Last week, the 18:39 130 bus service from Wilmslow to Macclesfield was early both nights that I happened to use it. It was an observation that set me to thinking whether we need a change of timetable for those times of year when the schools are not open. After all, it’s amazing quite the difference on the level of road traffic that you see at mid-term breaks compared the times leading up to and following them.
Some operators who mix in schoolbus services with their normal passenger workings do have different times of operation according to school term times and holidays. If you want some good examples of that, just take yourself off to the remoter reaches of Scotland. Argyll, Lochaber and Skye especially come to mind and it’s all down to the sparse population densities caused by history and geography.
Around more populous parts like Cheshire, it’s a different story because bus companies are not as dependent on schoolbus contracts for their businesses as happens around Argyll. You get the same service level for normal passenger workings regardless. What is the point of my piece is that variation in traffic levels have such a variation in bus journey times that I am left wondering if learning how timetables could be changed might be a good idea. There was a time when the I blamed the school run for all of this but I now recognise that there is more to the quietening of roads of this. In fact, it seems that timing of holidays from work by parents makes up the greater share of this.
Having different timetables for school term and holiday times sounds like causing a certain amount of upheaval for passengers but there are precedents for this in the form what is offered on bank holidays and around Christmas and New Year (sorry to mention those at this time of year, by the way). We have become accustomed to having different bus times for those occasions so why not have them more widely so long as bus companies don’t go using the exercise to curtail bus services as well. There is logistical overhead in doing this and some thought is needed when it comes to providing the timing information at bus stops. However, this is the sort of thing that goes on already and harmonising the term and holiday timings might even make it easier for the travelling public. These days, we have internet journey planners in the Traveline too and there’s also the ongoing GPS tracking of buses. All in all, the more that I think about instating school holiday bus timetables, I start to wonder if it hasn’t been suggested before.