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.


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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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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Getting to and about Pembrokeshire without a car

Though it’s at the southwestern corner of Wales, Pembrokeshire is worth the extra effort taken to make a visit there and you can manage one without using a car too. There are regular train services and the county council expends some effort on its bus network too. Thus far, I only have made two visits to these parts with the most recent one updating and refreshing my knowledge of the available travel options.


The county has no less than three railway lines serving it with Arriva Trains Wales running the trains: one each to the terminii of Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Fishguard. Each of these is largely single track in nature so service frequencies are not hourly. Those three railways start out as a twin line from Carmarthen before the Pembroke line splits off after Whitland and the Fishguard one after the request-only train stop of Clarbeston Road.

The Milford Haven line seems to see the more traffic than others with many services travelling all of the way to Manchester using two carriage trains, something that Arriva Trains Wales may need to revisit in light of a recent Saturday journey on a busy Summer Bank Holiday weekend though another on the following Monday worked out less busy.

Though the port only sees two daily ferry departures to Rosslare in Ireland, Fishguard too gets a reasonable service even if the frequency is less than the two hourly one enjoyed by Milford Haven and Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire’s county town). Last May, it also gained a new station called Fishguard & Goodwick so that’s something for the locals in both places.

The Pembroke Dock line also gets a largely two-hourly service (less than that on Sundays though) so it’s an option for getting to attractive spots like Tenby and Manorbier. Pembroke too is a ferry port with departures for Rosslare though it is Fishguard that enjoys a service meeting its early morning arrival from across the Irish Sea.


The mention of ferry services brings to mind a curiosity about services to Wales from Rosslare in Ireland’s county of Wexford. The Stena Line ones go to Fishguard while those operated by Irish Ferries go to Pembroke instead. While I might have thought that history might explain this situation, it seems to be a recent phenomenon and one for which I have yet to find an explanation part from running different routes for the sake of personal success. Maybe it’s down to competition on the Irish Sea? After all, there was a time when both forbears of Irish Ferries and Stena Line used Fishguard for a time. Then again, there was opposition mounted by Sealink (Stena these days) to the commencement of a Dublin-Holyhead operation by the B+I Line (now part of Irish Ferries) when that replaced the previous long standing Dublin-Liverpool service when that became unsustainable after 159 years.


Returning the world of land transport, Pembrokeshire does have a reasonable bus network and inspection of bus timetables reveals that council financial support is needed for most if not all services. Richards Brothers of Cardigan seem to operate most of the services in Pembrokeshire along their workings in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. First Cymru do operate a Haverfordwest-Tenby service but otherwise Pembrokeshire seems to be a bastion for local independent operators and it’s no bad thing to see.

There’s multi-operator ticketting too with West Wales Rover Tickets valid here as they are in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. An adult day ticket will cost you £7 and it’s £28 for an adult weekly one. There are equivalent child tickets costing half the prices of the adult ones.

Richards do their own day and weekly tickets too and these cost less than their multi-operator counterparts and only apply to their own services. An adult day Explorer will set you back £5.50 and it’s £18 for a weekly Explorer. The child equivalents of these cost £3.50 and £12, respectively. Interestingly, there’s also a family day Explorer ticket for either two adults and two children or one adult and three children. With my seeing quite a number of families around on my last visit, I reckon that this is a great idea that should be adopted in more places.

In terms of the type of bus services being operating, there’s a mix of trunk routes and other more visitor friendly coastal services that aim to give folk an alternative to clogging up narrow country roads with car traffic; some only are a single car’s width with hedges on either side so it’s best to be warned. Given the wonders of Pembrokeshire’s coastline, it is easy to see why so many visitors come here and there’s a National Park protecting it all along with the Preseli Hills too. Traffic jams and conservation don’t go hand in hand so something had to be done.

The trunk services do their bit for curtailing car usage too with services like Haverfordwest-Fishguard-Cardigan (412), Haverfordwest to St. Davids (411), St. Davids to Fishguard (413) and Haverfordwest to Tenby (349) offering decent service frequencies from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays though, there is a markedly reduced frequency on some of these with the 413 not running at all.

In fact, my last visit saw me make use of the Sunday 412, operated by W. H. Collins of Haverfordwest with a Duple-bodied Dennis Javelin coach that was more than twenty years old so low operation only seems to be a Monday to Saturday affair on this route. The vehicle’s age became more apparent when the windscreen wipers needed to be put going because of a rain shower though the coach ran well otherwise. There was ticket machine on board either so the validity of my return fare of £5.75 (the single is £3.40) depended on my being remembered by the driver! With three to four services on Sunday, no staff changeover was needed and I got back to Haverfordwest from Fishguard without any bother.

The coastal services especially come into their own during the summer months when seven day operation is available with three services each way a day being common. Away from the May to September period, the days of operation need checking since a number are Monday/Thursday/Saturday only and routes alter too. However, Saturday visitors should be fine all year around and there is something to be said for exploring somewhere when it is quieter too though a coastline of around 180 miles in length should have plenty of unoccupied nooks and crannies.

The northern and western coasts are well served and the southern coast isn’t neglected either. The Strumble Shuttle (404) runs from Fishguard to St. Davids and calls at Strumble Head, hence the name. Buses take a while to cover their route on this service so it could be a good one for those wanting to let someone else do the driving and look at what they pass along the way. Mind you, it can get cosy on the small buses used during the school summer holidays but that’s such a not a big price to pay. Also running from Fishguard is the Poppit Rocket (405) that calls at Poppit Sand and other places by the coast on the way to Cardigan; in the off season, it starts eastbound journeys from Newport instead though.

In the west, there’s the Celtic Coaster (403) and the Puffin Shuttle. The former of these is a summer only shuttle service for St. Davids peninsula. Given that Britain’s smallest city has its share of attractions and is not far from alluring coastline, it is not surprising to learn that it is something of a visitor magnet so this bus service is an attempt to curtail traffic in the area to keep it appealing to those coming from elsewhere. The latter route is in two parts though: St. Davids to Marloes and Martin’s Haven (400), and Haverfordwest/Milford Haven to Marloes and Martin’s Haven (315). On my first visit to Pembrokeshire, I made use of the latter though it doesn’t seem to be what it was back then with afternoon journeys to Haverfordwest seemingly unavailable; a journey by train looks to be in order.

Services 387 and 388 (the latter is summer only and both get the branding of Coastal Cruiser) get you from Pembroke to delights such as Bosherston, a recommendation from a local on my first visit that I have yet to follow up, Freshfield East, Angle and Freshfield West. On my latest visit, I played with the idea of catching the 349 to Manorbier and then the 387 or 388 from Bosherston after a walk before sticking with trotting between Strumble Head and Fishguard instead. The unused idea could be handy yet.


All in all, Pembrokeshire is well supplied with train, bus and even ferry services. A little upfront work might save a lot of driving and not a little congestion. So far, it has done just that for me and there is more of Pembrokeshire for me to savour yet.

Disruption in Scotland

Scotland still is catching the brunt of storm force winds and heavy rain as I write this. Bridges are shut (Tay, Erskine and Forth) and public transport services heavily affected. West Coast Motors are not running buses in Oban and Bute; the latter being due to a power failure. Sticking with the west of Scotland, the last Scottish Citylink departure for Fort William has been cancelled and that tells its own story. Glasgow and Edinburgh too have seen service changes as operators struggle with the weather. Even with that, most services seem to be running and keeping an eye on announcements from the likes of First Glasgow or Lothian Buses would be no bad idea.

Trains do not seem to have got too badly though there were some line closures around Glasgow earlier. Nevertheless, tomorrow will see the aftermath of what is battering Scotland so things may not be operating as smoothly as usually is the case. After all, there has been some structural damage done to buildings and infrastructure with a wall falling on a car in Aberdeen. At times like these, the only hope that can be expressed is that everyone is safe.

Update: National Rail Enquiries have on their website a page describing train running in the current adverse weather conditions. It looks as if there is more disruption than what I suggested above, such as between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. There’s quite a list of cancellations there with services such as the Caledonian Sleeper from Fort William and local ones around Glasgow being examples.

Update 2012-01-03: Yet another storm has hit Scotland again and with much the same effects too.

Two losses

In the last few days, two types of services have been coming to an end. First up is the well-regarded Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway  company which stopped running services between Wrexham and London on Friday. While Virgin will continue to run one service each way from Wrexham to London and back, most will find themselves going via Chester or some other route. Sadly, I never got to try WSMR out for size so I don’t know what I’ve missed. Nevertheless, I do know what it’s like to be travelling on the last services of something that were a good thing.

My reason for saying that is that DFDS Norfolkline’s last sailing from Birkenhead to Dublin is departing in just under an hour (checking in probably has closed in by now). A day trip to Dublin and Howth had me traveling on the last sailing from Dublin to Birkenhead last night and it was a forlorn event. You could hear the captain’s voice breaking as he announced the end of something that had been going since 1995. Indeed, other members of the crew were welling up at times too. After all, this is something that could be missed. P&O do operate a ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and back but they don’t accept foot passengers like the others did. The result is that foot passengers will be losing a seven hour sailing that allowed the chance for some more sleep when travelling between Merseyside and the Irish Republic. Everyone will need to go to Holyhead or some other port now.

The service seemed busy enough on the seven hour sailing that I undertook but I don’t know how things were going during the week or on daytime sailings and the Irish economy isn’t going very well at the moment while the British one is having its troubles too; the Holyhead-Dublin sailing that I used in the middle of the day wasn’t that busy so that might be a hint. Then, there was the takeover of Norfolkline by DFDS so that might result in a change of priorities too. Still, the Birkenhead-Belfast operation continues though the days of getting evening meals and breakfast on the price of the sailing are gone after the end of the month. Fares will cost more by the looks of things and you’ll need to pay for any food as well. Was it impossible to keep the Dublin route going on this basis?

Good things sadly can come to an end and I suppose the WSMR’s demise is but another example that sounds very similar to the sea travel tail that I have related here. My only wish is that everything works out OK for the staff caught up in both of these less than positive changes. There’s something about both that makes them sound like the ends of eras.

Update 2011-01-31: There seems to be swathe of route discontinuations in train with BMI pulling its Glasgow-London service and Air Southwest doing the same with its Newquay-Gatwick and Plymouth-Gatwick runs. Interestingly, there is no mention of the news on the former’s website while it is there on the latter’s. In truth, DFDS wasn’t so communicative about the Dublin-Birkenhead route either.