Spoils of FirstGroup’s Tamexit sees sweeping changes
- Ashton local services rationalised;
- No more post-7pm buses from Stalybridge to Hyde;
- Sunday and Bank Holiday 236s axed.
Most of this September’s changes are affected by FirstGroup’s retreat from the Tameside area. Within the next month, Tameside’s biggest two bus operators will be Stagecoach Manchester and MCT Travel. As for the service changes, not particularly good reading.
You could be forgiven for thinking FirstGroup’s successors would run the 38, 39, 331, 333, 393 and 389 routes in their present form for a few months. Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, where Go North West and Diamond Bus North West have taken (or about to take) over FirstGroup’s routes, no timetable changes have been made.
Over in Tameside, it is time to get the taxi numbers added to your phone, download the Uber app, or look at driving schools.
Ashton local route updates
The 331 and 333 routes hark back to Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s 1 and 3 routes. Apart from frequency changes, the Hurst and Smallshaw circulars have seen little change to their route. From the 01 September, they will form part of the 336 and 337 Hurst Super Circular routes. From Hurst Cross, they will no longer serve Queens Road, which is covered by the 231 route.
The 336 and 337 routes will also be a partial replacement for the 38 and 39 routes. The numbering of First Greater Manchester’s routes harks back to Pennine Blue’s operation, where at one point some journeys continued to Haughton Green. The higher section of King’s Road, up to Hazelhurst will be added to the new routes. Thereafter it will eschew Queens Road and Palace Road in favour of Rose Hill Road and Mossley Road. With this change, it is closer to Tameside Hospital than its predecessor (well, a shorter walk away).
As for the 393, this will form part of Stott’s Tours’ 396 service. Cutting out part of Turner Lane and Lordsfield Avenue, it will take a detour via King’s Road, Rowley Street, Smallshaw Lane and Cranbourne Road before reaching Vicarage Road. We think Rowley Street could be a hail and ride section of the rejigged route. After Vicarage Road, it will continue along the 396’s present route to Newton Heath via Fitton Hill.
What, might you ask, is going to become of the 395 route? Well, the 395 route to Limehurst Farm will be withdrawn. The Limehurst Farm estate section of that route will be added to the 396. Which, if you happen to live on the estate and support Ashton United, could be a useful link to seeing the Robins in action.
The evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services are likely to follow the same pattern, though with some changes. Firstly, the Sunday and Bank Holiday only 338 route from Crowhill to Ashton and Waterloo will be withdrawn. The 339 service will be its partial replacement in Crowhill. As for its route in Waterloo, that is covered by the 396. Which, from the 01 September, will be running seven days a week between Ashton-under-Lyne and Limehurst Farm.
The new 336 and 337 routes will run every half hour in the daytime and once hourly on evenings, Bank Holidays and Sundays. During the daytime, they will be in the capable hands of Stagecoach Manchester’s Ashton Depot, where they will complement the 231. On the downside, Whiteacre Road will become a Bus Free Zone as will Ladbrooke Road and Curzon Road.
The 231’s brother, the 232, will also be seeing changes: this time with a pithier direct route to Hartshead via Queen’s Road and Lees Road, before reaching the Broadoak Hotel via St. Alban’s Avenue.
The shape of Ashton’s new local routes
- 232: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hurst – Hartshead – Broadoak (MCT Travel – evenings only)
- 336: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hazelhurst – Hurst – Smallshaw Circular (Stagecoach Manchester/MCT Travel);
- 337: Ashton-under-Lyne – Smallshaw – Hurst – Hazelhurst Circular (Stagecoach Manchester/MCT Travel);
- 339: Ashton-under-Lyne – Crowhill (MCT Travel – daytime only);
- 396: Ashton-under-Lyne – Smallshaw – Hurst – Limehurst Farm – Fitton Hill – Failsworth – Newton Heath (Stott’s Tours/MCT Travel – evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys terminate at Limehurst Farm estate).
Stalybridge services slashed
Whereas FirstGroup’s retreat from Ashton-under-Lyne’s local services meant a radical overhaul, we could be less charitable about the changes affecting Stalybridge passengers.
Apart from being one of the six routes from FirstGroup’s Tamexit, the 389 route is set to be curtailed. At this moment, First Greater Manchester’s journeys terminate at Hyde bus station, whereas MCT Travel’s journeys continue all the way to Gee Cross. From the 02 September, Stagecoach Manchester will be taking over the route after a ten-year gap. If you think they are going to restore its link with Stockport or Marple, think again.
The new version of 389 route will run from Ashton-under-Lyne to Dukinfield as per its present route up to Fir Tree Lane. Thereafter, it will continue to Lyne Edge Road and Yew Tree Lane. Then it will return to Ashton-under-Lyne via Cheetham Hill Road. As a single clockwise loop.
Where does this leave the elderly passenger wishing to go up Yew Tree Lane from the Moravian Church? Stranded, unless s/he books a taxi. What about a nice trip to Hyde Park from the same spot? Forget it: catch a 346 and alight near Hyde Police Station. Or walk to Birch Lane and get a 343 to Flowery Field station. Then, walk along the path that leads to Hyde Park and hope nothing awful happens to you along the way.
In addition to substantially increasing the Yew Tree estate resident’s commuting time to Hyde town centre, Stalybridge loses a direct link with Hyde. After the last 343 bus leaves Stalybridge at 1845, the fastest way of getting to Hyde would be in a taxi. Or a Northern train to Ashton-under-Lyne then a 330. On public transport, a simple 15 – 20 minute journey on a single bus could mean an unnecessarily complex one with a change at Ashton (which alone is enough to put off the most ardent of ‘Bridgeites).
If you think MCT Travel’s evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys may fill the gap, think again. They too will be following suit. If there’s ever a case for restoring the 343’s evening journeys, the changes imposed on the 389 route are a clear example!
As for the other savage cut to Stalybridge’s bus services, the 236 will be losing its Sunday service. Therefore, on Sundays and Bank Holidays, a section between Dinting Vale Industrial Estate and The Gun Inn (via Woolley Bridge) will be a Bus Free Zone.
As well as changes to the 236 route’s Sunday and Bank Holiday timetable, the 236 and 237 routes will revert to their non-summertime timetable. On South Pennine Community Transport’s 351 route to Holmfirth via Holme Moss, there will be minor timetable changes to its Saturday journeys.
From the 01 September, the following services will revert to their non-summertime timetables:
- 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).
It is fair to say that the bones are now being cut. There is practically no fat or gristle left in Tameside’s bus network, which leaves enough space for expansion under a franchised system. If we chose to use medical allegories, our bus network is like Shane MacGowan’s mouth before he had dental implants.
We eagerly await the results and criticism of Ashton’s remodelled circular and radial routes. Could Stagecoach Manchester’s new broom be a vast improvement on the woes faced by passengers who have used FirstGroup’s routes? Since FirstGroup decided to review its activities in Greater Manchester, their retreat has been met by many people with relief and ecstasy. Some Oldhamers have been clamouring for them to jump ship.
I would be surprised if the curtailment of the 389 service doesn’t attract a shedload of complaints. Stagecoach and MCT may be blamed, but I would reserve your ire for the predecessors who have ran the service down beforehand. In the space of 15 years, Yew Tree Estate has gone from having four buses an hour to Stalybridge to two an hour (and once hourly at evenings). As for Stalybridge to Hyde buses in the same period, from seven per hour to three per hour. After 7pm, once an hour.
From the 01 September, only two buses per hour from Stalybridge to Hyde and nothing after 7pm. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, every two hours. We are talking about linking three towns with an estimated population of 80,000 (or 70,000 on the 387 via Mottram) with a bus service that is inadequate for Lincolnshire standards. For Greater Manchester this is beyond redemption and, at worst, scandalous. Have you tried getting a train from Stalybridge to Hyde? You need to change at Manchester Piccadilly!
As for First Greater Manchester’s remaining routes in Tameside, don’t be surprised to see a few more changes in the next year or so. Perhaps I need something more substantial than 60cwt of microwaveable popcorn.
S.V., 06 August 2019.