A BUS introduced exclusively to serve Saddleworth two years ago has received a ticket to ride across Oldham and Tameside – but some people are not happy.
Other routes serving Saddleworth locations – 353, 354, 355 and 407 – have also been axed.
The Saddleworth Rambler is set to stayThe Rambler launched on the back of a “real need and appetite for a frequent bus service to connect the local villages” now serves Mossley, Stalybridge, Greenacres, Watersheddings and Oldham town centre.
Introduced to improve connections with Greenfield station – the last rail hub in the borough of Oldham – the Rambler – aka the 356 service – now only calls twice a day, Monday to Friday (8.34am and 6.58pm), once on Saturday (6.58pm) and not at all on Sundays.
At all other times the bus will halt at stops on Shaw Hall Bank Road which are between 200 and 300 metres away.
When the Rambler set off on its journey in April 2018, Transport for Greater Manchester noted: “The timetable has been scheduled to coincide with rail services at Greenfield station into Manchester, connecting with the last train in from the city centre. Perfect for your daily commute or some evening shopping.”
In March 2019, the Rambler’s contract was extended by 12 months with a spokesperson for Transport for Greater Manchester, saying: “This shows our commitment to listening to the needs of transport users and to making travel easier by providing accessible ways of making essential journeys.”
Meanwhile, TfGM has agreed to subsidise eight of 12 ‘vital’ local bus services in the Leigh area – home to Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham – after its operator announced his decision to retire and sell his company.
Criticising the timetable changes, confirmed by TfGM’s bus committee last month, Saddleworth North councillor Garth Harkness said: “The Saddleworth Rambler has proven highly successful and I am proud to have been part of the project which introduced it.
“This came out of a detailed piece of work around transport needs in Saddleworth. I raised these concerns but was told It would not be as bad as we think.
“I was given reassurances and now it is worse as it won’t serve the train station – one of its key purposes.
“In many cases important clusters of population will have no service and the new links are poor in comparison.
“All the talk of Greater Manchester taking control of the buses again. They already do on these routes and they decimated them.
“I also have been contacted by residents who are concerned over the loss of the 407 service for students who go to Blue Coat school with unrealistic alternatives.”
Former Oldham Council leader and transport professor Dr Richard Knowles said: “Hundreds of people living in three large areas of Delph and Uppermill will lose all their bus services – Palinwood Road/Delph Lane area in Delph, Wellmeadow estate/Church Road and Grove Road/Rush Hill Road areas of Uppermill.
“The TfGM Committee report when they approved these bus cuts made no mention of the huge number of residents who would lose all of their bus services.“
A spokesperson for TfGM said: “It is vital we strike a balance with TfGM-funded services, ensuring we serve as many people as possible and maintain vital transport links – while also ensuring we provide value to the taxpayer and deliver in the most cost-effective way.
“By introducing the changes to the Saddleworth Rambler, we are looking to build on the success of the service by improving and expanding links, simplifying the local network and reducing duplication.
“Reducing the service from four vehicles to three – one 15-seater and two 21 seaters – should strike the required balance between the capacity and the manoeuvrability of the vehicle given the rural nature of the area served these buses.
“We are confident the revised services will meet demand in the long term.”
Saddleworth Local Link will provide a door to door option for anyone who cannot access the main bus service, particularly, those living in the Delph and Uppermill areas.