It now appears that the current economic climate and the curtailments in public spending have affected two companies based not too far away from where I live. The first is the merger of the operations of Bowers and the Trent Barton depot in Dove Holes near Buxton. Apparently, Centrebus and Trent Barton are embarking on a joint venture that is to be based in Dove Holes with the Chapel-en-Frith depot looking set to close. The name for the new company is to be High Peak and is to grace the roads of Cheshire as well as Derbyshire since Bowers run quite a few services around Macclesfield and Knutsford. The 199 Buxton-Stockport-Manchester Airport route is another one that is bound to be moved to the new company and that means that Greater Manchester will be included among the areas served too. The long distance Transpeak service between Manchester, Buxton, Derby and Nottingham is to stay operating like it does today with the Dove Holes depot staying in use as the northern base. It is going to take time for the changes to come into place but this autumn could see the first signs of the merger once the reorganisation along with the paperwork and authorisations that it entails have been completed.
In another development, D&G has felt the effects of bus subsidy cuts made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council. That situation must have made an approach by Arriva regarding acquisition of D&G’s North Staffordshire business look very attractive. The result is that Arriva is buying it to build up Wardle Transport, a subsidiary that it has in the area. After the sale, D&G will continue to trade from Crewe and its sister company in the West Midlands, Midland, is unaffected by the change.
The announcements for both of these changes mentioned the reality of a more challenging trading environment. This is the more pertinent for D&G because one of it founders set it up after the Labour party’s landslide election victory of 1997 in the hope of the then new government increasing the funding for bus services, something that actually did happen. Now that the proverbial pendulum is swinging in the other direction, we are seeing signs of consolidation and, in some unfortunate cases such as McKindless in Glasgow (once Scotland’s largest independent bus operator), company failures. While there can be no doubt that the bus business is facing a changed environment, it might have its upshots too with higher fuel costs and a reduced standard of living making families’ having an extra car more expensive than it was. If that were to increase bus patronage, it could compensate for the reductions in public spending but only time will tell whether or not that comes to pass, especially with some councils such as Northamptonshire having some very draconian proposals.