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.

A New Appearance

If you have not been here for a while, you should see signs of a refresh. The old design used code that stopped working so the website had the appearance of having gone offline. That has been replaced by what you find here now and all appears to be working well so far.

Though there were continual updates to a lot of the content on here, 2016 still was a quieter year on here. Other things in my life took up more of my attention so longer entries were absent. Now that we are in 2017, the big task that dominated last year is behind me though there will be smaller ones to do in addition to my day job. The upheaval cause by bereavement still makes its present felt.

2016 also was a big year in world news with Britain sadly and narrowly choosing to leave the European Union in a referendum and the U.S.A. electing Donald Trump as its president. Both of these mean that uncertain times that lie ahead of us and the impact on public transport is as yet unknown.

Still, I did get to sampling train and bus services on much needed breaks away from a frantic everyday life. These included Austrian and Norwegian train services as well as Mallorcan bus services. They may provide inspiration for entries on here yet. The same may be said for the Swiss train network and Icelandic bus services too and these were experienced during 2015.

Otherwise, there are sure to be developments in British and Irish public transportation. After all, Bus Éireann is in financial trouble at the moment and needs to restructure its operations in order to survive. What that means for bus services in Ireland has yet to be seen and trade unions are unhappy too. Then, there is the long running saga of industrial relations problems in Southern Railway that have made life a misery for so many in the southeast of England. GHA Coaches went bust and the affects of that business collapse still are being felt across much of England and Wales. Such developments mean that there always is a need for some public transport advocacy too. Maybe it is time for a little more of that in these testing times.

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.

Dramatic Changes Planned for Rail Travel in the North of England

The new Northern and Transpennine Express franchises have been awarded and the government is celebrating the changes that are promised by the successful bidders whose terms begin next April. For Northern, it will be Arriva and First will be continuing its involvement with Transpennine Express without its current partner Keolis.

So much is planned that you have to ask if all of it will come to pass even if it fits in well with the government’s Northern Powerhouse ideal. The list of improvements is so long that consulting what the government has published for Northern and Transpennine Express is worthwhile. Initially, I was going to confine myself to aspects that piqued my interest but I went beyond this to be more comprehensive. Still, there is so much to come that the linked sources are worth surveying too.

The remit of the Transpennine Express has been tweaked a bit with their routes to Blackpool, Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere passing to Northern. That leaves their Anglo-Scottish services as their sole involvement on the West Coast Mainline and some new journeys are to serve Liverpool so this is no longer solely based at Manchester Airport as its southern terminus. The southern route via Sheffield to Cleethorpes is to get extra capacity and more frequent services. The same is to come to the northern route too with an hourly service to Edinburgh via Morpeth. Train refurbishment is on the agenda and we are suppose to see new five car 125 mph trains on the northwestern and northern corridors too.

The new Northern franchise is where the improvements really mount up and it was supposed to be a no growth franchise when it was let in 2004. That is not something to be repeated so there are a lot of changes planned and I will step through a lot of these. In summary, there are more services, updated and new trains as well as newly staffed stations. There is a lot to cover.

Firstly, more Sunday journeys are to be offered. Of particular interest to me is the upgrade of  Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester route (it goes via Macclesfield) to an hourly service instead of the current three to four trains per day. Others mooted for an hourly service include the mid-Cheshire line between Manchester and Chester that goes via Knutsford and Northwich, Bishop Auckland to Darlington, Hull to Scarborough, Hull to York, Hull to Sheffield, Scarborough to York, Leeds to Bridlington, Bradford to Skipton, Bradford to Ilkley, Leeds to Doncaster, Leeds to Sheffield, Sheffield to Huddersfield, Lincoln to Sheffield, Knottingley and Pontefract to Leeds, Chester to Manchester and Leeds via Warrington and Colne to Preston. Some lines are going to see two trains per hour on Sundays with that from Buxton to Manchester being one of these. Others include Leeds to Harrogate and Knaresborough, Bradford to Manchester and Wigan to Manchester via Atherton. If this all comes to pass, it will a major increase in Sunday service level and that only can be good.

Weekday services are also set to increase with two trains an hour between Macclesfield and Manchester, Buxton to Manchester, Middlesbrough to Newcastle,  Newcastle to Carlisle, Knottingley and Pontefract to Leeds, Greenbank to Manchester and Blackburn to Manchester. There are myriad of other improvements too with more evening services on some lines and some Leeds to York via Harrogate getting four trains per hour. All this is going to boost capacity and the sooner that comes, the better.

New trains are to come too (281 new carriages in total) and the dreaded Pacers are to be withdrawn by 2019 while the remainder of the fleet is to be refurbished. Some of the new trains will be electric so existing electric ones like those on the Hadfield to Manchester, Skipton and Ilkley to Leeds and Doncaster to Leeds will be replaced to add capacity beyond what is there now. This comes alongside increased staffing of stations with 45 unstaffed stations to get staff and another 54 to have extended opening hours. Stations are to be improved too.

Northern also is to operate a network of semi-fast services with new and reconditioned (class 158) trains. The routes are: Middlesbrough to Newcastle, Newcastle to Carlisle, Hull to Sheffield, Leeds to Nottingham, Lincoln to Sheffield, Bradford to Manchester Airport and Liverpool, Chester to Leeds, Blackpool to York, Blackpool to Manchester, Barrow-in-Furness to Manchester Airport and Windermere to Manchester Airport. Some of these replace existing Transpennine Express routes and that may explain how the brand has been created. All in all, this will be quite a network once it is in place though it is disappointing to see Leeds to Carlisle and Leeds to Lancaster omitted, even if these too see their own modest improvements.

New routes are to be undertaken by Northern that are not part of what they have taken on from Transpennine Express or Northern Connect so it is worth highlighting them. These are Leeds to Bridlington and Scarborough to York. Currently, Transpennine Express are the only operator on these lines so the addition of Northern will compliment those journeys to increase the service frequency.

One is left wondering how all these new trains and extra services are to be funded. After all, Transpennine Express has to pay a premium for their franchise and Northern needs to operate with a reduced subsidy. One would like the reality to match the intent without extra restrictions on off-peak ticketing beyond what we have now. If that could be managed, the overhaul would be both welcome and long overdue.