The latest, more permanent (?) service charges in Tameside and Glossop
- Demise of MCT Travel operations sees Stagecoach gains;
- Withdrawal of 387 route sees severance of north-south connections with Stalybridge – and direct route with Hattersley;
- Super-size 356 given go-ahead.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be forgiven for thinking “Not again” with timetable changes being on a near-weekly basis. This round-up looks at the more lasting service changes that would affect Tameside’s bus users for the foreseeable future.
Please note 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 service changes
Under more normal circumstances, the HCT Group’s retreat might have mustered more column inches. With more people being furloughed, working from home, or in self-isolation, Sunday’s service changes wouldn’t have the same effect as they would have done on a typical weekday.
Over the last week, MCT Travel has scaled down the timetables of each route. This has seen the likes of the 41, 217 and 419 being Associate Members of The Two Hour Club.
Most of MCT Travel’s routes have been taken on by Stagecoach Manchester and Diamond Bus North West. In Tameside it is more the former, bar two exceptions.
One of the exceptions is Stott’s Tours. They will take over the 419 from Ashton-under-Lyne to Middleton via Chadderton. Greater Manchester’s other 41 route (to Tennyson Avenue) will become a Stott’s route. On Monday to Saturday daytimes, it will run as the 41, exactly as it did nine years ago.
On the evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays, it will be operated by Stagecoach Greater Manchester as the 341. (Or the 41A as Stagecoach’s publicity otherwise states). Stagecoach’s journeys – in normal circumstances of course – would leave five minutes later than the times detailed in MCT Travel’s timetable. Therefore, the last bus to Dukinfield would depart at 2335. Tameside could have two 341s, with the evening and Sunday one going nowhere near Glossop!
Two more local routes will become Stott’s Tours ones. The Crowhill Circular from Ashton-under-Lyne (339) and the 335 from Ashton to Denton, via Audenshaw.
The other beneficiary of MCT Travel’s departure is Nexus Move. From Sunday, four Saddleworth routes will become one single super-sized bus route from Oldham to Ashton-under-Lyne. The newly expanded Saddleworth Rambler (356) will take in Stott’s 407 route, MCT Travel’s Sunday and Bank Holiday only 355 route, and Nexus Move’s 353 and 354 routes.
The new-look 356 route will go from Oldham to Ashton-under-Lyne via Denshaw, then Delph, Dobcross, Diggle, Uppermill, Greenfield, Roughtown, Mossley, Heyrod, and Stalybridge. Some journeys will continue via Carrhill Lane. As for passengers between Bottom Mossley, Roaches Lock and Chew Valley Road, there is no direct replacement left by the 354’s demise. A journey from Mossley station to Chew Valley Road will require a change of bus at Hey Farm (catch the 343 then change for a 350 bus).
As for Diamond Bus North West, they will be making their Tameside debut with the 217 route to Piccadilly Gardens and the 7 from Ashton to Stockport (via Reddish). The company, owned by Rotala, have expanded in South Manchester and Salford through winning tendered routes. A year ago, Rotala added Bolton to its portfolio – by means of purchasing FirstGroup’s Weston Street depot.
In addition to Diamond Bus North West’s operation of the 217 route, there will be a change of route in Beswick. Its revised route will take in Cambrian Street, Darley Street, Albert Street, and Grey Mare Lane. In part, this makes amends for the five-year gap left by the loss of the 188 route.
Other MCT Travel to Stagecoach transfers:
- 237: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Mottram-in-Longdendale – Tintwistle – Hadfield – Glossop (now a full time Stagecoach route);
- 336: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hartshead Circular (now a full time Stagecoach route);
- 337: Ashton-under-Lyne – Hartshead Circular (now a full time Stagecoach route);
- 345: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Denton [Pendle Road] (now a full time Stagecoach route);
- 389: Ashton-under-Lyne – Tameside Hospital – Stalybridge – Dukinfield [Yew Tree] (now a full time Stagecoach route);
- 396: Ashton-under-Lyne – Limehurst Farm – Fitton Hill – Failsworth – Newton Heath (evening, Bank Holiday and Sunday journeys to Limehurst Farm Estate will be operated by Stagecoach).
Apart from the 355’s absorption by the new-look 356 route, there is only one soon-to-be-former MCT Travel route that will be withdrawn. That of the 387 route from Ashton-under-Lyne to Hyde (via Hattersley and Stalybridge). Its withdrawal means Stalybridge is down to one Hyde bus per hour. Way down on four per hour this time last year. A far cry from when the 4/4A routes alone offered three to four buses per hour in the early 1970s.
Till this Saturday, the 387 offered a direct link from Hattersley to Tameside Hospital without needing to change buses in Ashton. Its link with the hospital was added in 2005, when it was Stagecoach Manchester’s 238 route. Before then, it formed part of a Mottram Rise extension of the 201, 216 and 219 routes.
The route has previously been under threat more than once. Firstly when SpeedwellBus stepped in. Then FirstGroup, following the demise of SpeedwellBus in 2012. After First Greater Manchester closed Dukinfield garage, MCT Travel stepped in to save the 387.
Furthermore, its demise means part of Godley will be a Bus Free Zone. A journey from Hattersley to Stalybridge will either mean changing at Hyde for a 343 or a taxi to Back Moor for a 236 or 237. As for getting to Tameside Hospital, that would be three buses: a 201, followed by the 343 and a 389. From a Stalybridge point of view, there will no longer be a direct route from Ridge Hill to Bower Fold and Mottram Rise.
Other service changes
Apart from the temporary timetables (due to COVID-19) every single one of Tameside’s bus service changes have been affected by the demise of MCT Travel. The 343 is no exception to this rule with changes to its route along its Oldham section.
Owing to the withdrawal of the 418 (Oldham – Chadderton – Lees Circular) route, there will be a change of route between Grotton and Oldham. From Mumps Bridge, Stott’s Tours’ journeys will go via Greenacres, Austerlands and Springhead, taking in the easterly section of the soon-to-be-defunct 418 route via Cooper Street.
As far as we know, this wont affect Stagecoach Greater Manchester’s two-hourly Sunday and Bank Holiday service which will continue to serve Roundthorn and Lees. What is definite is that the 340 route, a southbound Oldham to Hyde weekday journey will be withdrawn and replaced by another 343 journey. On that note we should renumber Tameside’s 41 route as the 340.
If I knew what might happen next, my name would be Gypsy Blair Pendolino, the centrist train-loving clairvoyant.
In all seriousness, we honestly don’t know. The next set of service changes should be due by the end of July this year. Typically, we would see services being retimed to take advantage of lighter traffic levels due to the summer holidays. Yet, in the last six weeks, we have seen road traffic levels falling to figures last seen in the 1950s. Back when 650 million bus journeys were made in what is now Greater Manchester.
With the pandemic, some government funding has been handed to bus operators across the UK. This to mitigate a drastic loss in patronage and a massive income drop. In the last month, many passengers have been furloughed, had to work from home, or have had to self-isolate. For key workers who need to use public transport, services have been temporarily cut.
Could the September 2019 definition of normality be salient in a post-Coronavirus society? Will we be catching buses, trams and trains to work again, or will working from home catch on to a point where road traffic levels are well below last year’s levels? All of the aforementioned goes beyond the fine detail of running a bus service from Ashton-under-Lyne to Crowhill.
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, Tameside Hospital or your local supermarket for essential goods.
S.V., 17 April 2020.