Summer times, and the changes are minimal (and somewhat predictable)
- Summer times on Stagecoach Manchester;
- Diggle link ditched from 356 route;
- Peak hour duplicates nixed after scrapping of social distancing requirement on buses.
Within a week of HM Government’s Freedom Day®, some degree of normality is restored on our bus routes. Firstly, with it being summertime (and the schools breaking up for the five-week or six-week holidays), we shall be seeing the faster summer times on many of Stagecoach’s routes. Secondly, with the requirements for social distancing scrapped, our peak hour duplicates on trunk routes have gone the same way.
In addition to peak hour extras, that will mean the withdrawal of extra journeys for the sole purpose schoolchildren, further to our usual school services.
On regular service buses, this will affect 66% of First Greater Manchester’s Tameside routes. The 409 will go back to having a seven-minute daytime frequency on weekdays without the peak hour duplicates. Likewise with the 350 route which would retain its four buses an hour between Micklehurst and Ashton-under-Lyne. There is no change to the Saturday daytime timetable, which is still half-hourly along its entire route via Saddleworth.
There are more marked changes to Greenfield’s other principal bus route, the 356. Nexus Move’s supersized Saddleworth Rambler will be see a change of route. Its Diggle section north of The Navigation Hotel at Dobcross will be ditched. This would leave the village at the mercy of FirstGroup’s Huddersfield routes.
Whilst on the subject of TfGM tendered routes, there will be a change of timetable for Little Gem’s 151 route to North Manchester General Hospital. The good thing is it will be retaining its hourly frequency. The only difference is a change of departure time at Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange: this time with buses leaving seventeen minutes past the hour from 0717 to 1817 on weekdays (1717 and 1817 journeys terminating at Newton Heath). On Saturdays, from 0917 to 1617 (and 1717 to Newton Heath).
If you want to get to Greater Manchester Museum of Transport early doors (and avoid crossing Manchester city centre), take the 0917 journey. Return journeys will leave North Manchester General Hospital at twenty minutes to the hour from 0740 to 1640 (last one terminating at Failsworth TESCO) on Saturdays. On weekdays, it is slightly more complicated with the first bus from Newton Heath at 0717. The first journey from NMGH departs at 0741 with subsequent journeys at 0846, 0947, then twenty-one minutes to the hour from 1039 to 1539. The next journey, and last one to Ashton, leaves at 1643 (arriving at 1811) which is followed by the 1749 to Failsworth TESCO (arriving at 1849).
As well as their summer timetables, there will be some more lasting changes to Stagecoach Manchester routes. An extra journey will be added to the 230 route from Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange on Saturdays. That will depart at 0954. There will also be a boost to the Saturday timetables on the 216, 219, 330 and 347 routes – with buses every ten minutes or better. In other words, a return to pre-pandemic timetables.
The following Stagecoach Manchester routes will be operating a Summer Timetable, taking advantage of the lower traffic levels:
- 7: Stockport – Reddish – Dane Bank – Gorton – Droylsden – Ashton-under-Lyne;
- 7A: Stockport – Reddish – Gorton – Droylsden – Ashton-under-Lyne;
- 201: Hattersley – Hyde – Denton – Debdale Park – Gorton – Ardwick – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 202: Gee Cross – Hyde – Haughton Green – Denton – Debdale Park – Gorton – West Gorton – Ardwick – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 205: Dane Bank – Debdale Park – Gorton – West Gorton – Ardwick – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 216: Piccadilly Gardens – Ancoats – Beswick – Clayton – Droylsden – Ashton-under-Lyne – (Stalybridge);
- 219: (Stalybridge) – Ashton-under-Lyne – Guide Bridge – Fairfield – Openshaw – Ardwick – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 221: Dukinfield [Tennyson Avenue] – Shepley – Audenshaw – Fairfield – Openshaw – Ardwick – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 230: Ashton-under-Lyne – Taunton – Littlemoss – Droylsden – Clayton – Beswick – Ancoats – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 231: Ashton-under-Lyne – Tameside Hospital – Hartshead – Waterloo – Littlemoss – Moorside – Clayton – Beswick – Ancoats – Piccadilly Gardens;
- 237: Ashton-under-Lyne – Stalybridge – Mottram-in-Longdendale – Hollingworth – Tintwistle – Hadfield – Dinting – Glossop;
- 327: Denton – Bredbury Industrial Estate – Brinnington – Stockport;
- 330: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Hyde – Woodley – Bredbury – Portwood – Stockport;
- 346: Ashton-under-Lyne – Dukinfield – Newton – Hyde – (Gee Cross);
- 347: Ashton-under-Lyne – Guide Bridge – Hooley Hill – Denton – Haughton Green Circular.
As is often the case, the summertime changes are less far-reaching than any of the ones for January, September and April. The biggest test for our bus operators and Integrated Transport Authorities is how Freedom Day® will affect England’s bus routes. At this moment in time, some bus operators have reported COVID-related staff shortages which has meant lapses in service quality. If social distancing continues to be practiced on bus routes post-19 July 2021 (as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), a missing journey could undermine the passenger’s efforts in staying safe.
What happens in the next month is dependent on COVID-related absences due to Test and Trace ‘pinging’ and the lack of social distancing or mask wearing among passengers. Many critics argue that England’s Freedom Day® is too soon due to cases being higher than in January (though deaths are now significantly lower). It is hoped that the summer holidays would offer some respite.
As to what we may be about to receive in September, there are two developments worthy of note in this area and (a few miles) beyond. From the 05 September, Hulleys of Baslow will be upgrading its Snake route, at least from a Tameside point of view. For the first time since National Express stopped serving Hyde bus station, the X57 will reconnect Hyde with Sheffield city centre.
Till 2003, National Express’ 351 route from Manchester to Sheffield, Mansfield and Clacton-on-Sea used to call at Hyde Bus Station. This not only gave (albeit three times a day) Hydonians a modest link with Pond Street. It was also a gateway to the Peak District’s Dark Peak. As well as National Express’ route, Mainline (the PTE-owned arms-length successor to South Yorkshire’s Transport, prior to its sale to FirstBus) offered an express route from Manchester to Sheffield. This called at Debdale Park, Hyde Bus Station and Hollingworth [The Gun Inn].
Hulley’s of Baslow’s X57 route goes from Manchester to Sheffield via the M67 motorway, calling at Debdale Park, running non-stop to Hollingworth, then up to Glossop before taking the Snake Pass. From September, they will leave the M67 at Junction 3 for Hyde Bus Station then return to the motorway up to Mottram, calling at Hollingworth and Glossop. As well as offering a direct link with Sheffield, and an express route to Manchester city centre, the X57 will offer a more direct route between Hyde and Glossop. A real alternative to the more circuitous 341 via Broadbottom.
The second development is a little out of the Tameside area, though worthy of note. For the first time since 2005, there will be a weekday and Saturday service from Manchester to Ashbourne, via Macclesfield and Leek. The X1 will follow the former North Western Road Car Company’s 242 route, and part of GM Buses’ old route to Derby. In the last fifteen years, the route has been severed in three places, initially with buses from Manchester to Macclesfield (later Stockport to Macclesfield), Macclesfield to Ashbourne (via Leek) and Ashbourne to Derby. With different operators on each leg (D&G, Clowes and Trent Barton at one point)!
Though there is no direct link to Derby (Manchester really does have substandard public transport access to the East Midlands other than Nottingham), the revived X1 is a welcome move. Operations will begin on the 06 September 2021, and we sincerely hope the effects of Freedom Day® does not affect this route.
In our last look at Tameside’s bus service changes, we did say “expect the odd surprise or two” in the next set. How right we were!
S.V., 19 July 2021.