Ashton New Road used to be a highly competitive corridor for bus operators in Manchester. Just a few years ago Stagecoach, Dennis's and Mayne all offered frequent services between Manchester, Droylsden and Ashton-under-Lyne. Now Stagecoach have absorbed the competition and aside from a handful of tendered evening and Sunday journeys, the big Scottish operator is now king in that part of the region.
That's not the case for much longer though. Speedwell Bus are due to launch new service S50 on the 3rd of August, running between Manchester and Hey Farm via Droylsden, Audenshaw, Ashton-under-Lyne, Mossley Brookbottom and Micklehurst. With a frequency of every 20 minutes, this is a pretty audacious new service lunch from the small operator during a time when most operators are cutting back. It offers a more direct link between Mossley and Manchester than Stagecoach's 217/218 circular services. We expect Stagecoach will launch retaliation sooner rather than later.
The new service is listed in the notes for last Friday's meeting of the GMITA Transport Network Committee. While the Authority's website still doesn't list the meeting notes at the time of writing, Manchester Buses reader Rob did some digging and found that the notes are on their servers anyway.
Speedwell's expansion is an oasis of good news in an ocean of cutbacks. JP Travel are withdrawing service 12 (Middleton - Moorclose). This service was recently cut in half, with new service 13 (Middleton - Boarshaw) covering the other half of the route. It appears the Boarshaw part was more successful than the Moorclose part.
You remember we wrote about the forthcoming withdrawal of Stagecoach's 200 (Shudehill - Piccadilly) late-night shuttle? The Committee's notes reveal just how poorly used the service was. Just 62 passengers used it between the end of January and the start of April. Elsewhere, Speedwell Bus are rerouting service 343 (Hyde - Oldham) in the Mossley area from the end of June.
You might well think that GMPTE-supported bus service would be safe from cutbacks but that's not the case. Monday to Saturday evening journeys between Eccles and Manchester on service 10 (Brookhouse - Manchester) are to be cut to hourly, with the 1900 journey on Sunday evenings withdrawn too.
Monday - Saturday evening journeys on the 16 (Altrincham - Manchester) are being reduced from hourly to operate every 2 hours. This follows Arriva's recent curtailing of Saturday daytime journeys to run between Sale and Manchester only. These new cuts mean Ashton-upon-Mersey and Withington Road in Whalley Range will have a virtually useless connection to Manchester during the evenings. However, given low usage figures the cuts are no surprise
There is some good news though, evening and Sunday journeys on the 52 (Pendleton - Failsworth) and Sunday journeys on the 53 (Pendleton - Cheetham) will continue.
While the future of the 95 (Pendleton - Bolton) is still hanging in the balance, it looks likely that it will continue to operate between Pendleton and Whitefield, with service 513 rerouted to maintain the service in Stand.
Sunday journeys on the 167 (Manchester - Norden) look likely to be withdrawn due to low usage, although the contract for Monday - Saturday daytime journeys has been subject to a flurry of bidding from operators so there's no danger of them disappearing.
Service 173 (Manchester - Stepping Hill Hospital) is having its temporary re-routing via Manchester Royal Infirmary (instead of Ancoats) being made permanent after GMPTE received no complaints about the change. In fact, passengers reportedly found the new route useful.
The future of evening journeys on service 182 (Manchester - Shaw) was hanging in the balance at Friday's meeting. Committee members were asked to decide whether to keep it running (maintaining a 30 minute frequency along Broadway) or to withdraw it (meaning only one bus per hour along Broadway). Withdrawing the 182 would also mean a lost link to the Royal Oldham Hospital during the evenings. Let's hope the members of the Committee made the right choice.
Other changes being discussed were: cutting the Saturday daytime journeys on service 245 (Altrincham - Flixton) to run between Sale and Flixton only, with the frequency halved to hourly. Two morning journeys during school holidays on service 377 (Stockport - Woodford) were set for the chop, as were two Monday to Friday journeys on service 438 (Rochdale - Lane Head) and a Saturday morning journey on service 584 (Leigh - Crankwood). The Standish and Shevington Local Link service was set to lose its Sunday journeys, but see journeys through the rest of the week extended to cover Trevore Drive and Alden Close.
You can read the full notes from Friday's meeting here (PDF link).
[Image credit: a bus stop that's only going to get busier with Speedwell Bus' new service S50, by Ingy the Wingy on Flickr]