Since 2007, the 343 has had a most fascinating mix of routes and operators:

  • April 2007 – October 2009 and December 2009 – to 18 January 2012: SpeedwellBus (Monday – Saturday up to October 2009 and weekdays from December 2009 to 18 January 2012);
  • 19 January – 13 April 2012: Stagecoach Manchester (weekdays only);
  • 16 April 2012 – to date: Stott’s of Oldham (weekdays only);
  • February 2001 – to date: First Manchester/First Pioneer (evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays);
  • April 2009 – to date: JP Executive Travel (Saturday service only).

Under SpeedwellBus’ tutelage, the daytime 343 service was operated on a commercial basis free of subsidy. By December 2007, it was under threat of withdrawal before GMPTE agreed to subsidise the route from January 2008. For the first time since the loss of the 344, it would serve Staley Road, then enter Station Road and Winterford Road before joining Micklehurst Road via Huddersfield Road.

The following year saw SpeedwellBus pull out of the Saturday service along with its other routes, the 41 and the 337. Whereas First Pioneer gained the 41 and 337, JP Executive Travel took over the 343 and has operated the Saturday service ever since. Despite serving Staley Road and Micklehurst Road, the revised route upset punctuality and reliability.

June 2009 saw the Micklehurst Road link abolished as SpeedwellBus lost the subsidy and ran the weekday route commercially. This was to be a temporary measure as First Pioneer took over the weekday service as an emergency tender. SpeedwellBus later regained the weekday service in January 2010, which it still holds.

The 26 July 2010 will see the daytime service revised with another change of route. As well as the reinstatement of the Staley Road route, it will also serve Roaches for the first time ever before reaching Bottom Mossley and following its usual route to Top Mossley.

Further Reading:

  • The History of the 343: a more detailed history of the 343 route on The Stuart Vallantine Web Experience;
  • Saddleworth Buses: for a pictorial history of the 343 route, David Beilby’s site is an excellent resource;

S.V., 06 July 2010 (last update, 14 April 2012).