A Facebook Group has been launched to save the 343 bus service! Although it doesn't go to Ashton, it goes to lots of the neighbouring towns, going from Hyde to Oldham by way of Dukinfield, Stalybridge and Mossley.
The route has a long history, being formed out of two routes. The route from Oldham to Top Mossley was run jointly by Oldham Corporation as Route E and by SHMD as route 16. In 1969 this became SELNEC's route 416.
SHMD Route 4 was the only bus service to link all four towns that made up the SHMD operation - Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield. Some journeys later ran through Micklehurst estate as the 4A. These routes were later renumbered 344 and 343. Until the 1970s the half-hourly 343/4 service was the only route that linked Top and Bottom Mossley, although these days there are 11 buses an hour in each direction between these two points.
From 1980 the 343 was extended to Oldham to replace the 416. However, passenger numbers have fallen over the years and the service is now hourly throughout the route. In 2007, First Bus decided the 343 wasn't profitable and pulled out of the daytime operation, although they still run it at night and on Sundays, when it is subsidised.
Since then it has been run by Hyde-based Speedwellbus, but now they have also decided that it is unprofitable, and have announced their intention to withdraw the route in early October. These photographs, taken at lunchtime today, show the bus leaving Top Mossley for Hyde with just three passengers on board.
This is where the "Save the 343" campaign comes in. The aim is to persuade GMPTE that the service should be subsidised in the daytime as well, so that vital links will be maintained. It is the only route that links Oldham and Mossley (apart from going all round through Delph, Dobcross, Uppermill and Greenfield!). It is the only route along Oxford Street and Birch Lane in Dukinfield and along Bennett Street and Old Road in Hyde.
Anyone with an interest in helping to keep this bus route could join the Facebook group to find out more about what is happening with this service.
Also, if you are in the Mossley area and want to sign a petition, you can do so in Countrystyle Cafe, Manchester Road, Mossley, or at the Pennine Medical Centre, Mossley, but only until Friday 4th September.
I am indebted to David Beilby for refreshing my memory about the details of the history of the route, through his excellent web page. This includes a range of photos of buses on the route over the years, and which is sure to bring back a few memories.
From October 5th, Monday to Friday daytime journeys on service 343 are being run by First on a temporary basis until the route goes to tender properly. The Saturday service is still being run by JPT. First will continue to run the tendered evening and Sunday service.
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