Trunk Services: England

It might be because of its size but England hasn’t got a solid express coach backbone to its bus network quite like Scotland or Éire. The shortfall has been made up by longer local bus services, of which quite a few are to be found listed here. all of these services have a local feel to them but they are longer distance too and that’s one of the criteria that I use to decide what is and isn’t a trunk service. Nevertheless, it is a tricky distinction to apply in England so this list is bound to alter if ever I change my mind on the classification of any entry.

1 Liverpool – Birkenhead – Ellesmere Port – Cheshire Oaks – Chester
2 Liverpool – Birkenhead – Ellesmere Port – Chester
X2 Ellesmere Port – Chester

Merseytravel have got both Stagecoach and Arriva to work together on these services and to accept most of each others’ tickets apart from Arrive mobile phone tickets (M-tickets). Both of these combine together to offer a service level that is very frequent with one bus every ten minutes during Monday to Saturday daytime hours and a half-hourly service during the evenings of those days. On Sundays and bank holidays, there is one bus every twenty minutes during daytime hours and this decreases to an half hourly frequency for the evening time. That the total travel time is around two hours makes it all the more impressive even if trains surely are the faster way to travel from major towns. With buses, it is getting to the and from the places between these that matters.

1/2 Timetable

3: Keele – Newcastle – UHNS – Stoke – Hanley – Kidsgrove – Alsager – Crewe – Leighton Hospital
X3: Keele – Newcastle – Cliff Vale – Hanley

Here, the X3 is a peak time Monday to Friday university term service so it is the 3 that is the main route as part of First’s reworked Potteries network. The weekday service frequency is up to one bus every ten minutes between Keele and Kidsgrove and half that from between Kidsgrove and Crewe. On Sundays, this drops to half hourly between Keele and Kidsgrove and largely hourly between Kidsgrove and Crewe. There are competing train services but the bus service continues to be a mainstay, which just goes to show that trains do not always trump buses.

3/X3 Monday to Friday Timetable
3 Saturday Timetable
3 Sunday Timetable

16: Leek – Cheddleton – Werrington – Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent

D&G offer a half-hourly daytime service from Monday to Friday and an hourly one on Saturdays. The evening service on these days is operated by Aimée’s Travel as is the largely two-hourly Sunday service that extends from early morning to late evening, partially compensating for route 18 (see below) only seeing a daytime service on Sundays.

16 Timetable

16: Coventry – Warwick – Stratford-upon-Avon
18A: Coventry – Warwick – Stratford-upon-Avon
U17: Coventry – University of Warwick – Royal Leamington Spa – Sydenham

X15: Coventry – Royal Leamington Spa – Bishop’s Tachbrook – Wellesbourne – Stratford-upon-Avon
X16: Coventry – University of Warwick – Kenilworth – Warwick – Stratford-upon-Avon
X17: Coventry – Kenilworth – Royal Leamington Spa – Warwick
X18: Coventry – Royal Leamington Spa – Myton Road – Warwick – Wellesbourne – Stratford-upon-Avon

Between all of these, there should be a decent bus network connecting many of Warwickshire’s towns. Services are expectedly less regular on Sunday but frequencies of more than one journey an hour pervade on most routes on other days of the week. With the attractions of Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon, that only can be a good thing.

16/18A/X15/X18 Timetable
U17 Timetable
X16 Timetable
X17 Timetable

18: Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent – Sneyd Green – Endon – Leek – Haregate

Because Leek has some fine hill country to its north and bus services to there from Macclesfield, this service is of some interest to me. Its Sunday and Bank Holiday frequency is hourly (Good Friday gets a Saturday service, by the way) and, now that Wardle Transport withdrew its evening journeys, only offers daytime coverage. Things look far better on other days of the day with up to three buses an hour and a very useful early morning to late evening period of operation with Aimée’s Travel operating the last journeys of the day. The disparity between that very good service and what is offered on Sundays is staggering and causes me to wonder how that is the case.

18 Timetable

36: Ripon – Harrogate – Leeds

It was an article in Discover Britain magazine that brought to my attention the delights of Ripon. In so doing, it got me investigating possible routes there and away by public transport. That act reminded me of the frequent service 36 operated by Transdev Harrogate & District with their modern double-decker buses.So far, I have yet to sample these but a twice-hourly service on Sundays and thrice-hourly on other days is far from shabby at all.

36 Timetable

37: Bath – Bitton – Longwell Green – Hanham – Lawrence Hill – Bristol
38: Bath – Newton St. Loe – Saltford – Keynsham – Brislington – Bristol
39: Bath – Newton St. Loe – Saltford – Keynsham – Brislington – Bristol
349: Keynsham – Brislington – Bristol
X39: Bath – Newton St. Loe – Saltford – Brislington – Bristol

Between all of these, Bath and Bristol should be well connected by bus. Service 349 is operated with a half hourly frequency by Abus from Monday to Friday while the others are operated by First Bristol, Bath and the West. They all combine to offer five to six departures between the two cities and local towns and villages from Monday to Saturday though the frequency does drop markedly on Sundays and public holidays (37 becomes two hourly while 38 and 39 are hourly, giving the semblance of a half hourly frequency where they serve).

37 Timetable (Monday to Friday)
37 Timetable (Saturday)
37 Timetable (Sundays & Public Holidays)
38/39/X39 Timetable
349 Timetable

38: Macclesfield – Congleton – Sandbach – Crewe

One of the stalwarts of Cheshire’s interurban bus network, this is probably the sure-fire way of getting between Macclesfield and Crewe and has proved very useful for starting many a journey to Wales for a walking excursion, especially of a Sunday morning. The frequency is hourly with different timings for Sundays and bank holidays in comparison to the rest of the week. I have always found that the service runs well apart from any late evening occasions when a bus driver places rather too much weight on the bus’s accelerator. Let’s hope that inclination has been eradicated since I witnessed an attempt to get from Congleton to Macclesfield in less than ten minutes one night.

38 Timetable

45: York – Dunnington – Pocklington – Warter – Driffield – Bridlington
45A: York – Dunnington – Pocklington
46: York – Pocklington – Market Weighton – Driffield – Bridlington
46A: York – Pocklington – Market Weighton – Tibthorpe – Kirkburn – Driffield – Bridlington

This largely is an hourly service from York to Pocklington with most buses continuing across the Wolds to Driffield and running either via Market Weighton or Warter. Some buses continue as far as Bridlington too to supplment Transdev’s Coastliner services (see later on in the list). These routes provide seven day service (45A is Monday to Saturday and 46A is Monday to Firday though but the 45 and 46 compensate for these) that gets you into the overlooked Yorkshire Wolds 362 days of the year. That makes the services useful for anyone fancying a quiet walk for a few hours or a whole day.

45/45A/46/46A Timetable

65: Buxton – Tideswell – Sheffield
66: Buxton – Tideswell – Great Hucklow – Chesterfield
66A: Buxton – Tideswell – Housely – Chesterfield

There was a time when I never would have missed out on including these services but any delay in adding them is down to my travel interests veering away from Tideswell and its surrounding area. Now that my attentions again are turning towards the Peak District as a handy location for walking in appealing countryside. Handily, these services go via such places as Eyam and Foolow.

Between the two services, they offer a next to hourly service between Buxton and Tideswell for part of the day before each heads towards their different destinations. On Sundays, the frequency is more like two-hourly on the shared section of both routes. As for the complete routes, you are looking at around five journeys each way on weekdays and three each way on Sundays so it’s matter of doing some planning so as to make best use of the services for getting out and about. Even with that, they still remain useful and the fact that I can get to Eyam on them has been a little revelation for me; a walk around there could follow.

65/65A Timetable
66 & 66A Timetable

66: Swindon – Shrivenham – Faringdon – Oxford

Business travel has taken me down to Oxford and Oxfordshire and I found this bus service for use as a back-up option for getting about the area. The frequency is hourly on Sundays and mostly is half-hourly on other days of the week. That makes it a viable option and it runs from early morning to late night too.

66 Timetable

84: Crewe – Nantwich – Tarporley – Tarvin – Chester

A walk along part of the Sandstone Trail brought it to my attention that I had overlooked adding this service to my timetable list. The reason for renewed interest is the proximity of Tarporley to the aforementioned long distance path. The frequency is hourly on Sundays though journeys hardly extend into the evening at all. From Monday to Saturday, the frequency between Crewe and Nantwich is up to four buses an hour. The equivalent frequency as far as Chester has been half-hourly for a time but the more usual one is hourly with extra journeys on Fridays and Saturdays. There also are some deviations between school term and school holiday times.

84 Timetable

128: Scarborough – Pickering – Helmsley

This is another staple of the North Yorkshire walker’s transport itinerary and complements Transdev’s Coastliner services. From Scarborough, it heads along the southern edge of the North York Moors to Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley with summer Sunday journeys being extended to Sutton Bank Visitor Centre. On winter Sundays and bank holidays, the service is reduced to two-hourly between Scarborough and Pickering only. Apart from that, it’s about hourly for 7 days a week.

128 Timetable

130: Macclesfield – Wilmslow – Handforth – Cheadle – Manchester

With trains providing a faster means for travel if getting to Manchester is your objective, this is mainly for anyone wanting to travel part of the way. That’s something that it does reasonably well so long as buses do not get caught up in heavy traffic or break down and drivers leave you off at stops as you require. Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday service is hourly and starts before trains do, providing an invaluable travel option. However, cuts throughout the decade so far are making the service a largely daytime only affair.

130 Timetable

215: Matlock – Chatsworth – Bakewell – Baslow – Sheffield
218: Bakewell – Baslow – Sheffield

There was a time when 218 offered a direct connection from Buxton to Sheffield that itself met the 118 from Stoke-on-Trent and Leek. That’s no more and we now have a Monday to Saturday service starting from Bakewell with a next to hourly daytime frequency instead. On Sunday, it’s the 215 that you need to use and it offers an hourly service during the afternoon with a single departure in the morning; the latter offers a similar frequency to the 218. Even with these changes, it’s good to know that it’s possible to get to Baslow Edge and surrounding hills without needing a car.

215 Timetable
218 Timetable

280 Preston – Whalley – Clitheroe
180 Clitheroe – Barnoldswick – Skipton
X80 Clitheroe – West Marton – Skipton

This may seem an unusual collection of services but they all work together with destination displays being changed at Clitheroe without any passengers needing to change buses for a through journey. The 180 is a Monday to Saturday operation so it is left to the 280/X80 combination to offer four journeys in each direction on Sundays. Other days see a largely hourly frequency though you need to watch the times since departures do not operate at the the same minutes past every hour. Still, it remains as useful a travel option for anyone wishing to explore Lancashire and Yorkshire countryside as it is for generally getting about the area and that is enough to get it added here.

280/180/X80 Timetable

376: Bristol – Wells – Glastonbury – Street

This service is also branded as the Mendip Explorer and a place name like Glastonbury should be known to many because of its regular music festival. Wells is a cathedral city that is admired by many too so that is another attraction. It helps too that we are talking about a service that runs from early in the morning until late into the evening with a half hourly frequency for most of that and for every day of the week too.

376 Timetable

378: Wilmslow – Handforth – Stanley Green – Bramhall – Stockport

Sometimes on my way home from Wilmslow, I see a Stagecoach bus waiting at the stop in between working services between Stockport and Wilmslow. While it means that my bus cannot stop where it should to leave passengers off and on, it has been a reminder to add an entry for the timetable in here. Journey time is of the order of an hour so it cannot compete with the train on this basis. Nevertheless, it runs hourly between Wilmslow and Stockport and every twenty minutes along the part of the route that is within the GMITA area during daytime hours Monday to Saturday.

Since April 2013, all evening journeys and those on Sundays have been truncated so that they don’t extend into Cheshire East. This is because of the withdrawal of council subsidies and is a sad decision that cuts down on journey options at these times.

378 Timetable

392/393: Macclesfield – Stockport

During 2013, High Peak took over this service from BakerBus and more considerable changes were made than the removal of “The Shuttle” route branding that came after BakerBus took over from Arriva in 2009. The 392 via Bollington, Pott Shrigley and Higher Poynton has become the main route with only a few journeys for the 393 via Adlington. The service frequency remains largely hourly and some tweaks are being made to the timetable from September 2013 to aid on-time running and usability.

392/393 Timetable

500 Liverpool John Lennon Airport – Speke – Liverpool

Arriva operate this express service from early morning to mid evening every day of the week. The lack of coverage later in the day surprises me though there is a later daily journey operated by Ace Travel as part of the Liverpool to Wirral night bus network. The general half hourly frequency is respectable so there can be no complaints about that though the 86A remains a useful backstop for more of the day so that evening gap does get covered.

500 Timetable

554: Keswick – Wigton – Carlisle
555: Lancaster – Kendal – Keswick

Because of its route and frequency, this service can be seen as part of the backbone of the Lake District’s bus network. For this year’s English summer school holiday season, that frequency is being upped to half-hourly between Kendal and Keswick on weekdays (Monday to Friday), which can have lots of uses if you could escape the crowds. For the latter purpose, Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere can all be seen as gateways to hill country and the bus passes by the a goodly number of footpaths and other rights way leading to the likes of Helvellyn, Fairfield and many more fells, some less populated than those listed. Views from the top deck should be good too, so long as any route branding doesn’t get in the way.

554 Timetable
555 Timetable

840: Leeds – York – Whitby
843: Leeds – York – Scarborough
844: Leeds – York (- Heslington Hall, University of York)
845: Leeds – York – Bridlington
X40: Leeds – York – Whitby
X45: Leeds – York – Bridlington

All of these are operated by Transdev York & East Coast under the Coastliner branding using high quality double decker buses for 362 days of the year. Of these, the 843 service is hourly and the 840 is a firm favourite with walkers with its regular calls to Pickering and Thornton-le-Dale. Whitby and Birdlington are served much less frequently than other places so you need to check the timetable carefully and they don’t enjoy a winter Sunday service either; the X40 and X45 are Summer Sunday limited stop services. Still, services 843 and 845 are popular with walkers since they shadow the Wolds Way beyond Malton. The 844 is not of so much interest to walkers seeking rural idyll but is extended to serve Heslington Hall on Sundays for students attending the University of York. The whole set make for very regular bus connections between Leeds and York via Tadcaster though the total journey time of around an hour is three times longer than that of the corresponding train journey.

840/843/844/845/X40/X45 Timetable

Skyline 199: Buxton – Stockport – Manchester Airport

Perhaps amazingly, Buxton gets a direct bus link to Manchester Airport and Macclesfield doesn’t. That may be a consequence of Derbyshire folk making more use of buses than their Cheshire counterparts but that is not to take from the usefulness of High Peak’s offering. Incidentally, it also serves Disley in Cheshire along with places across the Derbyshire boundary like New Mills, Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith. It may not stop at as many places in Greater Manchester though I have seen Hazel Grove and High Lane gaining a mention. While I know that there always is the train for this travel corridor, buses offer a little extra in terms of convenience and there can be railway engineering works.

Skyline Timetable

Swift: Derby – Ashbourne – Mayfield – Uttoxeter

It struck me as strange that one of the predecessors to this service, the One (Mayfield – Ashbourne – Derby), was a Monday to Saturday service without bank holiday running given the numbers of people that I saw using it on two Saturday visits to Ashbourne. Since then, it’s been combined with a 409 service between Uttoxeter and Ashbourne to give a new service with many of the features of the older ones, though Uttoxeter now sees more buses than it did. This looks like the hallmark of a company that cares about its services so the surprise regarding Sunday services grows. Maybe I should go there of a Sunday to see if there is any obvious reason for this but the non-Sunday service seems a good way to get around anyway. Be warned though that evening services are run by Arriva rather than Trent Barton, to my mind a consequence of council support. They also are less frequent than their daytime counterparts with no service to Mayfield or Uttoxeter either.

Swift Timetable

The Witch Way: Manchester – Prestwich – Rawtenstall – Burnley (- Nelson) – Skipton (- Grassington)

The route number may be X43 but the branding has to be more memorable. For over thirty years, there were no direct trains between Manchester and Burnley until the Todmorden Curve was reinstated so bus services did better as a result. The attractions of comfortable seating and other amenities aboard frequent express double decker services still mean that buses can be an alternative to an hourly direct train service. The demotion of Nelson in favour of Skipton or Grassington as a terminus is a more recent development so a change of bus is needed in Burnley outside of peak travel times or late evenings. The extension to Yorkshire Dales may surprise some but it again is more than feasible given how far west of Leeds Skipton actually is. With that in mind, it is not hard to see why some are campaigning for the restoration of the rail link between Skipton and Burnley. Whether it happens is uncertain at the time of writing.

In the meantime, buses do what the rail network cannot with the service frequency to Skipton being half hourly from Monday to Saturday and hourly on Sundays with many buses continuing to Grassington too. The frequency is higher between Burnley and Manchester with a half hourly Sunday service and up to four buses per hour on other days of the week. It is the sort of high quality service that commuters and those wishing to explore Lancashire or Yorkshire countryside need so any patronage is well deserved.

X43 Timetable

Transpeak: Derby – Matlock – Bakewell – Buxton – Stockport – Manchester

Guidebooks aren’t usually so forthcoming when it comes to learning about bus routes but that’s how I got to learn about this route. The, it was offering from Trent Barton but it has been operated by the joint venture with Centrebus, High Peak, since April. Even with the handover, it remains a useful one to know for getting about the Derbyshire Dales with places like Matlock and Bakewell being on the route.

Transpeak Timetable

X4: Middlesbrough – Redcar – Saltburn – Loftus – Whitby

While Yorkshire’s coastline has yet to see my giving it a visit, I thought that I would add this anyway since there are walking opportunities around Whitby. The frequency largely is half hourly too and the service has been given the Sapphire treatment by Arriva.

X4 Timetable

X4/X5: Workington – Cockermouth – Keswick – Penrith

There was a time when Keswick had a railway link in the form of the Cockermouth and Keswick Railway but that sadly no longer exists and this bus service is its modern day equivalent. On weekdays (Monday to Saturday), the frequency is hourly and buses run from early to late too. In addition, Sundays see a two hourly timetable that covers less of the day. Without this service, getting to those hills in the north of the Lake District wouldn’t be as easy and it would be a pity to miss them because of a lack of connectivity. In any event, the A66 is busy around these parts so giving the car a rest would seem sensible too.

X4/X5 Timetable

X12: Ulverston – Coniston

Ulverston may not be uppermost on list of access points for the Lakeland fells but this bus service makes it one of them. Ulverston’s having a railway station makes the X12 a good link for someone coming in from outside of the area and bus timings are not bad for that day of exploring the fells either and even might make it a better alternative to the 505 too.

X12 Timetable

X15: Newcastle – Morpeth – Alnwick – Belford – Berwick (via Great North Road or A1)

Northumberland may be one of England’s forgotten counties in some respects but it does have attractive coastline and good empty hill country surrounding the Cheviots. It takes 45 minutes to traverse by train and the bus running times that you see for this service, though better than the X18 below, will cause some pause for thought (travelling non-stop by coach from Newcastle to Berwick takes around 75 minutes anyway).

X15 Timetable

X18: Newcastle – Morpeth – Amble – Warkworth – Alnmouth – Alnwick – The Coast – Berwick

This route has been created by merging the previous 518 and 501 services to give one with journey times between Newcastle and Berwick of nearly four hours! The 518 never was a speedy affair anyway with its going around by the coast to serve places like Amble, Warkworth and Alnmouth. These places though are worth visiting, Warkworth comes especially recommended, as are those north of Alnwick.

Not all services go the whole way though with many starting from and ending at Alnwick like the 518 used to do. There are useful connections to and from Alnmouth’s train station too though you do need to watch your timings. Saying that, they offer a way to shorten overall journey times that cannot be discounted.

X18 Timetable

X84: Leeds – Otley – Ilkley – Addingham – Skipton

As a means of getting between Leeds and the likes of Ilkley or Skipton, it probably doesn’t hold a candle to its rail counterpart. Nevertheless, trains can and do malfunction sometimes so it’s good to have alternatives and being able to swap between the Airedale and Wharfedale lines has its place when chaos descend on the railways. Of course, buses always matter more for the shorter journeys along part of their route as opposed to the their full extent.

X84 Timetable