1643 356 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Denshaw [Turning Circle] (arr. 1722).

On northbound journeys, the combination of a 354 and a 356 offers a smoother connection than the 353/356 combination. Though a case of alighting at the same stop outside The Commercial Hotel, a late running 353 (with a minute before the 356’s departure) could scupper your connection with Denshaw. If you are travelling to Dobcross and Delph, you have the insurance policy of First Greater Manchester’s 350 service (every half hour in the daytime).

Denshaw – Stalybridge connections

Monday – Friday:

  • 0800: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Greenfield Railway Station (arr. 0826), 0836 Train Greenfield – Stalybridge (arr. 0846);
  • 0910: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0932), 0945 353 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1024);
  • 1010: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1032), 1058 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1124).

Then hourly until…

  • 1410: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1432), 1458 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1530);
  • 1515: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1537), 1545 353 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1625);
  • 1615: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1637), 1715 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1744);
  • 1725: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1747), 1804 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1830).

Saturday:

  • 0810: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0832), 0858 353 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 0932);
  • 0910: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 0932), 0945 353 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1024);
  • 1010: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1032), 1058 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1124).

Then hourly until…

  • 1410: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1432), 1458 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1530);
  • 1510: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1532), 1545 353 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1625);
  • 1610: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1632), 1658 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1724);
  • 1710: 356 Denshaw [Turning Circle] – Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] (arr. 1732), 1804 354 Uppermill [Commercial Hotel] – Stalybridge Bus Station (arr. 1830).

On southbound journeys, connection times are longer with some times being long enough for a quick half in The Commercial Hotel (or the Hare and Hounds if you prefer). During the weekdays, the 0800 journey from Denshaw offers a better connection with Northern’s service to Stalybridge. This may be subject to change next month.

Deja vu?

If you lived in the Saddleworth area from 1999 to 2007, you may remember another 356 service. This one took a totally different route to the present day version. Launched in January 1999 thanks to the Labour Government’s Rural Bus Initiative grant, it offered a another direct link between Greenfield and Oldham. Instead of the more direct 180 and 429 routes, it took in Diggle via Running Hill Lane. It ran twice weekly with three return journeys.

Its first operator was Universal Buses Ltd. A year on, their operations were taken over by Stagecoach Manchester (who inherited their Ward Street, Chadderton garage). In 2003 it was taken over by Bu-Val Buses, who ran the service till its withdrawal in April 2007. Like the present day 356, advertised connections with Manchester trains at Greenfield station were a selling point. At least it was until the franchisee’s rail timetable was changed.

Let’s get on board

We hope the people of Saddleworth will support the 356 service. The silver minibuses with full bus width doors offer a sleek look for potential passengers. With Denshaw having a once hourly connection with Uppermill, a real improvement on the two-hourly frequency that the 354 had.

If there is any downside, it is the direct links with Tameside that have been sacrificed. On the other hand, once hourly to Uppermill instead of every two hours is a decent enough trade-off. The direct link to Saddleworth Leisure Centre will be a boon for carless households.

With Manchester, Oldham, Ashton, and West Yorkshire bound buses calling at Uppermill, The Commercial Hotel is really Saddleworth’s main bus interchange. More so with enhanced links connecting the Saddleworth villages. The backbone of Saddleworth’s bus network is between Delph [White Lion] and Lees [County End]. Plus a significant branch between Greenfield railway station and Hey Farm Estate.

The small minibuses might not be to everyone’s taste but there are several reasons as to why they were chosen. Firstly, to keep operating costs to a minimum to ensure the service’s retention in its first year (maybe more). Secondly, if you have travelled anywhere in Saddleworth on a full width bus, you will find that parked cars is a major peeve. Especially among bus drivers on roads where off street parking isn’t available. Thirdly, if the 356 is successful (and/or we see a more pro-bus government), they could be used to create new links.

The third point to some may sound like The Return of the Bee Line Buzz Company Model. Not quite. The difference was their minibuses were used for very high frequency services. Instead of a double decker bus every half hour, you had a 22 seat minibus every seven minutes. With poor buggy access and single width doors. In Greater Manchester, the use of smaller buses for developing new services harks back to the SELNEC era. For some rural services before 1969, Bury Corporation had a Bedford minibus.

Instead, the smaller buses which SELNEC bought for such routes were used on the Centreline services in Manchester city centre. Since the late 1980s, minibuses have been used in place of double deckers and single deckers for lightly used routes. Again for similar reasons to the buses that Nexus Move are using. Only with Optare Solo SRs this time.

If the 356 is a success with its small minibuses, is there scope for a sister shuttle service? Perhaps there could be a second route known as The Friezland Flyer serving the southern part of Saddleworth and a chunk of Mossley.

If anything will stymie its progress, it will be the undermining of its unique selling point: train connections. The 20 May will see the arrival of our new train timetables. In the firing line is the Huddersfield route which affects Greenfield railway station. Apart from a few peak hour journeys, Greenfield’s trains will be part of a skip-stop service. Its Manchester terminus will change to Piccadilly from Victoria. Skip-stop or otherwise, will there be a timetable change to the 356 service so early in its life due to Network Rail’s timetabling foibles?

We hope the 356 takes off, and that it becomes an invaluable route for visitors as well as Saddleworthians. Its true test will be during the summer months when Saddleworth is in party mode.

Before I go…

What do you think of Nexus Move’s 356 service? Have you boarded any of the journeys to Saddleworth Leisure Centre or Greenfield railway station? Have you used it as part of a more complex journey? Feel free to comment.

S.V., 11 April 2018.

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3 thoughts on “Introducing the Saddleworth Rambler: Nexus Move’s New 356 Service

Add yours

  1. Not used the service yet.

    On my way home from work the other day (in which I drive through Denshaw and Delph to Uppermill), I purposely went through Dobcross and Diggle too in my car to try and spot the bus but I didn’t even see it, despite the timetables saying I should have seen one at least at some point! (the 17:55 from Greenfield is the one I’m on about).

    I hope this type of unreliability isn’t seen often.

    Also worth noting that the curtailed 354 service actually terminates at Carrcote, not Dobcross Navigation as listed above

    Kind regards

    Like

    1. Hi Puppysmash2,

      Many thanks for the amendment (I have just made the changes). I too hope “this type of unreliability” is a teething trouble rather than a thunderous headache. Needless to say, I have yet to see the (new) 356 in action (cameras ready).

      Kind regards,

      Stuart.

      Like

  2. Yeah absolutely – I had my camera ready as I said on my way back from work.
    The bus that leaves Greenfield Station at 17:55 was the one I was trying to track down. I entered Denshaw at around 18:05 and drove down to the Station via Dobcross and Diggle and I could have sworn I did not see it (Unless I was incredibly unlucky and missed it by a whisker somewhere around Dorset Avenue in Diggle!!!)

    Not sure on the passenger numbers so far. Good to see it’s had some good publisity ftom tfgm on SOcial media.

    Liked by 1 person

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