The 343 service has its roots in the SHMD tram route from Hyde to Mossley via Dukinfield and Stalybridge created in 1904. It was converted to motor bus operation in 1926 as the Number 4 route.

By the 1950s it was accompanied by the 4A which served the then new Winterford Road estate. The 4 served Staley Road. This continued well into 1973 when the 4 was renumbered the 344, whereas the 4A became the 343. By 1973, SHMD was absorbed by SELNEC (along with other municipal operators which made up the Passenger Transport Executive) just over three years earlier.

The following year [1974] saw further reorganisation with SELNEC becoming Greater Manchester Transport. Under their tutelage, the route became part of a reorganisation of Mossley’s bus services on the 20 July 1980. By then it was extended to Oldham absorbing the 416 route from Oldham to Mossley via Lees.

By 1986, the start of bus deregulation, it was re-routed via Waterhead and Springhead. The service struggled to find its feet in the deregulated climate with the close of the 1980s seeing the cessation of Sunday operations by GM Buses. Citibus Tours ran the Sunday service from late 1989 with the evening service following suit by late 1990. Since then it has seen numerous changes of operator.

The split of GM Buses (which saw the 343 placed under GM Buses North) and its later privatisation also saw an air of decline to the service. Older buses and accompanying unreliability made for a less attractive route. The withdrawal of sister route in Autumn 1992 made for a less attractive link to Oldham. Ultimately this led to GM Buses North’s successors First Manchester (under its First Pioneer offshoot) deregistering the service by April 2007.

That month saw the daytime service taken over by SpeedwellBus with First Pioneer the operator of Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening services. Like the previous 21 years under the deregulated climate, the next three years became an equally interesting mix of uncertainty, route changes and operator revisions.

For the story of the last three years of the 343, see ‘The 343 Bus Today’.