A look at the more lasting changes that will affect Oldham and Saddleworth bus passengers
Though Oldham and Saddleworth passengers weren’t as badly affected by MCT Travel’s demise as those in Tameside, there are still a few significant changes. At the sharpest end of these changes will be Royton passengers, particularly with the 402 and 412 routes.
It is also worth noting that the following changes will be effective from the 19 April, in spite of lockdown. Therefore temporary timetables will be in operation, even with newly tendered routes.
MCT Travel related service changes
This Sunday, eight Oldham and Saddleworth routes will be merged or partially merged into two longer routes. In Royton, the 402 will be expanded to cover the Chadderton Hall Park – Oldham section of the 412 route. As for the 410 and 411 Oldham Circular routes, both services will be withdrawn.
Its section between Oldham and Derker will be replaced by the new-look 402. Stott’s Tours will be the new operator. With First Greater Manchester discontinuing the Oldham to Derker section of the 81 route (which in 2013 had a 20-minute frequency between the two points), this will be the district’s only bus route.
They too will also be running the 403 from Buckstones to Oldham (via Heyside). One change will see the discontinuation of its Scarr Lane and Linney Lane section. Another change will see 403s on Turf Lane for Dr. Kershaw’s Hospice, which has historically been served by the 418. From Sunday, that service will be withdrawn and covered by two Stott’s routes: the 403 and the 343.
The 408, in its slimline form between Buckstones and Oldham, will also change hands. This time from MCT Travel to the similarly svelte post-2019 version of First Greater Manchester. In its fullest form, the 408 has historically been a First route from Buckstones to Stalybridge. Before SELNEC was formed in 1969, it was SHMD’s 8 route from Stalybridge to Oldham. Whether the Stalybridge link will be reinstated remains to be seen, though we think there’s more chance of Harry Kane making a move to Bower Fold
Stott’s journeys on the 343 route will take in Greenacres, Austerlands and Springhead, via Cooper Street. This change does not affect Stagecoach Greater Manchester’s Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys. Due to the latest change in the 343 route, the solitary southbound journey on the 340 has been discontinued and replaced by another journey on the 343.
In Chadderton, Stott’s Tours has also taken over from MCT Travel on the 419 route. Over in Hollinwood, its sister route, the 151 to Mandley Park has seen a change of route. This time with the loss of its Hollinwood to Failsworth section.
Saddleworth service changes
Apart from the good people of Royton and High Crompton, MCT Travel’s exit from the bus scene will have a significant impact for Saddleworth folk.
As stated in our last look at Oldham and Saddleworth bus service changes, there were plans to expand the Saddleworth Rambler route into a super-sized Ashton-under-Lyne to Oldham service. From Sunday, the 407, 353, 354 and 355 routes will be withdrawn and replaced by a newly expanded 356 route.
From Oldham to Denshaw it will follow Stott’s route via Moorside and Grains Bar. Then it will follow the previous version of the Saddleworth Rambler route from Denshaw to Uppermill (via Delph, Dobcross and Diggle). South of The Commercial Hotel it will continue to serve Queensway (like the 353 to 355 routes did beforehand) and TESCO’s Greenfield store. With this change, transferring from bus to train will be less seamless than on the original Rambler route.
Thereafter, it will follow the 353 route in its entirety via Shaw Hall Bank Road, Roughtown, Mossley, Heyrod and Stalybridge before finishing in Ashton-under-Lyne. With the rest of Greenfield served by the 350, the section hitherto served by the 354 to Bottom Mossley has not been replaced. On the down side, this means a change of bus for a journey from The Clarence Hotel to The Tollemache. Thankfully, the 354’s route between The Royal George and The Britannia is covered by the 343.
On the plus side, Roughtown gets a much-improved service – the best since 1996 when Dennis’ Coaches’ 353 had an hourly Saturday service (every 70 – 90 minutes on weekdays at the time). There will also be no change in operator, unless your regular bus was the 407. Nexus Move will be running the service with an hourly daytime frequency on weekdays and Saturdays. On Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime, every two hours between Denshaw and Ashton, and hourly between Denshaw and Oldham.
From Sunday there will be a new operator on the 415 route. Taking over from Stagecoach Greater Manchester will be Go North West. There will also be a slight change of route in Buckstones for the 435 from Rochdale. Northbound journeys will run via Scarr Lane and Linney Lane before heading to Rochdale Interchange.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, a few proposed changes to First Greater Manchester routes have been reviewed. These would have seen the 181‘s metamorphosis from trunk route to an hourly local service pootling around Shaw and Royton. The proposed withdrawal of the 58 route is still going ahead but its partial replacement, the 57, is on hold. The 182 – slated for a 25% – 33.3% cut in its daytime frequency – is operating a Sunday service at this time of writing. Along its full route from Manchester to Rochdale.
With the pandemic creating uncertainty among bus operators and passengers, one wonders about the future of our bus network in a post-Coronavirus world. Will we be working from home even more or will we return to how things were at the start of this year?
In the last month, traffic flows have fallen to 1950s levels. Back when you could get a maroon and cream bus to the newly-built estate in Derker. There has been reports of bus patronage falling by 80% which reflects the new way of working we see today. That of social distancing by standing two metres apart in the superstore queue. An era where meetings are conducted over laptops instead of boardroom tables.
The next bus service changes, pencilled in for the end of July, will see the usual summertime tweaks. If the lockdown continues past May or June, the difference will be far from discernible. Well, unless our traffic hot spots become the driveway to Dovestones Reservoir, Alexandra Park or Spindles Shopping Centre.
If you are a Key Worker that travels on public transport, we salute you. We also salute the key workers that take you to Piccadilly Gardens, Royal Oldham Hospital or your local supermarket for essential goods. Whatever you do this weekend and in the foreseeable future, stay safe.
S.V., 17 April 2020.