Public transport in Knutsford

Once, there was a comment from a young lady doing a school project on Knutsford bus services. Then, I directed her to Cheshire East Council’s website and I hope that she got what she needed from there. Yesterday saw me spend a few hours in Knutsford and the recent changes to the Macclesfield to Knutsford bus service reminded me of that question and got me thinking that saying a bit more on Knutsford’s public transport services wouldn’t go amiss. This information is intended for anyone who needs to make use of public transport for getting to and from Knutsford so I hope that I am not doing a school project for someone though that is a risk that I am taking with compiling what’s here.


The town’s bus connections do not operate on Sundays but provide a useful level of service on other days of the week. Until the start of October this year, the 27/27A/27B provided an hourly service to Chelford, Henbury and Macclesfield. Now, it’s been reduced to departures running every ninety minutes and Monday to Friday calls to Alderley Edge have been reduced considerably also. Most of the journeys taken by the current service diverts from the A537 to pass Radbroke and Over Peover. The service once was operated by Bakerbus before Bowers Coaches, now part of High Peak, took it over. Until last year, there was a summer Sunday and bank holiday service on offer too with extensions to Tatton Park and three journeys each way a day. Council funding cuts have seen to the end of that and may explain the recently curtailed frequency on other days of the week too.

The largely hourly Connect 88 service to Wilmslow to Altrincham remains though. Once the 288 operated by Arriva, this now is run by GHA’s Vale Travel mainly with Optare Versa single deckers dating from 2008. These fresh new buses were a far cry from the ageing step-entrance Dennis Darts that Arriva had been using. The service extends from around 07:00 until around 19:00 so covers a good part of the day goes by Ilford’s site at Mobberley and passes not far from Manchester Airport’s cargo handling facility either, offering something of use to anyone needing to go to work at either place.

The Connect 88 isn’t the only service going from Knutsford and Altrincham because there’s also the 289 that has Northwich as its other terminus. There are five services each way a day with the overall period of operation starting before 07:00 and finishing after 20:00, making for a long day.

After those, there’s the town service 300 to mention and it’s shared by High Peak and Tomlinson Travel with a decent spread of service from around 08:00 until after 23:00 and the frequency largely is half-hourly too so Knutsford residents cannot complain too much, especially it is escaping the planned council spending cuts unlike its counterparts in Macclesfield.

The mention of Tomlinson Travel brings me to the last service on the list: the Tuesday and Friday only service 47 from Holmes Chapel to Warrington. Knutsford gains two services to Warrington from this while Holmes Chapel only has the one. Saying that, the service finishes up in the early afternoon so it looks like a weekday shopping bus for some folk.

All of these services call at the town’s bus station, an unfussy but not grotesque annex to Booth’s supermarket. It’s away from the town centre though and a busy road needs crossing to get there. Like Knutsford’s train station, you have to go uphill to reach it too so that’s another consideration. It’s just as well that there are public toilets there and I saw a bus driver making use of them yesterday too. The adjacent Booth’s also operate a cafe so that could be a handy way to spend some time while awaiting a bus so it’s far from bad.


The town sits on the mid-Cheshire line that connects Chester with the likes of Northwich, Altrincham and Stockport. Northern Rail is the sole operator here and there is a staffed ticket office at Knutsford’s none too shabby train station; it looks as if the main station building got a rebuild in the eighties or nineties but I have not been able to find anything about it so far. Service frequency is two-hourly on Sundays and that’s a vast improvement on the three services each way a day that it used to get. Apart from Monday to Friday peak times when additional services run, the frequency is hourly on other days of the week.

Other Thoughts

It’s a pity that Knutsford gets a bit more cut off from the world in terms of public transport of a Sunday since it’s a pretty place to visit and oozes plenty of character too. It started out as an estate village owned by the Egertons of Tatton Park and mercifully escaped the industrialisation of places like nearby Macclesfield. Tatton Park passed into National Trust hands in the middle of the last century with Cheshire East Council now managing it on their behalf. That was what drew me to Knutsford yesterday and I untidily tracked down a walking route around Tatton Mere; finding its source first wasn’t too bright.

What amazed me yesterday were the streams of slow moving cars in the two narrow one-way streets in the heart of the town: King Street and Princess Street. That made me wonder if it wasn’t possible to pedestrianise these but the need for car parking probably puts paid to that one. Shops were busy with folk too so those narrow footways in King Street could do with a bit more girth.

Maybe if we could persuade more folk to visit by bus, then the Sunday service situation could be sorted but council finances do not permit our testing that out again and there were a few years of half-heartedly trying too. Some of those Macclesfield Sunday services got extended as far as Manchester Airport’s viewing for some reason so there were some efforts made, as odd as they might seem now. For now though, train services are that little bit more dependable so they’ll need to be the public transport backstop until the economy and the public finances both improve enough for the bus travel option to be enhanced again.

Another escape from paper ticketting

Around two years ago, I was making use of Arriva’s m-Ticket app on a Blackberry Curve 8520 that I then owned. Apart from a certain sluggishness due to the hardware and its 2G internet connection, it worked fine until I forgot the PIN that it needed. From then on, I returned to paper bus tickets and stuck with them ever sense.

However, curiosity and a better phone have me having another go. This time it’s from Google’s Play Store from which I got the app. It remains free of charge and seems so that the world of Android and a HTC Desire S armed with 3G connectivity have made for a smoother and faster experience. The fact that it is a touchscreen phone allows the developers to make a better interface too.

Also, there are some savings to be had. For instance, a North West four weekly ticket costs £56.70 and a day ticket for the same area is £4.20. The paper counterpart to the latter is £4.60 and four weekly tickets will set you back £72.00. Interestingly, weekly tickets cost the same via the app as they do from a bus driver.

To work the app needs personal details such as name, address and date of birth. For payment, you can store a credit (or debit) card number in the app with the card’s security code and a PIN provided by Arriva needed for any transactions. Topping up beforehand is another option if you don’t like the idea of card details on a phone.

With the app, you can see ticket prices before you buy and activate any that you buy price to use. There are no single journey tickets on here so they need to be bought from a bus driver. That must make the app easier to maintain for the developers and means that the range of tickets is easier to browse. While doing, I found some for areas that I might be inclined to visit such as Northumberland’s coast. It’s good to see what’s out there ahead of time instead of holding up a bus trying to get the information. That it’s all doable on the move only helps too.

This time around, that PIN will be stored somewhere for safekeeping and my hope is that my time with mobile bus ticketting will continue longer than it did two years ago. It might surprise you now but I had put this option out of my mind until I spotted someone else showing a phone to a bus driver on getting aboard. That was enough to make me go investigating again.

Back to darker ages?

It was in August 11th of 2009 that Cheshire East Council launched a new and very welcome innovation: a real time bus tracker for two of the bus routes in the borough. One was the 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester and the other was the 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford.

After more than three years, it seems that we are being relieved of this useful service from October 6th. It only ever may have been a pilot but it came in handy during many a disruption, particularly when I worked at a place based in the countryside and not in a town as I do now. As it happened, my bus home today was delayed by nearly twenty minutes and the Timeline (that’s its proper name) service proved its worth in keeping me posted as to when it would arrive.

Of course, it hasn’t been perfect. For one thing, streetside screens providing real time information were limited and ended up being installed in strange places: Alderley Edge instead of Wilmslow’s Green Lane, Fallibroome Road in Macclesfield instead of somewhere more central like Churchill Way. However, there was a screen installed at Macclesfield General Hospital so it wasn’t all unusual. However, these placements meant that it was the web-based service that came in most handy with being in possession of a smartphone allowing access to the latest arrival times while waiting at a bus stop.

Latterly, performance hasn’t been perfect either with parts being needed for the system earlier in the year and taking a while to be put in place too. Not every bus operating a service had the required tracking equipment either so scheduled times were what appeared for those and they could be very misleading when a bus has been cancelled because of a breakdown.

What has reduced my own dependency on the service in recent times has been timely running of services apart from tonight. The summer holidays have helped too as has the opening of the Alderley Edge bypass and the better performance of the M6. Getting home on winter evenings often involved a deal of uncertainty when traffic conditions clearly were far from ideal. There have been waits in the dark of around 60-90 minutes when road traffic accidents and winter storms, including snow and ice, caused chaos. November often turned out to be an eventful month along the A34 but January gales caused their share of disruption too when they caused electricity power supply failure that turned off traffic lights. Those events don’t seem to have intruded for a while but maybe I have other means of dealing with these.

Working from home is one option that has come my way and comes in handy when there’s a fall of snow or some other weather event. That it keeps me productive too during times when the road system doesn’t work as well as it should helps too. My workplace also has an urban situation as I mentioned earlier so evenings of catching buses on dark roads through the countryside are behind me for now; it’s not the best of circumstances when things don’t run so smoothly. In fact, it offers the fallback of going home by train should road traffic really become gridlocked.

Another factor could be that bus operators have got better at timing their services. Even the this year’s two week closure of the Alderley Edge bypass around the end of June and the start of July had little effect on service running for the 130, much to my surprise. That we have an economic downturn probably helps too because it cuts down on the number of cars on the road.

Even with more reliable bus services, it remains a shame to see real time bus tracking going from us in Cheshire East. Sadly, it looks unlikely too that it will be replaced for a while given the current constraints on public spending. While that makes me think about contingency measures, I am left wondering about how many were making use of the service as well. In the beginning, it got its share of publicity but that later waned. Also, the unreliability that it suffered and the changeover to a web based map interface made it less convenience for smartphone users unless you had links to parts of the older site like I did. Looking at it now, it probably needed investment to make it better and more comprehensive and it appears this is the wrong time for that.

So, could we manage without it by doing better than standing at bus stops in hope like before. Twitter seems an obvious candidate for such things and that may be something the council may wish to explore but it needs manpower and I am not sure that they have that. There has been a lot of talk about the “Big Society” and Cheshire East’s answer to Torbay Bus Routes would be commendable. It would take more than a one man effort though seeing as my own are limited as things stand.

Bus companies are active on Twitter too and High Peak have their own account. With the provision of delay information to the nearest minute, that could be a substitute but it needs an investment of time and effort to rise above the provision of general information. There is an unused Arriva Northwest Twitter account or at least it purports to be that with someone’s name attached to it. It would be good to see Arriva’s bus operation in this part of the world being as active on Twitter as those in the Northeast and Yorkshire and there’s room for bettering those too.

Real time bus tracking will be no more in Cheshire East on the same day that the Macclesfield to Knutsford bus service becomes a commercial enterprise without council financial support. The coincidence looks linked and is a sign of the austere times through which we are living. Would a more vibrant economy with stable public finances bring us better things, the ever handy real time bus tracking among them? It is hard to answer that but time could tell an interesting story.

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.

A crowded railway on a crowded island

The prospect of a double bank holiday weekend was enough to set me thinking about going away somewhere. After pondering some options, I decided on a few days around Pitlochry. That meant that I enjoyed some dry and occasionally sunny weather why other parts of Britain and Ireland were getting a soaking.

The price of that enjoyment was getting there and away. Because Pitlochry is in the heart of Scotland, I settled on a return rail journey for the sum of £107.60. The journey time was set to be around seven hours but that wasn’t something that I minded and a journey that was quiet and relaxing would have suited me to the ground.

On the way there, travelling was more frenetic than might be desirable. The cause was a fatality on the West Coast Mainline near Leyland. If I had gone with my initial route that involved changes at Kidsgrove, Crewe and Edinburgh, I would have been stranded on a stationary train to the south of the incident and perhaps avoided a little of the saga that unfolded.

As it happened, I took a later train to Manchester (that was a busy CrossCountry service but everyone had their own seat) where I got on the heaving 09:16 Transpennine Express service to Glasgow. That got so uncomfortably busy that I alighted in Preston to catch another train. The train itself was formed of six carriages but there were for Glasgow and three were for Blackpool. It would have been better if all six were bound for Scotland and it highlights the foolishness of handing Manchester-Scotland services over to Transpennine Express in the first place. Electrification of the Manchester-Leyland line may gain us four carriage trains but that is insufficient on this route, at least at peak times like the one at which I was travelling.

If I could have remained on that train, it would have spared me any impact of the Leyland fatality on my journey. As things were, it was standing room only on that service and I had luggage with me. One good thing that came from my exit was it made it easier for a mother and child to get off at Preston.

Once at Preston, it became a waiting game and we all were ushered onto a Transpennine Express train to Lancaster. It became yet another overload three carriage diesel train and railway packed in as many as they could too. The advice was to catch a rail replacement coach from Lancaster though the reopening of the line at Leyland by then was the cause of some confusion.

Planned weekend rail engineering works fortuitously meant that there were hourly rail replacement coaches available since the train service was reduced between Lancaster and Carlisle from 11:00 on that Saturday as a result. There still were trains running, albeit at a reduced frequency.

With so many false dawns with trains that morning, I opted for the certainty of a coach ride instead of waiting for another train. At that stage, I didn’t know if I was going all the way to Carlisle on the coach or not but it was taking me north anyway and i only cared about that at the time. The National Rail Enquiries app on my phone seemed to be confirming the reality of trains running again so I left the coach at Oxenholme. It was the live departures and arrivals functionality that had its use here.

There indeed were trains running north from Oxenholme and two Glasgow-bound Virgin Pendolinos appeared before another destined for Edinburgh. That was the one that I wanted and it turned out to be blissfully quiet too after the frenetic journey that had been my lot until then. As long as it lasted, I savoured the experience.

After little while in Edinburgh, I boarded an East Coast HST to get to Pitlochry. Its final destination was Inverness and, though it was well used, the journey was another good one with sunshine appearing north of Edinburgh. While awaiting the service, the train guard seemed overly enthusiastic when it came to moving everyone down the platform, an annoying trait to have in someone else when you want to stay near the front so as to improve the chances of getting a good seat. That was easily forgettable once the train set off though, especially compared to the earlier part of my journey, the main cause of my arriving later at my destination than I had in mind.

The return journey went far smoother. A ScotRail train got me from Pitlochry to Edinburgh without too much sign of overcrowded. Everyone seemed to have a seat though it was a well patronised train. Transpennine Express came up trumps with a six carriage train from Edinburgh to Manchester and that was a peaceful journey too with my having gone to the front carriage for a seat. The only perturbation was a bridge being struck near Preston that caused the service to terminate in Manchester Piccadilly rather than Manchester Airport as scheduled. The last part of my journey to Macclesfield was uneventful if delayed. Getting home slightly later than planned was a minor thing compared to other experiences that I have had.

Whether it is due to my greater awareness of what is happening on the railways due to Twitter or not, there seem to be a lot disruption to trains caused by things external to the railways. Trespassing on the track is but one of these and an animal was struck near Macclesfield this morning, causing delays as you’d expect. When people are involved, it obviously is far more serious and you think of those who have been left after the deceased. Then, there are bridge strikes due to road traffic accidents and problems with level crossings. Cable theft is yet another behaviour that causes so much disruption. All of those should make it clear that lateness of trains is as much in the hands of those of us outside of the railway industry as it does of railway staff. After, you only have to tot up failures of signals, points and overhead electricity supplies to realise how frail our rail system can be. When you consider that, you may be amazed how well it works at all.