Welcome restoration of Stalybridge to Hyde route

For regular readers used to seeing a separate Oldham and Saddleworth bulletin, this edition covers the Oldham, Tameside and Glossop areas due to the lack of changes in Oldham. Apart from one route that covers the Oldham and Tameside areas.

  • New 387 route bridges Stalyhill gap;
  • Daytime 41As replaced by rerouted 335 route;
  • 389s to serve Tennyson Avenue;
  • 419 withdrawn and replaced by rerouted 396;
  • New Manchester to Sheffield service launched.

Though most of this October’s round of service changes will affect passengers in the Wigan and Bolton area, there are some significant changes for Tameside and Oldham passengers. All of which affect tendered services operated by Stott’s Tours. Those hitherto operated by MCT Travel, prior to HCT Group’s departure from Greater Manchester.

In the last six months, TfGM have recast former MCT Travel tendered routes in Stockport, Manchester, Tameside and Oldham. This has seen the 217 being taken on by Diamond Bus North West and having a weekday and Saturday daytime extension to Wythenshawe Hospital. Over the summer months, this has seen the redrawing of route maps around Royton and Derker.

This time, four Tameside routes have been affected by the latest recasting to tendered routes. The slimline 389 to Yew Tree Estate will be serving Tennyson Avenue. At present, on a full time basis, Tennyson Avenue is served by the 41A in its Stagecoach and Stotts variants. From the 26 October, there will be no 41As on weekday and Saturday daytimes, thus meaning passengers would have to change buses at Cheetham Hill Road (for the 346).

If you wish to travel from Tennyson Avenue to Thorncliffe Avenue after the 25 October 2020, you would be looking at three buses for a 1.5 mile journey (the 389, 346 and a new version of the 335). With these changes, Dukinfield will no longer have a full time direct bus route between the top end of its town (Broadbent Fold) to the bottom end of the town (Thorncliffe Avenue). Apart from evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday 41As, there is only the peak hour 221 route. To mitigate this issue, there is a clear case for the restoration of the 221’s off-peak journeys. Also a dependable link between Dukinfield and Manchester city centre as a nifty fringe benefit.

If you think the 41A goes a bit around the world for your liking, there are some changes to the 335 that might be a great help. From Monday, Stott’s Tours’ 335 route will go a different way round Dukinfield. From Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange, our 335 bus will follow the 330 up to The Commercial before turning left onto Astley Street. Then, it will turn right onto Crescent Road, following the 346 up to Morrisons.

Thereafter, it will reach Boyd’s Walk via Birch Lane (following Stott’s other Dukinfield route, the 343 for a few yards). Then Armadale Road, Dewsnap Lane, and Thorncliffe Road. Instead of turning right (as the 41A does), it would turn left onto King Street and reach Globe Lane via White Bridge. The last time Globe Lane had a non-school bus route was around 35 years ago under Greater Manchester Transport! Then it would follow the present 335 route to Denton via Shepley.

On reaching Denton via Crown Point North, it would continue towards Hyde Road, Linden Road, Pendle Road and Town Lane. This would go in the reverse direction of the present-day 335. Thereafter, it would continue to Sainsburys (via Windmill Lane) before terminating at Dane Bank. In some way, shape or form, the newly rerouted 335 will partially replace the 41A, the 205’s Denton – Dane Bank link, and its ill-fated replacement (North Western/GB Coaches’ 305 route).

On the plus side, it improves Dukinfield’s bus links with Denton – especially at the end closest to The Albion Hotel. If you don’t mind the hourly daytime frequency, there’s no need to change at Ashton or Hyde for Crown Point North or the new-fangled Denton Wellness Centre. Expect to see Dukinfield’s remaining 41A journeys replaced by part route journeys of the 335 before long, presumably terminating outside Denton Morrisons. One cruel irony is that by restoring Dane Bank’s link with its own town centre, it severs Yew Tree Estate’s and Tennyson Avenue’s links from the centre of Dukinfield!

Stalyhill link restored

From the latest set of changes, we are surprised to see the return of the 387 route. Since April 2020, there has been no way of getting from Ridge Hill estate to Bower Fold and Hyde by bus. As of the 26 October, Stott’s Tours will be taking on the new route – Monday to Saturday daytimes and once hourly like MCT Travel’s route.

What is even more surprising is that Mottram Old Road will get its first buses since June 2011. Instead of using Mottram Road for most its route, it will take in Stocks Lane and Mottram Old Road (last served by SpeedwellBus’ 239 route). From Mottram-in-Longdendale, it would continue to Hyde via Hattersley, taking in Ashworth Lane, Clough End Road, Chapman Road, and Hattersley Road West. Then to Godley via Fields Farm Road, Hattersley Road East and Underwood Road before reaching Mottram Road (via Hattersley Road West). Unlike a previous version of the 387 route, Godley village at its Sheffield Road end will remain unserved.

As well as grappling with a shrinking budget, recent service changes have been made to reduce duplication with other tendered and commercial routes. On one hand this could mean the creation of new links in an inexpensive way. On the other hand, the lack of any duplication or duplicate sections reduces resilience along the wider network. If the bus stop is only served by a once hourly route, he/she has no alternative to fall back upon if the bus is missing or hideously late.

Oldham service changes

For passengers within Oldham Council boundaries, there is only one significant change. It is one that affects two bus routes that serve Hathershaw. The first part of the story sees the withdrawal of the 419 route. The second part of the story will see dramatic changes to the 396 route.

From the 26 October, the 396 will see a major change to its route north of Limehurst Farm Estate. From there, it will follow the 409 up to Hathershaw and reach Fitton Hill via Fir Tree Avenue and Keswick Avenue. Then it would return to Hathershaw via Honeywell Lane and Ashton Road. At present, the 396 continues to Newton Heath, via Hollins, Limeside and Failsworth. Instead, it would turn right at the Park Cake traffic lights onto Hathershaw Lane and follow the present-day (well, soon-to-be-withdrawn) 419 route to Middleton.

On the plus side, these changes will give Fitton Hill residents an alternative shopping centre to Ashton-under-Lyne or Oldham in Middleton. One slight downside is the severance of the Newton Heath link. Which, in reality, is a rather more circuitous one compared with changing at Oldham from a 426 for the 83 (or an 84 in Primrose Bank). Or, if you prefer to change modes, from bus to tram outside The Dog Inn for Freehold Metrolink stop.

“The union of the snake is on the climb…”

Offering some ray of hope amid the backdrop of mild doom and gloom for Tameside’s bus passengers is a brand new express service from Manchester to Sheffield. Operated by Hulley’s of Baslow, the X57 will take 90 minutes to reach the steel city with a non-stop section between Manchester [Chorlton Street Coach Station] and Mottram-in-Longdendale. Then it would continue to Sheffield calling at Hollingworth [The Gun Inn], Glossop [Henry Street], The Snake Inn, Ladybower Inn, and Crosspool village.

Known as The Snake (because it takes in the Snake Pass, of course) it will be bolstered by express route X56 (from Shirebrook Park Estate, Glossop to Manchester city centre) and the all-stops route 257 route. The 257 – numbered 275 at this time of writing – goes from Bakewell to Sheffield.

Unlike National Express’ derisory link with Sheffield (the 350), all the usual concessionary passes will be accepted. Adult day return fares are £10.00 from Manchester to Sheffield with single fares at £8.00. On Sundays, it will also call at the Fairholmes Visitor Centre, near Ladybower Reservoir. There will also be two return late night journeys on Fridays and Saturdays.

Where next?

In the last fourteen years, the October changes have been more Trick rather than Treat for Tameside’s bus passengers. The severance of links from Tennyson Avenue to Morrisons wouldn’t butter any parsnips with regular users of the 41A (who may be better off shopping in Stalybridge next month).

As for the future of Greater Manchester’s bus network, we are now in a strange place. On one hand, the anti-bus rhetoric advocated by the Tories and some advertisers of personal transport have struck a chord. Yet, if you have been on a bus since the COVID-19 lockdown, vehicles have been cleaner than they were before the 23 March. Bus stations and shelters have been cleaned; hand sanitisers are available at most bus stations across the UK. Cashless payment – either by smart card, smartphone or debit card – has become the norm. From my experience, I have seen more passengers on the 346 wear face coverings compared with passengers on my usual tram from Oldham into work.

In the last month, most of Greater Manchester’s bus routes have returned to pre-lockdown frequencies. From my observations in the Tameside area, loadings seem to be picking up. In Oldham, less so than in Ashton unless you catch the 409. Thanks largely due to depressed loadings during the lockdown, this seems to have affected Greater Manchester’s tendered routes. Especially those serving areas where some of its clientele have had to shield for 12 weeks.

So, where will we be in the New Year? At present, COVID-19 cases are now higher than they were on the 23 March. Could the second wave see more temporary service cuts – even with Christmas being two and a half months away? As things stand, Greater Manchester has been put into Tier 2 of the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions which permit the use of public transport for ‘non-essential’ journeys.

As for getting back to normal, six months from now, we could only dream. Some of us cannot wait to dream about Enviro400MMCs in a white, orange and brown livery.

S.V., 12 October 2020.

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