Christmas 2015 and New Year 2016 Alterations to Public Transport Services

It is coming a bit late this year but here is my Yuletide and New Year summary of public transport services for 2015/6. Items will get added as I find them so it is worth returning here time and again throughout the festive season.

While some operators have left their Christmas and New Year service pages with the same addresses as last year, most leave them as fleeting seasonal items. The exceptions include High Peak Buses, Arriva Trains Wales and London Midland and there is something to be said for that. Otherwise, I am gathering together what has come my way so you can go on yours. Some like Arriva may have a hub for their bus services where you can start your search for information on their Christmas and New Year services but most are regional and is how I have arranged things here.

Wales

Traveline Cymru again have their service summary posted online. Information for most major bus companies is included and there are plenty of links included if you need to find out more. Edwards’ service changes are below and Cardiff Bus’s Park and Ride service changes are online as are those affecting Arriva bus services, First buses in south & west Wales and anything operated by GHA Coaches.

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Merseyside

Merseytravel have their usual service round-up for the time of year and there are some free buses running on Christmas day too. Services finish early on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve while New Year’s Day sees only limited services.

Greater Manchester

Services see limitations in Manchester too so TfGM have published a useful summary guide. Bus services are limited on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day while train services pay less heed to the start of 2016 than Christmas because it is seen as an opportunity for engineering works. As you might expect, Stagecoach Manchester have a special timetable in operation from 2015-12-21 to 2016-01-01 inclusive while both Arriva and First have their service changes too. All is back to normal from the second day of 2016.

Yorkshire

Here, First have listed what is happening with their bus services by area: Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax & Calder Valley, Leeds, Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and York. Travel South Yorkshire and Metro in West Yorkshire are other good places to look since they are transport authorities and cover more than one mode of transport.

Northeast England

In the English northeast, Nexus, Go Northeast, Arriva and Stagecoach have information on what you can expect of public transport over the festive period. Of course, Nexus is the local transport authority so everything you need to know about journeys on local trains, buses and ferries should be there.

English Midlands

In the English Midlands, Arriva and D&G Bus have announced what is happening with their bus services. National Express West Midlands have done the same and Network West Midlands have more details for their region so other bus companies and modes of transport are covered. First operate buses in a number of areas and they have split things up more: Leicester, Staffordshire & North Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

Southern England

Oxford Bus Company still have some services running on both Christmas Day and New Year’s but these run to Heathrow and Gatwick airports so services otherwise are limited. Keeping with the airport theme, Stansted Citylink is operating throughout the season with only Christmas Day seeing no services at all. Both Arriva and Yellow Buses too have their seasonal service levels published for customers to check and First have done the same for their Berkshire,  Bristol, Bath & the West, Cornwall, Essex, Norfolk & Suffolk, Solent, Somerset, Southampton and Wessex operations.

Scotland

In Scotland, Lothian Buses have a Christmas & New Year timetable. First have posted their details for Aberdeen, Greater Glasgow and Southeast & Central Scotland so those are worth a look if you live in their areas. Scottish Citylink have a seasonal service summary to be surveyed by those travelling further afield on their services.

Ireland

Irish Citylink is keeping things like last year with only Christmas Day seeing no service at all. Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus , Northern Ireland Railways and Irish Rail all have their service summaries published online. There are some extra services in the run up to Christmas and for New Year’s Eve too so it is not all about service level reductions.

Train Services across England and Beyond

Since there is a lot of engineering work planned, National Rail have a portal showing the effect these will have on services. For instance, anyone travelling to Heathrow, Gatwick, Scunthorpe, Cleethorpes and Barton-on-Humber will need to take note. With regard to three of these, Transpennine Express also have details of the impact of upgrade work to the Greater Lincolnshire Railway. Likewise, East Midlands Trains has a summary showing the effects that these are having on their services. Abellio Greater Anglia have their own service changes for much the same reasons.

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Northern Rail also have a service summary and have been posting images like the above to reinforce the messages. Anyone flying into the likes of Manchester Airport will need to use taxis for onward travel unless they have someone picking them up.

Another innovation appears on the CrossCountry service summary. In addition to the usual service summary, there also is a seat availability chart and Sunday 27/12 already looks busy at the time of writing.

Easter and May Bank Holiday Services 2015

It has been quieter on here with bus news over the last few months. Within a period of austerity, that is not such a bad thing. However, we are now heading towards a period laden with bank holidays with the first of these due only a few weeks away. There fore, I have started to collect what has come my way about bank holiday weekend service levels and that is what you will find below.

Christmas 2014 & New Year 2015 Public Transport Services

In some ways, it feels a little early to be doing this but Merseytravel already have pages on their website announcing the public transport service level for the forthcoming Christmas and New Year period. Therefore, I felt that it was time to set this in place and add to add over time as details started to come through to me. It will be a live entry so checking back again might be worth the effort.

A mid morning gap in Argyll

Last weekend saw me stretch it to head up to Oban. It was August 2008 when I last went there so it was high time for a return to the place. Walks took me along the shore of Loch Etive and along the eastern coastline of Mull so I did spread out from my base and the weather was more obliging than weather forecasts were leading me to believe.

Because it is a long way from Macclesfield, going by train probably is best though an off-peak return is costly at £115.30. The way up saw changes in Manchester, Preston and Glasgow instead of suggested route options that oddly took in Stafford and Crewe. Though railway engineering was ongoing between Bolton and Preston, Transpennine Express continued to operate trains between Manchester Airport, Preston and the likes of Blackpool with a diversion via Wigan which involved tantalisingly slow movement through Wigan North Western station. That train was both busy and late so I was lucky to get any sort of seat on the thing with many standing. Apart from that, the other sections of the journey were fairly pleasant so I cannot issue too many complaints. The return journey involved the same changing points and was a little more enjoyable.

The changeover from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street is made to loom large on railway journey planners but in reality is something like a fifteen minute walk that I once did in around ten minutes. Doing the same between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria takes around twenty minutes so Glasgow’s main train stations are closer together and Buchanan Bus Station is of the same duration from the principal train stations so walking is viable there too.

Getting to and from Oban has improved from the three or four return journeys that I would have expected and I counted something like eight on summer weekdays. Many of these would involve piggybacking off the train to Mallaig and Fort William with train division at Crianlarich and there also are trains travelling solo to Oban and the 16:37 departure that took me there was one of those and that train left at 20:36 to return to Glasgow offering anyone living in Scotland’s Central Belt the chance of a longer day trip to the Isle of Mull while later ferries are running.

Speaking of ferries, it can feel as if Oban is better connected to nearby islands than other parts of the mainland. For instance, the ferry to Mull travels at a decent pace and offers up to seven each way sailings a day while Kerrera enjoys a very frequent largely passenger service only a mile or two down the road from Oban. Other islands like Lismore, Coll, Tiree, Barra, South Uist and Colonsay also see sailings from Oban.

Maybe it is a reality of the mountainous hinterland of Oban as much as the outcome of the Clearances but it can feel as if frequent bus services stick to the coastline. The 405 and 005 serve Connel and Benderloch from Monday to Saturday and there is the 410 on Sundays. All of these have an hourly frequency with extra schoolday journeys extending as far as Appin though the Monday to Saturday service 918 to Fort William could be a better bet for those parts so long as the timings of the three return journeys suit what you want to do. There also is an interesting if less frequent service 408 that goes all the way to Bonawe on the shore of Loch Etive and service 418 to Easdale and North Cuan with latter offering a ferry crossing to Luing.

Aside from the foregoing, Oban gets a smattering of Monday to Saturday town services going to the town’s more outlying fringes like Soroba, Ganavan and Gallanchmore but what hits me is how limit local bus connections to the likes of Dalavich, Taynuilt and Dalmally. If it were not for train and long distance coach services, the latter pair would be stranded altogether and that brings me to the title of this piece. To get to either of those places for commencing a walk, you either need to start from Oban around 08:00 or 09:00 or wait until just after 12:00. Whatever express service used to run around 11:00 is no more and I find myself challenging the idea of the 976 timetable (Oban to Glasgow) shadowing that of the trains, albeit with only three return journeys a day too. Even the summertime Citylink Oban to Dundee service only offers one journey each way when there once was two and that offered a gap filler. To be fair, Citylink did try to offer more connections in 2008 when it was embroiled in a bus war with West Coast Motors. Whatever innovation was shown at the time appears to have been lost since then and both parties did have the good sense to patch up their differences.

As it happened, the 12:11 from Oban to Glasgow was mobbed on the Saturday of my weekend away. It was if everyone was leaving at the end of the high season when Sunday’s weather showed what they were leaving after them if only they could see past the rain on the day of their departure. the inadequacy of the two carriage train was emphasised by Scotrail’s hiring of a coach to assist them in moving folk about. There also was a bother with luggage being in a wheelchair space and I could have done without one gentleman talking about the effects that lifting heavy luggage on him after a relatively recent operation. While sparing you all the details, I was glad to have a seat and to leave them on their way at Taynuilt. On this basis, having a train departure at around 10:30 would have seemed sensible and would have got me an earlier start to my walk too. However, the same train departure on Monday was much quieter and all the more enjoyable apart maybe from moments when someone started to watch something on his phone without headphones but that irritation has faded now. the weekend had been good to me anyway and I quite fancy a return sometime soon so that’s a good thing to be able to say after any trip away.

A little something for the summer in Northern Ireland

When doing a refresh of the Rural Services: NI page, it came to my attention that Ulsterbus have a number of seasonal services on offer in addition to their Rambler ones for visitors to and residents of Northern Ireland. The first of these is Goldline Express 221 which operates one journey each way between Belfast and Giant’s Causeway, giving you a next to next to 3 hour stay at the World Heritage Site (with a reduction on entry fees to the National Trust Visitor Centre too if the weather isn’t being kind) if you opt for a return day trip. Along the way, there are stops in Ballymena and Bushmills but it otherwise appears to be very much an express service and it continues until the start of September.

For those who fancy a longer stay at the Giant’s Causeway than three hours, there’s a later evening departure offered by Goldline 252, also known as the Antrim Coaster since it calls at so many places along the said county’s coastline between Belfast and Coleraine. There is one return journey over the whole route each way and another one between Coleraine and Larne to compliment it. The latter meets with service 256 for those wishing to travel onward to Belfast or go the other way. The 252 continues until the end of September and operates Monday to Saturday until the end of this month when Sunday services start for it and the 256 connecting journeys.

Since it was those rambler services that were the cause alerting me to the above, I suppose that I’d better mention these too. There are four in total that I have found with two being seasonal and others being year round. The first of the latter is Monday to Friday (no bank holidays) service 407 from Kilkeel to Attcal and Cranfield and second is Monday to Saturday service 403 (three journeys each way) from Magherafelt to Omagh. The 407 is known also as the Kilkeel Rambler and the 403 gets the Sperrin Rambler name. The Mourne Rambler is a seasonal offering that starts out from Newcastle and embarks on a good circuit through the Mourne Mountains. It gets the service number of 405 and operates five journeys from Tuesday to Sunday and bank holiday Mondays until the start of September. There also is a Causeway Rambler for those spending longer along the north Antrim coast and it runs daily with an hourly frequency until the end of September as service 402.

Usefully, there is a Bus Rambler ticket for travelling across Northern Ireland on Ulsterbus services that is available during the main summer school holidays after 09:15. It costs £9 for adults and £4.50 for children. Also, there’s a Family and Friends ticket for £20 that is available during weekends all year round and every day during the summer holiday months of July and August. The latter allows two adults and four children to go together as a group (and it’s an extra £4 per extra child) so it looks a tempting offer for families in times when money is a scarer commodity.

With all the above, there should be more scope for looking around Northern Island’s more scenic spots without needing to use a car. It would be better is more of these services were year round and not seasonal but there always is the matter of demand to be considered. As it happens, an Easter or May to September span of the year isn’t so bad anyway. Maybe I might be tempted to pop over there myself.