The Rise of GHA?

In recent years, GHA Coaches and its subsidiary Vale Travel have started to make inroads to Cheshire East that the North Wales operation hadn’t done until then. It all started with school bus contracts using mid-life double decker buses seemingly based in Macclesfield and that still is their base in the area.

Next, they won the contract for the Connect 88 service between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham from Arriva who had operated it using the route number of 288. New buses were acquired for the Monday to Saturday service, which must have come as a welcome surprise to those who were regular users of Arriva’s ageing and step entrance Dennis Darts. Low floor Optare Versas have been the mainstay since then although other older buses appear from time to time.

The 289 between Northwich, Knutsford and Altrincham was another service that GHA gained and I am not sure when that happened; my first sighting of it was of a sunny Friday evening in May 2012 when I glimpse the bus to Northwich passing through Knutsford. It again is a Monday to Saturday service and has something like five departures each way a day.

In recent months, the number of services coming under their custodianship has increased with the 200 between Wilmslow, Styal and Manchester Airport being the first that I noticed. That is a seven day hourly daytime service that always seems to escape the cuts that blighted others. Is it because it only needs one bus and one driver all day? They possibly are the most cost effective so that wouldn’t surprise me.

The Connect 19 service between Macclesfield, Whirley Barn and Prestbury is yet another hourly Monday to Saturday daytime service that they operate after taking over from High Peak, who had run it for a number of years. Sunday services between Macclesfield, Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Manchester on the 130 route became yet another contract that they won, also from Arriva, and commenced in the middle of January and I got to seeing one of the Optare Versas for the Connect 88 running on it.

That wasn’t all because the P1 between Middlewood, Poynton and Hazel Grove became yet another entry on their roster of services and fitted the Monday to Friday hourly daytime service too. Thankfully, its institution meant the 392 and 393 services still run from Macclesfield into Stockport and don’t terminate in Hazel Grove as may have been feared.

Their most recent activity has involved a little risk taking on their part since they have applied to register a service along route 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford. There is a little confusion about this since the council were in the throes of issuing a tender for contract when GHA appear to have looked at the ridership figures and decided to go running it commercially, albeit on a largely two hourly timetable as opposed to High Peak’s 90 minute one. It again is a Monday to Saturday daytime affair with the first and last services of a Saturday being dropped. Cheshire East Council are waiting for the actual registration to go to completion before telling anyone what is happening even if GHA already have a timetable on their website. Though the risk taking is to be welcomed, it all looks confused and I hope things work out for the new service and that it gets the patronage that it needs. There have been many lost bus services in our area already and more aren’t needed.

4 thoughts on “The Rise of GHA?

  1. Something slightly confusing is if you ask for a return between Knutsford and Macclesfield you get issued with a £5 ticket that says it’s a return ticket between Knutsford and Macclesfield on Vale Travel service 27. Given the route is fully within Cheshire I don’t know why they don’t just issue the £5 Cheshire Day Rider which they describe as “Valid on GHA / Vale Travel buses in Cheshire”

    Regarding the new buses introduced on the former 288 route that must have been the first time since the early 1990s when it has happened on that route. Former operator Star Line Travel (who got taken over by British Bus t/a North Western Road Car Co and was run by the people behind Mistral) never seemed to use buses more than around 3 years ago. Then when North Western got their paws on the former Star Line routes some elderley Leyland Nationals started appearing on routes that had previously had buses like the below:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmightycat/5568303728/in/set-72157626240876217
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmightycat/5568303724/in/set-72157626240876217/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/ewood_eddie1968/4603757113/
    I think ignoring coaches those were the three types of buses that Star Line had when they were taken over in around 1995.

  2. Oddly, there was a time when High Peak gave you a Gadabout ticket (a type of day ticket) when you asked for a Macclesfield to Knutsford return fare. That cost £3.50 and preceded the £4.80 one that came later. Maybe it’s something like that Cheshire Rider that’s getting issued by GHA and not a return as we know it.

    As for the old 288, that’s an interesting piece of history because it was N-reg East Lancs bodied Dennis Darts that were used by Arriva is the last years of their operating it. It makes you wonder at Arriva’s overheads when you see them sparing newer buses like that.

  3. John – the tickets issued by the route 27 drivers do say “Macclesfield to Knutsford return” or “Knutsford to Macclesfield return”. It certainly doesn’t imply or indicate it should be valid for onward travel on the 19 or 88 routes, for instance.

  4. Edd, I stand corrected on that. It sounds as if the Cheshire Day tickets are the better option anyway when they’re the same price anyway…

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