On first sight, having someone else get the pleasures of nice new buses instead may not sound so wonderful. However, if you get their old buses, it may not be all that bad.
The 130 Manchester-Macclesfield service seems to have had a feel of a Cinderella about it, especially when you consider the buses that have purveyed the route over the years. When I first moved to Cheshire, daytime service was largely supplied mid-engined Leylands that felt and sounded tired. That unloved feel also applied to Leyland Lynxes and early Leyland Olympians were drafted in too. P-reg Mercedes minibuses, then among the most recent buses in the Macclesfield fleet, were used for on evening services. When early Dennis Darts came in replace the Leylands, there was a definite improvement in the journey quality.
When the service changed from hourly to half-hourly, tired ex-London L-reg Dennis Darts with Northern Counties bodies were brought in and continued in service through the tumultuous changeover to a new bus station in Macclesfield. That meant that Arriva lost its depot and the uncertainty in the summer of 2005 caused drivers to leave the company with staff shortages causing service cancellations and resulting in passenger discontent. It’s none too clever what can happen when management take their eye off the ball. I think that there might have been a changeover from Arriva Midlands North to Arriva Northwest and Wales in and around the same time too, which may not have helped even if it was a more sensible organisational arrangement.
Things stabilised when the service started to run from a depot in Manchester instead of Macclesfield and newer buses from Merseyside came on stream. These were again Dennis Darts but with Eastern Lancashire bodywork and ex-Liverpool registrations. These have been mainly M-reg with the occasional N-reg turning up at times too. Their age made them susceptible to mechanical breakdowns, particularly when stuck in heavy traffic for extended periods, so getting newer vehicles is an advance. Some were also a bit louder than might be liked; M169WKA caused me to complain twice before it was sorted after a lengthy absence from service.
Arriva’s 263 route in Greater Manchester seems to getting new Wright single deckers and it looks as if we are getting the X-reg Dennis Darts that they are displacing. While suspensions do feel worn on some of these, we are not getting a bad deal with the airiness of the interiors, the better seating and the extra legroom. Our “new” buses may be eight years old but the Plaxton bodywork still has a certain freshness about it and they are standard length too, something that seems to trouble some of the drivers at times. In recent years, we seem to have been getting ever newer buses every few years so it will be interesting to see when the next batch of more modern vehicles are offered to us and what they might be like.