Still some council support forthcoming after all

Previously, I reported the then upcoming decimation of Monday to Saturday evening services on service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe. Now, it seems that Bakerbus have a contract to run later evening journeys on an hourly basis from 20:35 to 23:35 in either direction, albeit without having to honour tickets issued Arriva or D&G. This is promising news and makes me wonder now becomes of the planned short Arriva journeys between Macclesfield and Congleton (20:30 and 20:57 in each direction) and the 20:25 from Crewe to Sandbach. Maybe, all will become more clear in time but the continuation of something like the current is nothing but good news. Apparently, the 38 gets considered a strategic service and the 130 from Macclesfield to Manchester gets nothing like the same status, as can be seen from the severe service reductions in recent times.

This changeover is to take place on June 3rd and there is another on July 1st: the return of council funding for service 77 between Congleton and Kidsgrove. The current timetable will not be changing so the current set up of four journeys in each direction from morning into early afternoon is to remain. Though the days of the route all the way to Hanley bus station in Stoke-on-Trent, it is encouraging to see its continuation given that Astbury and Mow Cop are calling points, the latter of these being especially important for being on the Gritstone Trail.

Crewe gets its share of support for town services too with D&G’s service 9 between Crewe and Wistaston getting support for its Saturday journeys. The result is that there are more journeys over near enough the full route (Elm Drive is not served) for more of the day than was the case before. To compensate for the omission of Elm Drive from service 9, all current service 8 journeys are to follow the 8A route (with a consequent change in route number) instead as they go between Wistaston Green, Crewe and Sidney. This new arrangement comes into place from June 9th and June 3rd also sees tweaks to services 44 and 44M between Crewe and Nantwich (44M gets re-timed and Monday to Friday 08:55 from Crewe changed to start from Shavington at 09:08 instead).

June 3rd also sees D&G taking over daytime journeys on Knutsford town service 300 from High Peak without a change in timetable. There is no word of council financial support for this but the sense of High Peak leaving Knutsford is not hard to see now that they no longer operate service 27 to there from Macclesfield. It still is out on a limb for D&G too and Tomlinson Travel continue with the evening ones and I have heard some complaints on the service that they provide.

For a change, this latest round of bus service announcements is good news; developments haven’t looked this harmless for a while. It also is intriguing to see council funding appearing now after what was looking like bus services being left to their own devices with some falling on such hard times that they couldn’t continue as they were. For a good while. it almost felt like the approach was a managed decline somewhat akin to that applied to the railways in Britain for a few decades and was quite ironic given that bus services were mooted as replacements for soon to be defunct railway lines in Beeching’s plans.

What makes me wonder a little though is the timing of all of this. Cheshire East Council has seen hefty staffing upheaval in recent months. Having experienced this sort of re-organisation myself a number of times during my career so far, I realise how much stasis they can cause and I find myself asking if the same thing befell Cheshire East; folk in fear of their jobs can be unable to make decisions and it looks like that was happening before what we see now. Beyond what was happening, it might be that folk can see their way ahead again.

Seeing the recognition of the 38 as a strategic service was a great development and I’d like to think that its Sunday evening journeys may be graced by the same thinking at some point in the near future. Maybe that’s being overly optimistic but I was beginning to think that Northern Rail’s service between Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent might have made services like those on routes 38 and 77 less critical in the eyes of some and hence more vulnerable to withdrawal. After all, loss of trust in bus services is a dangerous thing and seeing what was happening was making my mind veer towards the apparent safe haven of train services. Let’s hope that we have found the bottom now and that bus service news may be a bit more positive from this point forward.

19 thoughts on “Still some council support forthcoming after all

  1. I would have thought that Arriva would keep the planned short journeys because they depart 5-10 minutes before the subsidised journeys and a lot of the current users will have Arriva tickets and will therefore continue to use them.

    • It looks as if they are keeping those short evening journeys on service 38 according to a recent announcement from Arriva themselves.

  2. I just am interested to know if a 14 evening service could still be facilitated.and perhaps something at the Crewe end perhaps an existing service they run in the evening or something new interworked into the mix as well. Then again considering in one direction the timetable is 1h 1 minute (1h6 Macc Bound) its not hard to imagine them trimming it to just below one hour and doing a straight in and out.in at least one direction to reduce the number of resources used.

  3. Carl, there was a time when the 38 Sunday services were made to run end to end in just less than an hour. Then, Arriva were using Mercedes midibuses with manual gearboxes so that might have been a possibility. Maybe the same sort of squeeze may be what the council has in mind. Also, will anyone miss those evening (and Sunday) journeys on service 14 anyway? I cannot imagine that they were much used.

  4. No, I cannot imagine they were the most popular services but they were a nice added bonus for the area. The Sunday service would have looked better if there had been journeys for people seeking to get to Langley/Macclesfield Forest for leisure but alas the position of Arriva’s depot made 1 way operation a better idea.

  5. Agree with you about the Sunday services. However, there was a summer Sunday and bank holiday service between Macclesfield and Knutsford that never seemed to be well used so these things need better publicity than popping a few timetables into a library if they are to succeed.

  6. That’s exactly what I have been saying to Poynton Town Council about the P1 as it hasn’t been attracting sufficient passengers for various reasons but is an important link for residents in Middlewood/Higher Poynton. They have agreed to distribute timetables to all households now when the 3 month service review occurs in June.

  7. Knutsford is sort of in a position where it’s a bit far north in comparison to D&G bus’ usual operating area but also a bit far south in comparison to their sister company’s usual operating area South Lancs Travel. However, if they want to try serving Knutsford then one needs to operate a bit out of their usual area and as D&G bus currently serve Macclesfield, they are probably the best choice out of the two to serve Knutsford.

    The D&G Bus 300 service did seem to be registered commerically with the registration accepted on the same day as the High Peak cancellation was accepted. Therefore, it sounded like there was either some dialogue between the two operators or that High Peak made Cheshire East council aware of their intention to cancel and Cheshire East informed bus operators of the details in the hope of avoiding it going out to tender.

    The 300 evening service is contracted to Tomlinson Travel. I’m not sure of the date it is set to go out to tender assuming no-one registers it commerically or that Cheshire East don’t strip them of the contract.

    One thing regarding the 27 Sunday service is they put in big letters on the timetable that it does not serve Tatton Park when the RHS show is on – the day when it would probably have got the most usage otherwise!

    The comment posted on ‘Fix My Transport’ relating to why Cheshire East council don’t see Knutsford and Warrington as towns which need to be connected by a bus: http://www.fixmytransport.com/campaigns/fix-this-run-a-6-days-a-week-at-more–2

  8. That Tatton Park exclusion didn’t just apply to Sunday journeys for the 27 but also to those on other days of the week too. That was clear when journeys were extended into Tatton Park for the usual Monday to Friday service. It made it look as if the RHS show organisers wouldn’t leave buses come into their site when it would have made most sense. When you see what Ulsterbus is doing for the Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland at the moment (or what Lothian does for the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh every June), you do wonder what some people are thinking.

  9. What made the weekday and Saturday Tatton Park exclusion worse on the 27 service when it was hourly is the buses had a long layover at Knutsford Bus Station so they could have run to Tatton Park and back, kept an hourly frequency and only required two buses.

    There also used to be a different route that had only a Tuesday and Friday service with one morning service from Sandbach-Holmes Chapel-Knutsford-Rostherne (Tatton Park entrance)-Altrincham and an afternoon service in the other direction. Whitegate Travel were the last bus operator to run that service as a H50 route but it previously run under other operators including BakerBus, Star Line Travel and for a short period Roadliner Travel – who used over sized 50 seater coaches on the service.

    I’ve found the old 27 Sunday and Bank Holiday timetable here: http://www.bakerbus.com/downloads/bus_routes/d38bee175690072d70e9a8272b243d1b.pdf (found by Google – there’s no link to it from the BakerBus website) It’s clear that the Tatton Park exclusion during the RHS show wouldn’t have been due to extra traffic meaning the turnaround would be too tight as two of the services had over an hour turnaround time.

    One thing does stick out like a sore thumb about that timetable. If you ask people in Knutsford what’s the main benefit of a Macclesfield bus a lot of them will say it’s the location of the nearest proper hospital. Now that timetable shows people from Knutsford could make a return trip to Macclesfield hospital on Sundays and Bank Holidays provided they wanted to arrive at 12:17 and leave at 14:53. Also why did the council publish a separate leaflet for that service? Anyone who picked up the Monday-Saturday one would have thought there was no Sunday service at all.

  10. Did the council get itself stuck in a one timetable per contract rut? Letting the whole service in one piece would have made more sense instead of adding on a summer Sunday and bank holiday service if there was money available, which is how it looks from the way that they were going about it. Of course, the subject of the abilities of bus companies and councils when it comes to publicising bus services contains many examples of poor PR…

  11. John – that might be down to tendering rules. Bakerbus had operated a five year contract on the Mon-Sat 27 service and then a second 5 year contract before losing out to High Peak in 2007. If Cheshire County Council decided to look at a Sunday contract when Bakerbus were half way through one of their Mon-Sat contracts or they didn’t want to commit to 5 years of funding for Sunday services then it would have needed to be a separate contract. As it was the Sunday service didn’t run in summer 2012 as a result of the Cheshire East funding cuts but the High Peak contract continued until autumn 2012.

  12. Forgot the say in my previous post regarding the 300 service High Peak have suspended services on that route for two consecutive days due for ‘operational reasons.’ It’d be interesting to see whether the Traffic Commissioner takes any action in relation to that.

    • Of course, it’s a matter for Cheshire East Council too and there’s a local town councillor on the case. Cancelling a whole day’s service is a serious action to action and needs some good explanations too, especially when a certain Mrs. Bell gets involved.

  13. It looks like D&G Bus will be serving all the main towns in Cheshire East from July. They’ve registered ‘flexible bus’ schemes in Knutsford, Wilmslow, Bollington, Middlewich, Sandbach, Nantwich and Crewe starting on 15th July.

  14. Looking at the new 38 evening timetable their is a 2 minute layover at each end. Not ideal and something I hope someone will be keeping an eye on this to ensure it gives good punctuality is maintained.

  15. Comparing them with the current times they’ve increased Macc-Congleton and West Heath but removed 8 minutes at Sandbach which then was presumably just sitting time?

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