First pulls out of 346 route but, other than that, usual summertime changes
Besides the usual raft of summer timetable changes, the only significant change affects one route that has been shared by two or more operators for nearly three decades.
A First farewell from the 346 route
After operating a service every 20 minutes on weekday daytimes and an hourly Sunday service, First Greater Manchester have withdrawn their journeys on the 346 route. Their withdrawal ends a 29-year link with the service which goes back to Pennine Blue’s arrival in March 1990.
Since 1990, the 346 route has been served by more than one operator. It has previously had different operators on Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening journeys like many of Greater Manchester’s bus routes. Until the 21 July, one of the few bus routes in Greater Manchester with two operators sharing daytime journeys. Its sole operator will be Stagecoach Manchester – the direct successor to GMS Buses.
Therefore, the 346 will run every 15 minutes during the daytime – a 33.3% cut on the previous timetable during that period. For Stagecoach, there will be another bus per hour on their existing 20 minute frequency. Furthermore, the Sunday daytime service will retain its present hourly frequency: Stagecoach’s TfGM tendered journeys are not affected.
A brief history of the 346’s deregulation era operations
At the start of bus deregulation, the 346 was operated every 20 minutes in the daytime. Its Sunday and evening journeys were operated once hourly. Back then its only operator was GM Buses with MCW Metrobuses making light work of the ascent up Crescent Road. Prior to bus deregulation, the 346’s Sunday and evening journeys had a half hourly frequency. From 1979 to 1985, Greater Manchester Transport gave the 346 an extension to Droylsden via Littlemoss.
In March 1990, Pennine Blue competed with GM Buses’ 20 minute frequency service. When Tameside Garage closed in November 1991, Pennine Blue capitalised on this when GM Buses cut their journeys from every 20 minutes to every half hour. When Pennine became part of Badgerline in 1994, new Dennis Dart buses in a version of the PMT livery were introduced.
By then, Pennine was run by Potteries Motor Traction’s headquarters on Hobson Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Their entry into the Tameside bus scene came via Red Rider, who picked up a few tendered journeys in the early 1990s. In addition to the Dennis Darts, Eastern Coach Works and Roe bodied Leyland Olympians became a familiar face in Ashton-under-Lyne.
In 1995, Badgerline merged with the GRT Group (ex-Grampian Regional Transport) to form FirstBus. A year later they purchased GM Buses North and Strathclyde’s Buses. The 346 had a daytime frequency of every 15 minutes shared with Pennine and GMS Buses. In Autumn 2000, Pennine’s operations were transferred from First PMT to First Manchester, becoming answerable to Wallshaw Street instead of Hobson Street.
Prior to gaining its best ever frequency of every 10 minutes in the daytime, Stagecoach Manchester increased its daytime frequency to every 20 minutes. First Manchester, at every half hour, extended their journeys to Gee Cross. Then in Autumn 2011, with the Gee Cross link discontinued, First buses became every 20 minutes.
In 2015, the peace was disturbed when Stagecoach cut its daytime journeys to every half hour: this time with a short lived extension to Tameside Hospital. As traffic (and the Albion Way traffic lights) caused havoc with the schedules, its 20 minute frequency was restored in July 2016, reverting to its previous route.
On the 23 April 2017, First Greater Manchester closed its Dukinfield garage which saw Tameside’s local journeys being run from Oldham depot. In the last two years, First have scaled down their presence in Tameside. Firstly with cuts to the 348 and 350 daytime journeys. Then the loss of TfGM tenders to Stagecoach Manchester, MCT Travel, and Nexus Move. The withdrawal of their journeys on the 346 continues this trend. Don’t be surprised to see a few more of their Tameside routes following suit in the next year or so.
Perhaps First are thinning their Oldham operations for eventual sale. At present there has been no news of any sale of First Greater Manchester’s Oldham depot.
Apart from the 346 and the summer timetables, only one other service will see a permanent change. Stagecoach Manchester’s 237 route. To minimise dead time to their Ashton depot, some additional journeys from Glossop to Stalybridge will be introduced. These will depart from Shirebrook Park Estate at 1913 on weekdays, 1938 from Glossop Town Centre on Saturdays, and 1919 from the town centre on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.
Both the 237 and its sister route, the 236, will be running a summer holiday timetable.
From the 21 July to the 31 August, a Summer Timetable will be operated on the following services:
- 7: Stockport – Reddish – Gorton – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 150: intu Trafford Centre – Stretford – Chorlton-cum-Hardy – Longsight – Gorton – Denton – Hyde (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 201: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Gorton – Denton – Hyde – Hattersley (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 204: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Gorton – Denton – Haughton Green – Hyde (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 205: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Gorton – Denton (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 206: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Gorton – Denton – Haughton Green – Hyde – Gee Cross (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 207: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Gorton – Denton – Haughton Green – Hyde – Gee Cross (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 216: Piccadilly – Ancoats – Clayton – Droylsden – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 219: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Openshaw – Fairfield – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 221: Piccadilly – Ardwick – Openshaw – Audenshaw – Dukinfield [Tennyson Avenue] (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 230: Piccadilly – Ancoats – Clayton – Droylsden – Littlemoss – Taunton – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 231: Piccadilly – Ancoats – Clayton – Droylsden – Littlemoss – Hartshead – Tameside Hospital – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 236: Glossop – Dinting – Woolley Bridge – Mottram-in-Longdendale – Stalybridge – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 237: Glossop – Hadfield – Tintwistle – Mottram-in-Longdendale – Stalybridge – Ashton-under-Lyne (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 322: Haughton Green – Brinnington – Portwood – Stockport (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 327: Denton – Brinnington – Portwood – Stockport (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 330: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Hyde – Woodley – Stockport (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 345: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Audenshaw – Denton [Pendle Road] (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 347: Ashton-under-Lyne – Guide Bridge – Audenshaw – Denton – Haughton Green (Stagecoach Manchester);
- 348: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Copley – Millbrook – Carrbrook (First Greater Manchester);
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Micklehurst – Hey Farm Estate – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Scouthead – Waterhead – Greenacres – Oldham (First Greater Manchester);
- 409: Rochdale – Royton – Oldham – Hathershaw – Ashton-under-Lyne (First Greater Manchester).
With the July summer changes there is nothing we could read into at all. As always, bigger changes are made after Eastertide, late October and in late January.
As for First Greater Manchester’s decision to pull out of the 346 route, we think they are chipping away at the Oldham operation piece by piece. The rate of travel seems to be a scaling back from the fringes of the Oldham boundary. Hence their withdrawal from the 415 service, hence the loss of tendered services in Tameside to MCT Travel and Nexus Move.
What seems to be happening is a pincer movement with Rosso north of Oldham Edge at one end, and MCT/Stagecoach/Nexus Move/Stotts south of Park Bridge at the other. In Dukinfield, their only contribution will be Monday to Saturday daytime journeys on the 389 route, which are operated on a commercial basis. How long will it be before this service changes hands? Could the 350 be a full time Stagecoach route in future years? Could MCT Travel be a regular operator on the 331 and 333?
Any subsequent changes in the next six months to a year could make for interesting reading. Time to stock up on the microwaveable popcorn.
S.V., 10 July 2019.