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.

Other changes

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.

Where next?

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.

22 thoughts on “Oldham and Saddleworth Bus Service Changes, 27 October 2019

  1. Hello, I live in an area on a hill and I’m middle aged but would not want to walk the 10 minutes down, and especially uphill in bad weather, and we have had a hell of a lot of that of late! Even in hot weather I’d not want that walk, crikey I’d be passing out walking uphill in 26 degree heat with no breeze so even if your fit, it’s not on that bus companies expect people to walk on hills regardless of the weather conditions. They don’t seem to realise that if you spend 10 minutes in a heavy shower, your soaked to the skin for the day whilst trying to dry off at work somehow! Who wants that? Who wants to slide into the road downhill on ice? Who wants to spend 10 minutes in minus temperatures with an equally chilly wind in your face? It’s all good and well they saying ‘oh your only a short walk away’ but we aren’t exactly blessed with comfortable weather all year round!

    Regarding the 184, the times are now up on the Metro web page and it looks like it’ll be ran from Oldham to roughly similar times as to now, especially from Huddersfield. Can’t remember the exact times but the first bus from Oldham is early, getting into Huddersfield for something like 6.30ish, the last bus from Huddersfield is something like half 7. I’ve been told that the 184 will connect with the 84 at either Uppermill or Oldham, personally I’ve found changing for the 83 at Oldham quicker than continuing to Manchester on the 184 as it’s more direct. Hopefully this connection between 184 and 83 will continue. Now that the 180 has reduced to hourly, I can see it lose custom, so I still reckon that they’ll merge the 180 and 184 into one route to make both more sustainable although I can see the 184 still being popular if it’s timed in front of the 84 it’s supposed to connect with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i would have though 184 would go to Huddersfield depot talking of which Transdev have school trips on the 184 service i think it is time firms like this and go north west took on firstbus on these routes


    1. Hi Michael,

      There has been some interesting movements with Transdev vehicles. In Rochdale (which I shall make the subject of a special bus changes article), some services are transferring from Rosso to Burnley and Pendle registrations making for a sideways swap. A while back, Transdev have considered renumbering their local routes under R1, R2, R3, R4, etc (and B1, B2, etc for some Bury routes).

      It would be interesting to see if Go Ahead Group, Rotala, Stagecoach, National Express and so on are eyeing FirstGroup’s Oldham routes. From what I have read, the franchising process will take place over a two-year period in three phases with Greater Manchester split into three areas.




  3. It feels as though what was once a huge player in the Greater Manchester bus scene, FirstGroup in Manchester now feel almost like a smaller operator localized to Oldham/Rochdaleish areas only operating basic local routes.

    We’ve been told by First that essentially the changes are to increase service punctuality and simplify some of the routes.

    I’m actually a tad surprised that the new 84 isn’t an Uppermill/Grotton-Oldham only route either as it seems as though that’s the run of the mill for all other Manchester bound services.

    Having reviewed the new 82/83 timetable which is live on TFGM website I can confirm it just looks nice and plain, simple and ‘unfussy’, and I can imagine it will give Sholver a very stable and reliable bus service to Oldham with easy connections from there to Manchester.

    With the 84/184 though (specifically the 84) it still looks something of a complicated affair with obviously 2 different terminus’s and all buses running all the way to Manchester which I don’t think will improve punctuality and reliability in Saddleworth.

    Regarding 81 in Derker I am not sure if that’s been finalized just yet –

    But as for 180 in Greenfield it no doubt is a huge cut and it seems a little harsh on the Yorkshire village. The fact that in the evening, what was a service on the 180 is now going to Uppermill instead on an 84 to give Uppermill a 30 minute frequency in the evening does seem a bit odd to me – i say that as an Uppermill resident, we don’t really need 2 buses per hour in the evening – Greenfield can more than welcome have 1 of them!

    Leeds – in terms of the 184 connecting with the 83 at Oldham, I would have thought this is natural by default, considering the 83 operates every 10 minutes or better from Oldham-Manchester.


    1. Hi Forgotten Tunnel,

      For the time being, it seems that the only Manchester to Derker 81s could be a few AM peak journeys. The cuts facing Greenfield passengers are beyond dreadful. Apart from the lack of evening, Bank Holiday and Sunday 180s, its links with south western parts of the Oldham Council boundary are undermined. Another concern I would have (if I lived in Greenfield) is if my 350 connections would link up with the 184s in Uppermill. Furthermore, how many people needing to travel to Lees on a Friday night fancy changing outside The Commercial given Uppermill’s nightlife?

      Personally, I would retain the 184 as an Huddersfield/Uppermill – Manchester route and leave the 180’s present timetable unchanged. Like yourself, I would have the part route journeys from Grotton to Manchester running to Oldham, though with two differences: a change of terminus to Hollinwood (Metrolink Stop) and a change of number to 427. I think that the 180 should be augmented with part route journeys between Greenfield and Limeside (The Lime Green Line anyone?). This could absorb part of the present 183 via Coppice and either be renumbered 429 or retain its 183 number.

      As for the new 426, I think an extension to the Royal Oldham Hospital should be considered, with its 20 minute frequency (30 minutes on Sundays). Or, the new 426 could be a resurrected 421 route via Werneth, Chadderton and Moston [Gardeners Arms]. The upgraded and rejigged 425 came as a little surprise for me. I suppose it compensates for the loss of the 408 along Abbey Hills Road.

      Needless to say, I shall be keeping my eyes open on subsequent changes. With the talk of franchising in the air, I have stocked up on the ALDI popcorn (and a few jellies from Sweet Deals a 409 stop away in Royton).




  4. Thanks for the reply Stuart

    In terms of the numbers 429 and 427 I’m not sure if the individuals making these changes would think to bring in those numbers these days as 2004 when they were last used is a long long time ago now and it seems the order of the day is to give Oldham’s flagship routes numbers in the 80s. Half of bus users on the 184 probably don’t even remember the 427 days anymore..

    You’d probably disagree with me but what I’m trying to say is I would be happy with Uppermill’s 84s/184s to run to Oldham only as I think it’d increase reliability and stability of them showing up on time.. but I could be wrong!

    If they were ever going to bring back the 427 from Grotton or 429, for good measure I’d love to see the 431 too to give Diggle and Dobcross village a dedicated service to Oldham. But that really is going back a while. 33 years to the day almost. xD

    Saddleworth-Manchester buses on the 10, 14, 180, 184, 427 and 429 have a long and interesting history but I think at the moment they are at something of a low in terms of what we’ve seen over the years.


    1. Hello again, Forgotten Tunnel.

      My memories of the 427 were as a local service from Grotton to Hollinwood (outside Housing Units). For a time, Stott’s Tours competed with First offering ultra low fares. They usually had ex-Merseybus Dennis Dominators and ex-South Yorkshire PTE Alexander bodied Leyland Atlanteans. I do have vague memories of its extension to Diggle.

      With your line on the 84/184, I think a modal switch between 84/184 and 83/tram will be more straightforward once ticketing has been rationalised. Under a franchised system, switching between buses and trams from, say Greenfield to Newton Heath, will be seamless with one ticket, especially for casual passengers instead of season ticket holders.

      I understand that some people (other than bus anoraks like ourselves) wouldn’t give too much of a stuff about route numbers and renumbering. I cannot get to grips with ‘339’ being used for the Crowhill Circular (to me, the 339 is the Dukinfield Circular alongside the 340 – which forms part of today’s 41 route). My reason for sticking with the 400s for local routes and 180s for Manchester is ease of use. I suppose this explains why South Pennine CT renumbered the X50 as the 357 – which fits in with many Ashton – Saddleworth routes.

      Apart from the introduction of the 356 route, we are at a low. All the more so as skipstopageddon ruined Greenfield’s local train services with Mossley and Ashton-under-Lyne. Of recent developments, I think 2004’s extension of some 350s to Oldham was a fantastic move. Even if it did mean changing the structure of the original 82 (which used to terminate at Waterhead), 183 and 184 routes.




  5. Hi Stuart,

    I consider the 350 too to be a very important route through our area.
    Am I right in saying that prior to 2004 – there was a somewhat finicky and poor service from Uppermill/Greenfield to Ashton?

    I thought the 350 was similar in service to the old 355 (certainly the Uppermill-Oldham section anyway) but were the frequencies different maybe.


    1. Hello again, Forgotten Tunnel,

      You are right about the pre-October 2004 state of Ashton – Saddleworth routes and you did need a photographic memory to work out its permutations. Not least the plethora of operators. Most of my recollections reflect the Saddleworth bus scene in 1996.

      Firstly, there was the 352 which only ran on weekdays (though it did have a Saturday service early in its life). That reached Denshaw along the same way as the 350 route up to Greenfield [Wellington Mills]. Then it followed what is part of today’s version of the 355 via Uppermill and Denshaw through Dobcross and Delph. This offered a two-hourly service. Glossopdale Bus Company operated the journeys till its acquisition by Stagecoach in 1999.

      The 353 used to be every 70 minutes and is more or less similar to today’s route operated by Nexus Move. With the 70 minute frequency, its route was split in Roughtown with buses every 140 minutes via Carrhill Lane and some every 140 minutes via Stockport Road. On Saturdays, its service was hourly and all journeys terminated at Uppermill. In 1996, Dennis’ Coaches operated the route. By 1997, Universal Buses before they fell into the hands of Souter and Gloag’s conglomerate in 1999.

      Just before deregulation, the 353 was just a handful of peak hour journeys from Ashton to Denshaw. Before November 1985, 353s operated every two hours. Much of the modern-day changes have been due to Dennis’ Coaches taking on the route as a GMPTE tendered service following the withdrawal of their 341s and 342s that served Ashton’s first ASDA store on Langham Street.

      The 354 only used to have three return journeys to Dobcross with one return journey to and from Denshaw. That was back in 1996 when JP Executive Travel operated the route.

      As for the previous 355, that used to follow the 353 and 354 up to Bottom Mossley. Thereafter it reached Greenfield via Roaches Lock (served by today’s 343 and 354 routes) and, from The George onwards, followed today’s 350 route. The frequency was every two hours: back in 1996, GM Buses North and First Manchester used to put its double deckers on that route. Bee Line operated some early evening journeys.

      Before deregulation, from 1980 to 1986, Greater Manchester Transport’s 355s went via Stockport Road and approached Greenfield via Chew Valley Road. They didn’t even serve Manchester Road like today’s 350 route.

      As for evening journeys between Ashton and Saddleworth, they (putting it bluntly) didn’t exist before October 2004 due to previous cuts. At one time, you couldn’t get a 355 after 7pm on Sundays, and the 353 only had four return journeys every two hours on that day. Long live the 350!




  6. the 352 started with checkmate mini coaches first as for old 355 it was best when the leyland nationals ran on it i hope firms like nexus get more work and no more stagecoach sevices


  7. I personally think the best ever timetable we had for Saddleworth services to Manchester was the one of October 2004 – October 2012

    2 buses an hour to Greenfield (Clarence Hotel) – 180
    1 bus an hour to Huddersfield, 1 bus an hour to Diggle, 2 buses an hour to Uppermill – 184

    This gave Greenfield Station westwards a frequency of 6 buses an hour to Oldham and Manchester, 1 every 10 minutes

    The one thing I’ve never been a fan of, and it really is very specific to the 184, we’ve seen it for many years, is having one number (184) but have buses terminating in all sorts of different places along the route. Just makes it confusing and makes the timetable look a mess.

    Here’s what they should do with the latest changes – the 4 buses an hour that terminate at Grotton – give it the 427 (or anything that is different to the Uppermill services) and maybe even work it as a Hollinwood-Grotton service
    2 buses an hour to Uppermill on the 84 or 184
    1 bus an hour to Huddersfield on the 84 or 184 (or even the 365 – give it some decent proper branding and advertise and sell it as its own cross-boundary route).

    As someone mentioned its unlikely First or whoever it is will go back to service number of yesteryear but the latest timetable for the 84/180/184 is just a complicated mess in my opinion.

    I actually think the timetabling in 1986/1996 was 100x better than these days.. hourly 180s/184 express services
    More frequent all stopping 427s/429s one of which ran to Diggle


  8. It seems hard to believe Sholver has had its service split after countless years of buses direct to Manchester
    Same goes for Greenfield. End of an era….

    The new 84/184 timetable still looks a little confusing and messy in places, especially for Uppermill… 3 buses an hour all of which are grouped together in a 30 minute period

    Always stood by my point that services which terminate in different places e.g. 84/184 deserve different numbers for each one .. e.g. Manchester – Grotton should be 427 only, Manchester – Uppermill should be 184 only (or 427) and Oldham-Huddersfield something different

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Roughtown22,

      My word, that Uppermill timetable doesn’t seem so good now with a 30 minute gap after three buses per hour in another 30 minute period. Anyone with half a brain would plan a three buses per hour timetable with buses every 20 minutes throughout the hour.

      I agree with your line on the renumbering with 427 for Grotton – Manchester journeys. With the more direct Greenfield – Oldham service cut to terminate at Oldham, I would reintroduce the 429 number. Then, I would reinstate the 180 in its original form with two buses per hour to Oldham and a once hourly, seven days a week link to Piccadilly Gardens. (When you do your GMCA consultation, please stress a case for the 180’s restoration as a Manchester – Greenfield route).

      As for the 184 from Oldham to Huddersfield, reinstating its 365 number wouldn’t be a bad idea for all journeys that cross the Pennines.




  9. stuart agreed about 365 would be better to put it back to old route then send one of the 84s to Diggle and turnround the good old days of Yorkshire rider gm buses north Express buses


  10. looks like Oldham are getting older buses in now they have 69143/71/224 of lease and never used at Diamond and ex York 32262 a 52 reg B7 double deck


  11. Hello Stuart, what would be the best way of getting from Huddersfield to Stockport by bus, would it be via Manchester or via Ashton? I’m taking a trip that way in a week (Saturday) and would ideally like the more realistic way rather than relying on a journey planner that doesn’t account for typical traffic, many thanks.


    1. Hi Leeds,

      Before the 27 October (and on Sundays and Bank Holidays after the changes), the 184 down to Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] then the 192 to Stockport. Please note that the 192 is a Stagecoach Manchester route (System One Any Bus Day Saver ticket could be a must).

      After the 27 October (Sundays and Bank Holidays excepted), 184 to Oldham, 409 to Ashton-under-Lyne, and the 330 to Stockport. Failing that, you could change from the 184 to an 83 at Oldham bus station for Piccadilly Gardens, then transfer to the stand for Stagecoach’s 192 route.

      Before the changes, and on Sundays and Bank Holidays after the changes take effect, going via Manchester is your best bet. On weekdays and Saturdays, I would consider going via Ashton-under-Lyne as the 330 route gets you closer to the centre of Stockport than the 192 (alighting at Wellington Road South).




  12. Hi Stuart, Many thanks for the information, would changing at Uppermill for a 350 to Ashton rather than changing at Oldham be anything quicker? With the way things go with traffic in Manchester, especially in the run up to Xmas, I’m defo going via Ashton lol.


    1. Hi Leeds,

      In favour of going via Ashton-under-Lyne, I get your point. If you are changing in Uppermill and reaching Stockport via Ashton, consider the 353 or 354 routes over the 350. Subject to your connections, the 353 and 354 routes (both every two hours, though combined to create an hourly link from Uppermill and Ashton) are more direct than the 350 route.

      From Uppermill, I would purchase your System One Any Bus Day Saver ticket from there (whether on the 350, 353 or 354). I would say going via Uppermill and Ashton might be a little faster. On the other hand, you could work it out so you could have dinner in Uppermill then continue to Stockport via Ashton-under-Lyne.

      Another daft way: 314 from Huddersfield to Holmfirth; 352 from Holmfirth to Greenfield; 350 or 354 to Ashton-under-Lyne; and the 330 to Stockport. Not the quickest route, but probably the most scenic!

      Bye for now,



  13. Hello Stuart, thanks for your suggestions, I’ve done a bit of research and the latter suggestion may not be as daft as it seems as the connections from a 354 to the 352 heading back to Huddersfield are really good, they give around 10 minutes connection time, the only thing is I’d have to set off from Stockport earlier than planned lol. Connections from a 352 into the 353/4 is however a non started, it’d connect better with the 350. 184s into the 350 are probably the most realistic as they allow 20 minutes just in case the 184 is a bit late. Changing from a 354 into a 184 is also possible, however it’s something like 5 minutes which is a bit tight. As for changing from a 350 to a 184, really tight at 3 minutes! Many thanks once again as this has helped.


  14. Have any of you guys looked at the 81 bus timetable? It is an absolute mess. Aside from the route being only half hourly, there is a MASSIVE gap in evening journeys. On Monday to Saturday, if you miss an 81 from Oldham at 6pm, you will have to wait nearly 3 hours for the next trip which will be operated by Stagecoach. This gap is absolutely unacceptable and it just puts people off from using the bus. I am appalled and angered by the fact that TFGM haven’t stepped in to replace these journeys. There seems to be a bit of things like this going one with certain routes throughout Greater Manchester having large gaps in between routes in early evening (the 396 has a gap of two hours on Saturdays between 4-6pm, the 8 and 34 buses from Leigh have a 90 minute gaps in between the end of the commercial trips and start of the subsidised ones).

    I can honestly say that if bus transport in Manchester is going to be back in the public control, I am absolutely up for it. These cuts have gone on long enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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