As one hospital link closes, another one opens

  • Renumbered 397 extended to North Manchester General Hospital;
  • Little Gem (Mark II) increases Tameside presence on TfGM tendered routes;
  • 217 reverts to being Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester route;
  • Timetable changes for Stagecoach routes with cuts to 336, 337 and 389 services.

The Spring 2021 changes are a bit of a mixed bag for Tameside’s bus passengers. A day before non-essential retail reopens, there has been some tinkering around the edges of Stagecoach’s routes, particularly with subtle changes to trunk routes. For some not-so-trunk routes, some not-so-subtle changes, like operator revisions and service cuts.

A major beneficiary of some of Stagecoach’s service changes is Little Gem. You could be forgiven for thinking I’m writing this post in 1987. If you think “here’s another operator trying to cash in on GM Buses’ heritage (a la UK North),” think again.

Like Courtesy Coaches’ adoption of the Yelloway name several years back, the Little Gem name has been adopted by another well-known coach company. That of Go-Goodwins, a highly-regarded operator who have been trading since 1976. At one point, they sponsored The Mighty Robins at Moss Lane (Altrincham FC).

From the 11 April, their buses will take you to see The Mighty Robins at Hurst Cross: Ashton United of course. As Little Gem, their orange and white buses will be seen on the 396 to Limehurst Farm Estate. On Sundays, Bank Holidays and evenings, with Stott’s Tours running Monday to Saturday journeys as of nowadays. The same is also true of the 339 route to Crowhill: Stott’s by day, Little Gem by night. Both of these TfGM tender gains have been at the expense of Stagecoach Greater Manchester.

What, might you ask will become of sister route 397 from Ashton to Newton Heath? There will be no more 397s; instead they will be renumbered as 151s. The upside of this is a significant uplift in frequency – from every 90 minutes to every hour. Up until the 10 April, the 151 will run between Newton Heath and North Manchester General Hospital. From the 12 April, Tameside gains a direct bus link to NMGH – thanks to the 151’s absorption of the 397 route. The operator? As you were with Little Gem, with buses leaving at seven minutes past the hour from Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange.

Oh, and once the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport reopens, Tameside bus enthusiasts should also make use of the 151. It will come into its own if you don’t fancy changing buses or trams in central Manchester. Taking a 2021 Little Gem bus to see a 1987 bread van (original Little Gem) at Boyle Street, what a joy to behold. Especially with that corned beef hash they serve up!

For the first time since the split of GM Buses, there will be Little Gems on the streets of Dukinfield – albeit once an hour. From the 11 April, they will be the sole operator of the 335 route to Dane Bank (via Morrisons, Armadale Road and Globe Lane). After 7pm, and on Sundays and Bank Holidays, they will also take on the 345 route (via Astley Street). Little Gem will take over from Stott’s Tours and Stagecoach Greater Manchester on the 335.

Elsewhere in Dukinfield, there will be a welcome boost to the 346 route. Its weekday daytime journeys will be every fifteen minutes. These will leave on the hour, quarter past, half past, and quarter to the hour from Hyde bus station, and at five past, twenty past, twenty-five to, and ten to the hour from Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange.

Since FirstGroup pulled out of Tameside on all but three bus routes, the Ashton circulars and the 389 have been at the sharp end of recent service cuts. So much so that as of the 11 April, the 336, 337 and 389 routes will become TfGM tendered routes. All three routes will see their frequencies slashed from half hourly to once hourly. There is no change of operator.

Another significant change to Tameside’s bus network affects the 217 route. Thankfully, one not as pervasive as the changes affecting our fellows in Hazelhurst, Ridge Hill and Yew Tree. Diamond Bus North West’s 217 route will revert to its previous form as an Ashton to Manchester route via Clayton and Bradford. The section to Wythenshawe Hospital, which has been in place for nearly a year, will be spun off into a separate route (44). Selwyn’s Travel will take over the 44 between Piccadilly Gardens and Wythenshawe Hospital.

Minor changes in the Tameside and Glossop area

There has been some retiming changes to the 201, 205, and 237 routes. Subtle retiming changes will be the order of the day on the 205‘s Saturday journeys. Likewise on the 201 route. With the reopening of our schools, there has been timetable changes to the 237 route, and a welcome one in the restoration of its 20-minute frequency.

On the 09 April, we shall be saying goodbye to the 340 route. If (once again) you think I am stuck in 1987, the 2021 version of that route is a different beast entirely. The Albion Hotel to the top of Boyd’s Walk section is the only thing Stott’s Tours’ weekday only route has in common with the sadly-missed Dukinfield circular route. In its place will be an additional journey of the 343, leaving Oldham at 0740. Again, on weekdays, making things a bit easier for more casual passengers.

Where next?

The most significant part of this April’s changes is a retreat from tendered work on some of Stagecoach’s routes. Even more significant is the victor, Go-Goodwins. I have heard of Go-Goodwins through watching non-league football and whilst working in Altrincham, where they dipped their toes into GMPTE tendered operations. Little did I know that eleven years later they would make inroads into the Tameside area.

By November 2020, with the Little Gem moniker they revived in 2017, they broke their Tameside duck with the 397 route to Newton Heath. From my experience (I sometimes use this route to get to work via Hollinwood), their buses are very clean. The drivers are friendly and, from my experience, as amiable as the Stott’s Tours drivers I get on the 343. The enthusiast in me likes the variety of vehicles – not to mention their modern-day take on the Little Gem livery with Ken Mortimer’s logotype.

Of particular note is the timing of these changes. We are talking about three weeks on from Andy Burnham’s Bus Franchising Scheme decision. Also on the eve of the reopening of non-essential retail premises and – al fresco for the time being at least – our pubs.

For regulars at The Forester, or passengers living on Astley Street that want to go to The Forester, this April’s changes make for queasy reading. Isolation for the carless passenger, reluctant to get taxis from one end of Duki to another, has become the new normal. Should there be any buses left to franchise in the Tameside area, Dukinfield’s bus network should include a revived circular route with Ashton-under-Lyne at the very least. One similar to the 339 and 340 of Greater Manchester Transport. The reinstatement of these two routes would address the present-day problem of getting from Yew Tree shops to The Forester without changing buses. (A problem that didn’t exist prior to September 2019).

Apart from making a straightforward journey unnecessarily complex, bus passengers on Yew Tree estate are cut off from their very own town’s public services. iTrain has become ‘aye, train’ if you can walk from Lyne Edge Road to Stalybridge station for the hourly StalyVegas Shuttle to Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Victoria. It is easier to walk to Stalybridge Library through Gorse Hall Park, but passengers wanting to go to Dukinfield Library need to get two buses these days. If you fancy a dance at the Jubilee Hall, it’s a ten note for the non-replacement of the replacement of the 10, 10A and 10B (in other words, taxi).

The next set of changes should be our summertime ones. Typically, these have meant the observance of Summer Holiday timetables on our trunk routes. We eagerly await what we are about to receive in July. As with anything in the world of bus operation, expect the odd surprise or two.

S.V., 05 April 2021.

16 thoughts on “Tameside and Glossop Bus Service Changes, 11 April 2021

  1. i am wonder if First will be reinstating the 350 shorts to Mickehurst to Ashton again i ask this as on Saturdays the 350 interworks with the 348 found this out by looking on bustimes tracker


    1. Hi Mike,

      Whether they will reinstate the 350’s part route workings is another thing. To be honest they should do that, and restore the 15-minute frequency on Monday to Saturday daytimes. If demand for travel is higher due to shops reopening, there needs to be a higher frequency due to the need for continued social distancing.

      I wonder how many people could be left behind for another half hour due to restricted capacities on the 350? With social distancing, I understand the most passengers that FirstGroup’s Volvo B9s could carry is 32.




      1. on Sunday the 350 shorts are reinstated so buses from Miklehurst to Ashton will be every 15 mins what they need to do now is get newer buses in and do a local livery like Doncaster and Sheffield just to name 2 are doing


  2. The writing was on the wall for the 389 when they curtailed it at Yew Tree. The people of Stalybridge mostly no longer have any use for the service; there are quicker and more frequent buses to Ashton. It was suggested to me at the time of the change, that I could change from a 389 to a 346 to get to Hyde in the evenings when there is no 343. This ignores the fact that the times of the two services do not connect well.

    As for Yew Tree, the 389 was never really an attractive way of getting to Ashton as it takes so long. Those near the bottom of the estate could walk down and catch a 346 to Ashton or Hyde if it’s not too much bother. But for Tennyson Avenue, Lyne Edge Road etc, the car is now well and truly king!

    The only real use of the 389 then, for anyone other than the residents of Ridge Hill, is its connection to Tameside Hospital (the 387 also provides a daytime connection from Stalybridge).

    One suggestion I would make would be to run the 389 as a circular service taking in Ashton, Ridge Hill, Yew Tree Lane and all parts of Dukinfield hitherto connected by the 41 (later 41A). This would also provide a link (admittedly a circuitous one) between Stalybridge and King Street. The clockwise service could be renumbered 388, leaving the anticlockwise as the 389, or vice versa.

    Of course, better still would to be extend the 389 to Hyde again and also reintroduce the 41 or 41A. But for the time being I imagine funds are scarce, so this latter option would be out of the window. The former option would probably require a fair bit of re-jigging of schedules, but with the required will and ambition (unfortunately lacking at TfGM at the moment it seems) surely it could be done.

    As an aside, I seem to remember the 388 and 388 both being in existence as Hyde – Stalybridge – Ashton services in the late nineties/early 00s (during the heady days when the latter could take you all the way to Marple). Would you know, was there any variation in route between Hyde and Ashton, or was the number 388 used by First Pennine simply to differentiate its service from Stagecoach’s along the same route?


    1. Hi Mark,

      I would go as far back as 2009 when it ceased to be a secondary route between Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge and Stockport (or Marple on Sundays). Since the loss of its unique selling point as a route from Stalybridge to Marple, I think it started losing passengers when First became its sole operator till 2019. Reliability wasn’t a strong point, but the service had a 20 minute frequency to Hyde – and you could alight at Lodge Lane to get the train to Glossop from Flowery Field.

      In 2000, there was four buses an hour: once an hour to Marple, buses every 15 minutes to Hyde, with buses every half hour to Gee Cross (one of which was the 388). Twenty years on, its decline to that of an hourly service could be attributed to the cessation of its Hyde link. The utter bullshine of having to change at Ashton to get to Hyde from Stalybridge after 7pm means the 389 (as you said) is of little use to anybody. It is close to being bricked beyond usefulness in a 180 from Oldham to Greenfield kind of way.

      The straw that broke the donkey’s back (besides taking Yew Tree estate connections back 70 years in one direction) was the route change in Ridge Hill that skipped Hague Estate. This, quite rightly leading to public outcry and a return to its previous route up there.

      As to how the 389 should be improved, a System Restore to pre-deregulation frequencies (every fifteen minutes to Gee Cross; half hourly to Marple) would be my first choice. That along with the restoration of the 339 and 340 Dukinfield Circular routes, and in making the 220 a full time route from 5am to midnight.

      Alternatively, I would keep the existing 389 route as it is up to the Lodge Hotel, and modify it to become a proper circular route. Instead of a clockwise loop around Yew Tree, it would turn left after The Lodge Hotel and follow the old 41 route to Ashton-under-Lyne. Anticlockwise journeys could be numbered 388. Or they could be renumbered as 339 and 340 with the Crowhill 339 renumbered as 337. To allow for some numerical continuity, I would renumber 387 as 338.

      Furthermore, I would extend the 342 and 344 route beyond being Hyde circulars. They would retain their respective circular sections in Backbower, but I think they should continue to Stalybridge and Tameside Hospital along the original 389 route up Cheetham Hill Road that avoided Yew Tree estate. From Stalybridge railway station, the 342 and 344 could continue along the 389’s Ridge Hill section. Instead of Darnton Road, they should reach the hospital by means of an anticlockwise route, serving both ends of the Hartshead Building, before reaching Darnton Road via Fountain Street and Mossley Road.

      Therefore, your route pattern on Stanley Square (to Stalybridge) could be:

      339: Stalybridge – Ashton – Dukinfield – Tennyson Avenue circular (05 past hour);
      342: Stalybridge – Ridge Hill – Tameside Hospital (quarter past the hour);
      220: Stalybridge – Tameside Hospital (25 past the hour);
      339: Stalybridge – Ashton – Dukinfield – Tennyson Avenue circular (25 to the hour);
      343: Stalybridge – Mossley – Oldham (quarter to the hour);
      344: Stalybridge – Ridge Hill – Tameside Hospital (five to the hour);

      Your route pattern on Stanley Square (to Hyde) could be:

      340: Stalybridge – Tennyson Avenue – Dukinfield – Ashton – Ridge Hill circular (on the hour);
      343: Dukinfield – Hyde (10 past the hour);
      344: Dukinfield (Cheetham Hill Road) – Hyde – Backbower (20 past the hour);
      340: Stalybridge – Tennyson Avenue – Dukinfield – Ashton – Ridge Hill circular (half past the hour);
      342: Dukinfield (Cheetham Hill Road) – Hyde – Backbower (20 to the hour);
      220: Dukinfield – Audenshaw – Openshaw – Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] (20 to the hour).

      On Sundays and Bank Holidays, 339s and 340s could be hourly with 342s and 344s retaining their existing two hourly frequencies. To further improve Stalybridge to Hyde connections, the 343 should revert to being a full time service. A newly revived 220 should be a full time route; one an hour would be a drastic improvement on five journeys a week!

      That’s me done for now.




      1. Wow, I think we can only dream of such service levels in Dukinfield/Stalybridge these days. I totally agree with you on the 343; evening services should definitely be resumed. The 342/344 is essentially a shoppers’ service with a limited time of operation, starting when most commuters are already at work and finishing before they clock off. Its extension to Stalybridge would have to be augmented by extra peak time journeys to really be worthwhile.

        For a Stalybridge – Dukinfield – Manchester connection, I would actually propose something slightly different. When we had the 217/218 (and later the extended 408), I imagine there were a small number of people who found the Droylsden connection useful. However, the journey time to Manchester on the meandering 217/218 was unattractive for many, and journeys would later require a change at Droylsden if getting the 408. My solution would be a kind-of hybrid of the two. A route that would follow the old 217/218/408 from Stalybridge as far as the Concord Suite, then follow the 216 straight down Ashton New Road, ending at Piccadilly or branching off to Shudehill. The number 222 might be appropriate (Three Little Ducks, Quack Quack Quack, could be the slogan for an outlandish marketing/publicity effort! Three Little Ducks to Dukinfield and Stalybridge!)


    2. i think stotts will have newer buses on the 343 from Monday due to them losing 2 routes fully i belive ie been the white solos


      1. It won’t be long before the former Stagecoach Merseyside Darts fall foul of TfGM’s maximum age rule for tendered services. Perhaps that’s their plan, but I do wish they’d paint the newer buses in full Stotts livery.


      2. PX 55 EFM the best one broke down last week and EFN did the same today EFL seemed ok today they also have 2 of the ex Nexus Move solos for spares GX 55 DXM and YK 07 BFV in the MOT yard YJ 54 UXB is in bits there and LJ 55 BVP which has moved for over 2 years


      3. Sad to hear that YJ54 UXB is in bits. Was the best Solo they had despite also being the oldest, was a little beast with its powerful Cummins engine. It could no longer be used on TfGM tendered services due to its age.

        I noticed LJ55 BSY on the 343 earlier on, presumably replacing the poorly Dart. By the sound of it, it will be good news if they can get shot of them (the ex-Merseyside Darts). Their extra seating capacity is welcome at busy times on the 343 when compared to the Solos (especially during COVID), but their breakdown record seems to be getting as bad as Speedwell’s buses of about a decade ago! I have been lucky; I have never been on one that broke down or had one fail to turn up on me due to breakdown, but they are showing their age. They are 15 years old, were worked hard by Stagecoach in and around Liverpool for most of their life and are worn out.

        Their B7TLs (which are of course the same age) seem a bit more solid. That said, the only time I have been on one (a cold and frosty winter morning a couple of years ago on the 343) the heating was not working and the engine, in true Volvo double-decker style, was “hoovering”. This latter problem seems to have been seen to as the ones I have seen lately have all been quiet.


  3. one dart LJ 56 ONH got withdrawn early due to chassis rot with double decks been on a few o i remember Speedwell R513 YWC was the worst rattled like hell

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, I’d say 508 was the worst out of Speedwell’s ex-Stagecoach Varios, from what I can remember.

      But in truth they were all bad and, looking back, potential death traps. Certainly not a good image for public transport with their flaking paintwork and battered bodywork held together with black (and in some cases white) tape. And the rattles aplenty inside and outside (I heard one driver opted to wear earplugs as the rattles were that loud). And the broken suspension that no longer properly dampened out the bumps but instead went BANG over every bump.

      They gave the recovery firms good business though with their frequent breakdowns!

      On the ex-Abellio Darts at, I thought I’d not seen one about in this area lately, though I think there’s one still on the road with Stotts (LJ56 ONK I think). I’m sure there was also one parked up in GB Coaches’ yard for their laughable if not rather sad attempt at public bus services.

      I would be surprised if Stotts have taken on a couple of the ex-Nexus Move Solos. The former Stagecoach ones seemed to be on their last legs, and GX55 DXM will also soon be too old for TfGM tenders. I don’t know quite what condition YK07 BFV was in; it looked alright. With the reduction in work, I didn’t think Stotts would need any additional buses. Maybe they’re carrying out work on the buses on behalf of Nexus Move.

      On another note, if Stotts are to keep hold of their school bus work, they will need some newer double deckers soon, probably in time for the Autumn term. I wonder what they’ll opt for this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would think Wright bodied B7s ie like Huddersfield first bus have yes ONK is still on road


      2. Hi Mark,

        When SpeedwellBus went to the Great Bus Garage in the Sky, the one thing I was glad to see the back of was their Mercedes Varios! If you have sat cross-legged on one after a session in The Squire Knott, you were glad to get off. I think it was R513 YWC that I copped for one New Year’s Eve, after making the mistake of not going to the lavatory at that establishment. As for the tape and rattles, goodness me.

        I should imagine that Stott’s Tours might be looking for old or middle-aged Enviro400s for their next double deckers. Presumably to standardise on all things Alexander Dennis. Maybe one of the early hybrid ones. I could imagine a nice ex-Stagecoach one aboard the 343; the icing on the cake could be a Stottified version of the SHMD Joint Board livery to emphasise the green credentials of that vehicle.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if they are looking for some older longer length Enviro200s. Possibly to address capacity issues on peak hour journeys where the usual Solo might be too much of a squeeze. It is hard to believe that most of Ashton garage’s Enviro200s are ten years old and Stagecoach Greater Manchester have had them from new.




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