Lost Welsh Independent Bus Companies

It was before Christmas 2017 when the idea for this post entered my head after learning about more Welsh bus company collapses. Though I might have had the motivation to write it up then, the topic felt unseasonal so I left it to one side for a while.

There are plenty of reasons why the subject is too sober for what was supposed to be a joyful time of year. In the companies listed below, there seems to be a repeating story of hardship and subsequent collapse. In some cases, business management was not what it should and the Welsh traffic commissioner never takes too kindly to sudden closure of any bus company and there has been too much cause for hearings to take place in Welshpool.

Most of the affected concerns operated rural bus routes under council contracts, an easier revenue earner during the years of Labour government in London but much tougher now in more austere times. Such is the geography of Wales, that many firms prospered once more funding was on offer from the late nineties until the end of the next decade. One bus industry professional commented that he was involved in setting up a business in the nineties because public subsidy was about to increase and the Cheshire bus network was much stronger back then so the same might have been possible for Wales.

That is not how it is now and bus patronage cannot be helped by service cuts either so a vicious circle comes into being. Then, smaller firms suffer and the hilly nature of Wales makes it hard too for large operators with Arriva and Veolia pulling out of mid Wales. It all makes for a troubled network so the presence of the Welsh Government support TrawsCambria network is invaluable because we cannot say that all is well yet.

When you see the list below, it is easy to see how instability can rein so anything that helps has to be good. After all, bus passengers need to sure that services will operate as advertised and the last thing that councils need is repeated re-tendering of services. Hopefully, the decline can be halted and we see a reduced number of failures over time. You only can hope for better.

D & J Jones and Son

In the wake of the collapse of GHA Coaches, this Wrexham based operator took on a lot of extra work before it too collapsed immediately before Christmas 2017. It was said that staffing issues were the cause rather than financial pressures but it left Wrexham Council with the task of replacing many services in order to keep transport services going in the borough.

Express Motors

2018 started with much change in the bus network in northwest Wales (Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy) because of this operator’s loss of its licence. The cause was a coach crash in France that revealed discrepancies in vehicle maintenance records. There were two family owned companies on site with similar names, one offering private and the other providing local bus services. Both were closed and a replacement company appears not to have been set up to continue in the bus service business. The result is that all council contracted routes were retendered.

GHA Coaches

GHA Coaches rose very quickly across North and Mid Wales as well as Cheshire and Shropshire. It now looks as if the expansion may have been too rapid for service quality declined and cashflow problems meant that taxes were unpaid and service quality suffered too. In the end, the company was wound up by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The company’s directors tried starting another company but were disqualified from continuing with such operations by the traffic commissioner, an understandable action given how quickly GHA Coaches had collapsed and the chaos that resulted.

Padarn Bus

Llanberis’ Padarn Bus was another bus company that failed in northwest Wales and there was a fraud investigation mounted after that happened. That happened in 2014 and so comes before others on this list. It was a sign of what was to come.

Silcox Coaches

This Pembrokeshire operator failed for financial reasons not long before GHA Coaches. The business had been sold in order to gain added investment that never materialised. It then was bought back by the family that owned for much of its long history but it never recovered.

Christmas 2017 and New Year 2018 Alterations to Public Transport Services in the U.K.

It may be November but news about festive transport arrangements is starting to appear. It has been a while since I collated these because of other things happening in my life but this is where I plan to collect anything I find on an ongoing basis. It could be worth checking this again, especially as we get closer to the time in question.

Rail Travel

Network Rail generally schedules a lot of engineering work for the Christmas and New Year period so it is best to check their travel summary before making big plans. In some ways, their choice of timing always amazes me because more people have time for travel when they are not working. Is it reduced by family activities and the visiting of friends? The answer to that question may reveal a lot.

We seem to be seeing a lot of strike activity this year and some is set to continue into 2018 too. Virgin Trains and CrossCountry are affected by one day stoppages that mean reductions in the service levels that they can offer. Not all operators are affected though and Great Western Railway is one of those who only need to contend with engineering works on parts of their network.

English Midlands

This year First Potteries is early off the mark with details of how its services will look between Christmas Eve and New Years Day, inclusive. No doubt, others will follow suit and both Arriva in the Midlands and Stagecoach Midlands already have done so. Network West Midlands has its own port of call for similar information about their patch.

Northeast England

Both Arriva in the North East and Arriva in Yorkshire has posted details of their seasonal service levels and there are more details like this from transport authorities like South Yorkshire Transport, West Yorkshire Metro and Nexus.

Northwest England

Industrial action at Arriva Northwest has been continuing with strike days planned for the run up to Christmas. Some of these were to come in multiples and there is one foursome immediately preceding Christmas Eve itself, which hardly is in the spirit of the season though many in Merseyside supported the strike. Thankfully, much of this has been avoided and the dispute resolved so we can focus on planned seasonal service changes instead.

In keeping with the time of year, Merseytravel has created a booklet summarising the services available over the Christmas and New Year period and Transport for Greater Manchester has its own posting on the subject. Operators such as Stagecoach Manchester, High Peak Buses and D & G Buses are getting in on the act too so their websites are worth checking. The last two of these also extend into places like Derbyshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire so it was tricky to know where to put them. Boundaries can be very artificial at times.

Southern England

Stagecoach South has announced its arrangements for the winter holiday season. Only Christmas Day will see no buses operating which should see something for shoppers and others to use on the next day. Arriva’s bus operations in Bedfordshire & Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & Essex and Kent & Surrey seem to be something similar, albeit on a more limited basis. Greater provision of public transport services over the festive season also appears to be a theme for the arrangements described by Transport for London. Only Christmas Day sees an absence of services though engineering work affects London’s railways throughout the period.

Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway Council have created a summary of service levels over the festive period. Given how rural this part of Scotland is, this is a useful thing to have. For this and other parts of Scotland, Traveline also have their own summaries of seasonal alterations over the same period. That should help when information is unavailable elsewhere. If you prefer to check what individual operators have to say, some are helpful like Stagecoach North Scotland, Borders Buses and Lothian Buses so what they provide should come in handy.

Wales

Like Llew Jones International, Arriva in Wales has posted their summary of service changes for the festive period as has Gwynedd Council for their part of Wales. While Traveline Wales offers a principality-wide compilation, more should follow as I find them.

Up to usual tricks yet again…

Cheshire East Council have launched yet another consultation to see if they can cut bus services even more. We probably should have had on whether it is appropriate to try to save £1.5m on this in the first place. Things already are close to a situation where nothing runs after 18:00 and I am trying to see if Arriva will give us a better service on route 130 between 16:00 and 19:00.

Again, it is evening and Sunday services that are at the centre of attempted savings though the Little Bus network does not escape either. Trunk routes like services 38 and 130 fall into the scope for cuts with the former potentially losing all of its evening services and the latter its Sunday ones. A number of services face withdrawal like service 200 between Wilmslow and Manchester Airport or service P1 between Middlewood, Poynton and Hazel Grove. Otherwise, there is some pointless renumbering of otherwise unaffected services.

The consultation takes the form of a route by route interrogation that causes some like me to question the need to bother about it when so much is cut already. It certainly is not as user friendly as that run by Derbyshire County Council and that leads to its own share of cynical rebuke. It is one thing to try collecting too much information but that is made worse if it puts off those who depend on more than one service from commenting at all.

Still, there is some cause for optimism with all the consultation fatigue that I am suffering. Local newspapers like the Macclesfield Express and the Wilmslow Guardian have featured the consultation on their front pages with comments from local councillors. One does have to wonder when it all is going to stop but the cuts actually made in the end may step back from the full extent that is described in the proposal document. The consultation itself runs until July 26th so we will learn what happens after that. One has to ask if it all is false economy and we saw the collapse of GHA last year as they fell foul of an ever more challenging operating environment.

A Changeover in the Scottish Borders

Over the weekend, I was in Scotland for a few days and went for a few walks through the hills around Peebles and Broughton. Because, I had based myself in Edinburgh, I was making use of the X62 between there and Peebles and checking on my options before I left home revealed a change that happened last month.

Now that First has been released from the obligations previously imposed on it, it has been retrenching in the Scottish bus market. This has seen it exiting East Lothian with Lothian Buses setting up two subsidiaries to replace the withdrawn services, Lothian Country Buses and East Coast Buses. In the coming weeks, the former is set to be merged with the latter and some service improvements are coming too.

Within the last month, First also exited the Scottish Borders with West Coast Motors taking over their operations. This has resulted in the formation of new company is called Borders Buses and has taken over all routes previously operated in the area by First. For now, timetables and fares are unchanged but Borders Buses can change things as it sees fit once it has settled into its new role. Some buses have been hired in from First until replacements are introduced though there already are some new white vehicles operating under the new fleet name. In addition, some buses from Perryman’s Buses also see service on Borders Buses routes and that is another part of the West Coast Motors group so the Campbeltown based parent company is not new to this part of Scotland.

The result of all the changes is that West Coast Motors has moved its interests from Argyll and Bute, Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands not only into the Borders but also into Northumberland. It has come quite a way from its Argyll heartland so it will be interesting to see how it goes now given that the recently reinstated Borders railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh is having an impact.

Update on 2017-04-20:
Buses magazine reports that the operations of both Perryman’s Buses and Borders Buses are to be merged with the latter name persisting. So far, there is little sign of that apart from legal lettering on buses showing the same postal address.

Changes to Staffordshire Bus Services in January 2016

Having subscribed to news alerts from Staffordshire County Council regarding bus services, I always have fancied distilling the news for publication on here, only for the time or inclination needed to prepare the digests never to appear. The emails are split by district so there is some overlap between them. Rather than preserving that, I am going to present a county wide summary here and Traveline should let you in on any new bus times.

From 2016-01-03

Services 1 & 2: Huntington – Walsall (Arriva Midlands)

Revised route and timetable.

Services 3 & 3A: Cannock – Walsall (Arriva Midlands)

Revised timetable.

Service 6: Stafford – Rickerscote (Arriva Midlands)

Revised route and timetable, with Stafford to Doxey to be served by new service 12. Service 6A journeys cancelled and Merrivale Road no longer served.

Service 12: Stafford – Doxey(Arriva Midlands)

New Monday to Sunday service with an hourly frequency on Sundays and a half-hourly one on other days of the week.

Service 24: Rugeley – Brereton (Arriva Midlands)

New half hourly Monday to Saturday service that replaces part of the cancelled X70 service.

Service 26: Rugeley – Etching Hill & Springfields (Arriva Midlands)

New half hourly Monday to Saturday circular service that replaces part of the cancelled 826/828 service.

Service 60: Cannock – Lichfield (Arriva Midlands)

Revised route and timetable. X60 will be cancelled and the Lichfield to Tamworth section replaced by new service X65.

Services 61 & 62: Cannock – Lichfield (Arriva Midlands)

Minor timetable revisions.

Services 70 / 70E: Rugeley – Wolverhampton

Revised route and timetable. X70 journeys will be cancelled, with Brereton to be served by the new service 24, and Wedges Mill and Hill Ridware will no longer be served.

Services 74, 75 & 75A: Cannock – Stafford (Arriva Midlands)

Revised route and timetable, with Beaconside MOD no longer served and 75 terminating in Stafford town centre.

Service 74B: Cannock – Stafford (Arriva Midlands)

Service cancelled.

Services 76 / 76A / 76B: Stafford – Wolverhampton (Arriva Midlands)

Revised timetable.

Services 824 & 825: Lichfield – Stafford (Arriva Midlands)

Revised route and timetable, with 825 now terminating at Stafford Hospital.

Services 826 & 828: Lichfield – Stafford (Arriva Midlands)

Service cancelled, with Etching Hill section replaced by new service 26.

Services 877 & 878: Stafford – Wolverhampton (Select Bus)

Revised route and timetable.

From 2016-01-04

Service 3: Keele – Crewe (First Potteries)

Revised timetable due to roadworks.

Services 8A, 28 & 98: Newcastle – Ball Green (First Potteries)

Revised timetable.

Service 9: Clayton – Biddulph (D&G Bus)

Revised timetable, with 9E evening journeys cancelled and Sunday journeys renumbered to 9.

Service 12: (D&G Bus, Stone – Meir Heath)

Revised timetable, and route around Meir Heath.

Services 13 & 13A: (D&G Bus, Stone – Stafford)

Minor timetable revisions.

Services 14, 14A & 14B: Stafford – Hanley (D&G Bus)

Revised route and timetable, with new 14A and 14B journeys, replacing cancelled X14 and X14A services.

Services 16 & 16A: Hanley – Buxton (D&G Bus)

Revised route and timetable with some Sunday journeys extended to Buxton to replace service X15.

Service 31: Leek – Hanley (D&G Bus)

Revised route and timetable.

Service 35: Newcastle – Chesterton (D&G Bus)

Revised route and timetable, with Meadow Avenue no longer served.

Services 73 & 74: Newcastle – Audley (D&G Bus)

Revised route and timetable. Service 74A will be cancelled, and 74 re-routed to serve Lower Milehouse Lane. Evening journeys 74E will be re-numbered as 74. These are service changes delayed from 2015-11-16.

Services 94 / 94A: Newcastle – Biddulph (D&G Bus)

Revised timetable.

Services 785 / 786: Lichfield – Austrey (Arriva Midlands)

Revised timetable.

Service 842: Stafford – Rugeley (D&G Bus)

Revised Saturday timetable.

Services 877 & 878: Stafford – Wolverhampton (Select Bus)

Revised route and timetable.

Orange ONE: Newcastle – Meir (D&G Bus)

Revised timetable

Services X14, X14A & X14B: Stafford – Hanley (D&G Bus)

Service cancelled and replaced by 14, 14A & 14B.

Service X15: Hanley – Buxton (D&G Bus)

Sunday service is replaced by the revised 16. Monday to Saturday timetable is unchanged.

Service X16: Tamworth to Birmingham (Central Buses)

New Monday to Friday service that replaces the current X73 service.

Service X55: Lichfield – Tamworth (Central Buses)

Revised timetable.

Service X65: Lichfield – Tamworth (Arriva Midlands)

New half hourly Monday to Saturday service that replaces part of the cancelled X60 service.

From 2016-01-10

Service 2: Newcastle – Hanley (First Potteries)

Revised timetable with service 2A journeys cancelled.

Service 3: Hanley – Crewe (First Potteries)

Service spilt with service 3 operating from Hanley to Crewe and the section to Keele operated by the new service 25.

Services 4 & 4A: Hanley – Kidsgrove (First Potteries)

Revised timetable.

Service 6A: Hanley – Blythe Bridge (First Potteries)

Revised timetable.

Services 8A, 28 & 98: Newcastle – Ball Green (First Potteries)

Revised timetable, with additional evening services from Keele on service 98.

Service 25: Keele – Hanley (First Potteries)

New frequent Monday to Sunday service that replaces part of the service 3.

Services 32 / 32A: Hanley – Uttoxeter (First Potteries)

Route change between Spath and Uttoxeter.

From 2016-01-11

Services 74A & S74: Stafford -Huntington – Walton-on-the-Hill – Cannock (Social Travel)

New hourly Monday to Friday service with one S74 journey in each direction serving Brocton village. Start delayed from 2015-11-30.

Service 123: Cheadle Town Circular (Bennetts Travel)

New operator with the same route but a revised timetable.

From 2016-01-17

Service 22: Newcastle – Longton (First Potteries)

Revised timetable.

Services 97 & 99: Newcastle – Wolstanton / Bradeley (First Potteries)

Revised timetable.

From 2016-01-31

Service 18: Leek – Hanley (First Potteries)

Revised Sunday timetable.