Saddleworth at sharp end of First service cuts
- Triple whammy of cuts for 180 route;
- 184 becomes Oldham – Huddersfield route with Sunday extension to Manchester;
- 425 route split and cut back.
Have First Greater Manchester saved its most severe service cuts for Halloween? If you live in Greenfield, get County Cars’ number added to your mobile phone quickly.
First Greater Manchester’s latest service changes will see the loss of direct routes to Manchester city centre. With these changes, passengers will be expected to change buses in Oldham. Alternatively, the blow could be softened by purchasing a Bus-Tram season ticket (changing at Mumps Bridge).
What is more severe with the latest changes is the severance of more localised bus links inside the Oldham Council boundary. For example with journeys from Greenfield to Lees, and Failsworth to Watersheddings.
Saddleworth services slashed
From the 27 October, the 350 service will be Greenfield’s only full time link with Oldham. How? Swingeing cuts are being made to the 180 route. Before deregulation, the 180 was a limited stop route alongside the 183 and 184 routes. For a while, the 429 offered a local all-stops companion. From Uppermill, the 427 route performed a similar service when some journeys were extended to Diggle [Old Station Turning].
From the aforementioned date, there will be no Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys on the 180 route. Not even a daytime two hourly service like the 343. The second cut entails its curtailment: all 180s will terminate at Oldham bus station. Apart from denying Saddleworth people a bus-based way into Manchester, they will also lose direct links to Hathershaw, Hollins, Hollinwood, Failsworth and Newton Heath.
The third one entails its frequency: slashed from half hourly during the daytime to once hourly. Therefore, on Sundays, Bank Holidays and journeys after 6pm, a bus trip to Lees requires changing at Uppermill. Apart from a massive increase in journey times, the 350 is run by a different company after 6pm: Stagecoach Manchester. Therefore, two sets of fares to remember and a need to purchase System One’s Any Bus tickets instead of FirstGroup’s own products for what would have been a simple trip. If ever there’s a case for extending the Metrolink from Mumps Bridge to The Clarence Hotel, this is it!
From Uppermill, its local journeys of the 184 route will be renumbered 84. There will be three buses an hour to Uppermill and a half hourly evening down to Manchester city centre. Buses will run every ten minutes in the daytime from Grotton to Manchester. Grotton’s evening service will be upgraded, albeit at the expense of the 180 route. Just to complicate things a little, some Sunday journeys (every two hours) will be extended to Huddersfield.
Whilst on the subject of Huddersfield buses, what might you ask is happening to the 184 route? There will still be a 184 route on weekdays and Saturdays – from Oldham to Huddersfield (going back to the Yorkshire Rider era 365). Therefore, Grotton will see seven buses an hour in the daytime (or eight if you count Stott’s Tours’ 343 route).
A cold shoulder for Sholver and dark days for Derker
Losing its direct link with Manchester for most of the week after the 27 October will be Sholver. Historically, buses were every seven minutes from there to Manchester city centre. Changes to the 83 route (evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays excepted) will see 83s terminating in Oldham. Instead, the 82 route will bridge that gap – albeit with a more modest 15 minute frequency.
If you live in Derker, you will have fared just as badly as your fellows in Greenfield. In fact, you would have fared worse as First will be pulling out of Derker. From the 27 October, there will be no daytime journeys of the 81 route. Therefore, wannabe bus users will either have to walk to Watersheddings for an 83 or walk down to the tram stop for the shortest of journeys. Or they could wait for MCT Travel’s 410/411 circular routes. If you only travel on Stagecoach Manchester’s evening journeys, there will be no changes to your route.
As a consequence, the new 81 route will only operate every half hour from Oldham to Manchester. A far cry from 2012 when the 81 route offered a ten-minute daytime frequency, absorbing part of the original 81 route, the 421 route up to Oldham, and Derker’s part of the 412 route.
A halt to Holts’ Mancunian links
Another Oldham estate that will be losing its Manchester buses is Holts Estate. In the last five years, it has been faithfully served by the 81A route via Lees, Greenacres, and Moston. From the 28 October, this will be replaced by the 80 route. This will maintain its predecessor’s half hourly daytime frequency, albeit with journeys terminating in Oldham.
There are no changes proposed for Stagecoach Manchester’s evening, Bank Holiday and Sunday journeys apart from a possible renumbering from 81A to 80.
If you travel from Holts Estate to Hathershaw, or Fitton Hill, there will be changes to your 425 route. The revised 425 route will be given a ten minute daytime frequency (and a 30 minute Sunday and Bank Holiday frequency). There is one catch: your 425s will be terminating in Oldham. The Oldham to Fitton Hill section will be served by the 426 route. This operate every twenty minutes with a half hourly Sunday frequency.
There will be no changes to Stagecoach Manchester’s journeys on the 425, which will continue to serve Holts Estate and Fitton Hill.
If you catch Stott’s Tours’ 396 route to Newton Heath or Ashton-under-Lyne from Fitton Hill, some changes will be made to its route in Ashton-under-Lyne. It has been proposed that its route in Hurst and Smallshaw will cover more of the area left unserved by FirstGroup’s withdrawals.
Minor retiming changes are planned for the 59 route from Manchester to Rushcroft. Passengers on the 409 route will see a small but significant upgrade. During shopping hours, there will 409s every nine minutes instead of the usual ten minute frequency.
If you live in Failsworth and Moston, Go North West will be making changes to the 52 route. Going against the tide of FirstGroup’s retreat, they will be introducing an evening and Sunday service. From Eccles, some journeys will be extended to cover the intu Trafford Centre.
Some observers have stated that FirstGroup’s latest changes are part of a bigger picture. With the 180 and 184 routes cut west of Oldham, could First Halifax, Calder Valley and Huddersfield step in? What odds would you get on South Pennine Community Transport taking over the 180 route with an extension to Holmfirth?
It seems that many of Oldham’s local routes have been curtailed for a possible sale of First Greater Manchester’s last remaining stronghold. Or at least the transfer of some routes to other operators, whether commercially run or tendered. Could MCT Travel or Stott’s Tours plump for the 80? Are the soon-to-be-curtailed 184/84, 81 and 83 routes candidates for future Go North West routes?
The one thing that would stop our game of the Bus Deregulation Edition of Risk is franchising, not least the degree of certainty that a franchised system would offer. Even integrated ticketing at more affordable prices would allow for transfer between buses and other modes would have softened the blow from First’s changes. Would a franchised system have left Derker’s residents out in the cold, if they are unable to walk to the tram stop (especially as Derker is hilly)?
Between now and the 27 October 2019, Transport for Greater Manchester’s public consultation on bus franchising will be opened on the 14 October 2019. If you are marooned in Moorside, down in Derker or stuck in Saddleworth, I strongly urge you to take part.
A walk to the tram stop from Barry Street may be fine in your thirties but once you reach your eighties, you’ll be yearning for a bus to take you there. Would you fancy walking down to the tram stop in your eighties if there’s no 81s, 82s, 83s or 80s? I wouldn’t. Could you see your granny doing that? Thought not. Then take part in Transport for Greater Manchester’s consultation to stop this from happening!
S.V., 10 October 2019.