Mottram roadworks and operator revisions main factor behind service changes
More than not, the biggest changes to Tameside’s bus routes occur in springtime. For the last two decades, the biggest cuts and operator changes are made at around that time of year.
This Spring, Tameside has fared better than many of its fellow passengers in Oldham and Rochdale. Operator revisions across the borough and extended running times on Mottram buses are the order of the day.
Mottram Moor roadworks
Owing to roadworks on Mottram Moor (yes, six months of delays on top of existing congestion), two routes have been affected by temporary timetable changes. The 387 from Ashton-under-Lyne to Hyde via Stalybridge and Hattersley will terminate at Tameside Hospital. Thankfully, it’ll retain its hourly frequency on Monday to Saturdays and its weekday and Saturday operator. On the downside, this means one bus an hour less from Tameside Hospital to Ashton-under-Lyne; trifling unless you live in Stalyhill and work in Ashton-under-Lyne town centre.
The 237, already affected by TESCO traffic on High Street West before Cadent’s gas main works, will also be retimed. Off-peak journeys will take an hour from Glossop to Ashton-under-Lyne via Hadfield. 57 minutes is allotted to Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys, making the already painfully slow journey even slower. Perhaps an on-board toilet or a comfort stop at The Gun Inn should be added to the 237’s franchising agreement. Getting the on-board WiFi reinstated would also be a nice bonus.
Since the 11th April 2022, Stott’s Tours’ 341 route has been rerouted in Hattersley. Instead of Underwood Road, buses are running via Hattersley Road East from the former Chapman Arms up to Hattersley Library (off Mottram Road).
TfGM operator changes
A lot of the borough’s operator changes are affected by changes in Little Gem’s tendered routes. Their orange and white buses will be heading eastwards, focusing on shorter distance routes. As a result of this, the 151, 335 and 396 routes will be taken over by Stott’s Tours, albeit with minor retiming changes. The two-hourly Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening journeys of the 335 and 396 routes will be taken over by Stagecoach Manchester.
There will also be two additional changes to the 396 route. On weekdays and Saturdays, the 2231 journey to Limehurst Farm will be extended to Middleton. This reduces dead time for Stagecoach Manchester, being as this will be run from its Middleton depot. An extra part route journey will be added to the weekday and Saturday timetable, leaving Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange for Limehurst Farm Estate at 2334.
The 396’s sister route to Crowhill, the 339, will see a change of evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday operator. This time, it’s Stagecoach Manchester, as on the 396. The 2227 Sunday and Bank Holiday evening journey to Crowhill has been reinstated. A welcome move, though adding an extra Saturday journey between 1757 and 2027 would also be a good idea.
Three Stagecoach Manchester routes will also be seeing a change of operator on Monday to Saturday daytimes. That of the 336, 337 and the 389 routes. As a hangover from First Greater Manchester’s Tamexit strategy, the 336 and 337 routes were created by Stagecoach Manchester. The two circular routes combined parts of five local routes in Smallshaw, Hurst and Hartshead. After three years of full time operation, Stagecoach Manchester has ceded control of its daytime journeys to Little Gem. The same has happened with its 389 route, adding extra cost and confusion to the people of Ridge Hill and Yew Tree.
We will also be saying goodbye to Diamond Bus North West on the 217 route. During weekday and Saturday daytimes, their bright blue minibuses have pootled their way along Ashton New Road and Edge Lane. Instead, they shall give way to the orange and white of Little Gem. Evening, Bank Holiday and Sunday journeys will be operated by Stagecoach Manchester.
In line with its sister route, the 341, the Hyde – Backbower Circular routes (342 and 344) will be operated by Stott’s Tours. The 344’s Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys, operated by Stagecoach Manchester, are unaffected.
There will be some minor timetable changes to First Greater Manchester’s 348 from Ashton-under-Lyne to Carrbrook. These will affect daytime journeys on weekdays and Saturdays.
There will also be a boost to Nexus Move’s 356 route. Its two hourly Sunday, evening and Bank Holiday journeys will operate along the full route via most of the Saddleworth villages. All the way from Oldham to Ashton-under-Lyne via Denshaw, Dobcross, Diggle, Uppermill and Greenfield. Last buses will run later, though some departure times will be too close for comfort compared with departures on the 350 route. For example: from Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange, the 1937 journey leaves two minutes after Stagecoach Manchester’s 1935 journey of the 350 on Sundays.
Similarly, the 2110 journey from The Commie in Uppermill to Ashton, is thirteen minutes after Stagecoach’s 2057 journey of the 350 route to Ashton-under-Lyne. To ensure the viability of both routes, wouldn’t it be better if the 2110 journey left Uppermill at 2127, departing from Oldham at 2045? Still, Heyrod sees the restoration of some of its evening journeys, which is no bad thing.
Though minor in description, there are some changes to School Services that would have a substantial effect on the loadings of everyday passenger bus routes. The Schooldays Only 344 journey to All Saints Catholic College will be withdrawn, as would the 803 and 870 services from Carrbrook to Mossley Hollins School. All three routes are already covered by Stott’s Tours’ journeys on the 343 route. (Which of course explains their recent purchase of former Lothian Transport double deckers).
On High Peak’s 393 route (Glossop – Padfield Circular), there will be a slight change to its route in Glossop. It will also serve the town’s ALDI store, giving the people of Hadfield and Padfield a direct link to Britain’s Second Cheapest Supermarket Chain.
Unless you get the 237, 341 or 387 buses, or purchase a single operator season ticket, not a bad set of changes for Tameside bus users. If you get any of the Mottram Moor bus routes, scour your library for good books, fire up that Spotify Premium account on your smartphone, or take some sandwiches.
Thankfully, there is nothing on the scale of April 2015’s bonfire of service cuts, and certainly nothing on the scale faced by their peers in Oldham and Rochdale this month. If you’re looking for something that screams ‘growth’ and ‘investment’, the cupboard is bare, whether on commercial or tendered routes. Well, at least till 2024 (and who knows what bus routes would be left two years from now).
Apart from congestion, internet shopping will continue to eat away at our town centres – and this also affects our bus routes. Cack-handed traffic schemes are another factor. What effect as the closure of a few square yards of Wellington Road had on Ashton-under-Lyne’s footfall? If you have mobility impairments or use the bus as your main form of transport, are you less likely to go into Ashton-under-Lyne because the bus stops are some distance away from the Market Hall? Couldn’t that section of Wellington Road have been retained for the sole use of buses and taxis only? One wonders how this so-called road improvement has affected loadings on the Ashton Circulars and other local routes.
Well, who knows what the next quarter shall bring. Some stability would be nice, but don’t hold your breath.
S.V., 21 April 2022.