DAVID Littlewood had the honour of being the first passenger on Saddleworth’s new dedicated bus service.
It’s hoped thousands more will follow him in the next 11 months to ensure the success of the village-to-village service.
The Independent’s Trevor Baxter and Gemma Carter joined David at Denshaw turning circle for the Saddleworth Rambler’s maiden trip on Monday, April 9.
The new 356 bus, built in Rochdale and operated by Nexus Move, is the smallest in service in Greater Manchester and seats 15 passengers.
It takes people from Denshaw through Delph into Dobcross and Diggle before terminating – depending on the time of day – at Saddleworth Leisure Centre, Uppermill or Greenfield train station.
David was duly delivered on time to Greenfield by driver Andy Buckley, as were the other passengers, before setting off for the return, journey.
Since that first day, the Rambler has acquired distinctive livery which potential passengers can’t fail to spot.
They can use all travel cards issued by Transport for Greater Manchester plus System One passes.
Royce Franklin, Chair of Saddleworth Parish Council’s Transport and Traffic Group, picked up the Rambler in Diggle.
“Research by Transport for Greater Manchester showed the services between villages in Saddleworth were the greatest need for Saddleworth residents,” he said.
“Hopefully the new service is seen as worthwhile and one which people will use.
“If it is not used we shall lose it. This is not an idle threat – it will be lost.”
David Gartside from Uppermill told the Independent: “We used the new Rambler from Uppermill to Denshaw return for the cinema.
“Very good service, pleasant driver. Not many passengers.
“Makes a nice change from driving and you see much more too.”
The Rambler, which does stop between villages, was forced into a diversion early in its existence due to a gas leak in Sugar Lane, Dobcross.
There were also delays caused by the closure of Delph centre on April 26 due to an HGV getting stuck trying to exit Grains Road.
But the new service, operating a ‘hail’ service along Dorset Avenue, Diggle, due to absence of official stops, hasn’t been received with unanimous approval, particularly by some passengers who previously used the Local Link service.
Letters have been distributed by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) explaining changes to bus operations.
TfGM are believed to have contacted residents who expressed concerns about the impact of the Rambler on Local Link.
Mr Franklin added: “There has been a positive response to the Saddleworth Rambler.
“It is hoped as residents become more aware of the advantages, it will be gradually used more.
“It is important the whole scale of community transport in Saddleworth and Lees – including Local Link and Ring and Ride – is fully understood so residents can plan their journey accordingly.”
The Local Link issue will be discussed at the next meeting of the Parish Council’s Roads and Transport sub-committee on May 9 at Uppermill Civic Hall at 6.30pm.