A contract change and its wider effects

High Peak is to take over Monday to Saturday bus service 11 between Macclesfield and Kerridge from February 24th. This means that BakerBus, who currently run the service for Cheshire East Council and have done so for a number of years now, will be handing it over in less than three weeks time.

When BakerBus scaled back the number of Biddulph to Macclesfield journeys on services 99 and 99A last autumn, they left a 07:25 from Biddulph to Macclesfield that arrives at 08:24 and an 18:41 from Macclesfield that reaches Biddulph at 19:36. These were positioning journeys for their Kerridge service and will be withdrawn in less than three weeks time. This leaves the 18:37 from Biddulph to Macclesfield as the only relic of what once was a fairly regular service that now largely is a Biddulph to Congleton route these days, a trend that is set to continue. The remaining evening journey is a positioning one for the Monday to Saturday evening contract for Macclesfield to Crewe (and return) service 38.

However, GHA’s Monday to Friday commercial service 39 is to gain an extra morning journey from Congleton at 07:50 that arrives in Macclesfield at 08:10. That is ten minutes ahead of the first bus to Kerridge and the new timetable for service 11 has all its timings shifted thirty minutes earlier in comparison with the old one. That could come as a big surprise to anyone inattentive who is a regular user of the service.

Less dramatically, Arriva’s Crewe town service 6 is set to operate ten minutes earlier from March 23rd. Then, February 17th sees the withdrawal of Routemaster Buses’ less frequent services 828 and 884 between Crewe and Nantwich. These were peak time services and I hope that their demise will not affect too many folk.

While all this is a mixed bag, it is nothing compared to proposals in other local authority areas and I do hope that we will be spared more tough choices after what we got during 2011, 2012 and 2013. Many services that were supported are now commercial so its up to increased patronage to get them sustained and hopefully improved.

Changes to Arriva bus services around Darlington

Since yesterday, Arriva has set in place quite a reorganisation of bus services around Darlington. This was an operation acquired from Stagecoach and I was travelling some of the bus transferred during the transaction on a visit to Teesdale during the Mayday Bank Holiday weekend of 2008. The seats still retained the covering patterns or moquette favoured by their former owner while many if not all had gained Arriva corporate paintwork by that time.

1, 1B Darlington – Bishop Auckland – Crook – Tow Law

All of these will depart now from Stand I on Tubwell Row in Darlington. The X1 sees an extra service from West Auckland at 07:44 that follows the route of service 6 as far as Tindale Crescent before continuing along the usual X1 route to Darlington with an arrival time of 08:25.

2 Darlington – Branksome

Also departs from Stand I on Tubwell Row in Darlington.

3 Darlington – Mowden

Also departs from Stand I on Tubwell Row in Darlington.

4 Darlington – Minors Crescent – Darlington

Now departs from Stand J on Tubwell Row in Darlington.

5, 5A Bishop Auckland – Shildon – Newton Aycliffe – Aycliffe Industrial Estate – Darlington

This now departs from Stand H on Tubwell Row in Darlington with no change in timetable. However, evening and Sunday services no longer interwork with those on service 7 and the Sunday service interwork with the X66 instead.

7 Darlington – Newton Aycliffe – Woodham – Chilton – Ferryhill – Durham

It is the addition of Thinford’s DurhamGate development to the route that has meant the breaking of any interworking with service 5A. The required additional running time between Ferryhill and Durham is the cause both of this and changes in timings. There is one journey that has been removed from the service and added to another: an early morning one commencing from Coxhoe to Durham. Buses now depart from Stand H on Darlington’s Tubwell Row.

8 Darlington – Aycliffe – Ferryhill – Spennymoor
8A Ferryhill – Spennymoor

Service 8 remains unaltered apart from a change to departure stand (now H) on Darlington’s Tubwell Row that also affects the 8A. It is the latter that sees route changes to take in the southern section of Thinford’s DurhamGate development while an opportunity to standardise route timings also gets taken.

9 Darlington – Haughton Road – Springfield
10 Darlington – Haughton Road – Whinfield

An extra vehicle is added to the roster for this service to improve timekeeping and it now uses Stand F on Prebend Row in Darlington as its departure point.

11 Red Hall – Darlington

No change.

12, 12A Hurworth – Darlington Town Centre – Trees Park Village

No change.

13A, 13B Darlington – Firth Moor – Darlington

Now departs from Stand G on Prebend Row in Darlington.

14 Darlington – Skerne Park
14A Harrowgate Hill – Darlington – Skerne Park
14B Springfield – Darlington – Skerne Park

Because of the withdrawal of services 6 and 6A, this route gets quite an overhaul with even different stands being used for each service. All do use Stand J on Tubwell Row for services to Skerne Park. Services 14 and 14A see revised timetables with former long journeys on the 14 as far as Morrison’s supermarket being extended as far as Whinbush to serve former customers of the 6 and 6A using the number 14B. On the way to Whinbush, the 14B uses Stand K on Tubwell Row. The 14A will depart from Stand H on Tubwell Row for Harrogate Farm.

19 Darlington – Faverdale – West Park

No change.

21 Darlington – Sedgefield – Trimdon Village – Peterlee
21A Middlesbrough – Sedgefield – Trimdon Village – Peterlee

Service 21 now departs from Stand H on Tubwell Row in Darlington.

59 Askrigg – Hawes – Leyburn
X59 Askrigg – Hawes – Leyburn – Darlington

No change.

75 Darlington – Staindrop – Barnard Castle
76 Darlington – Winston – Barnard Castle

No change.

X26, 26A Darlington – Richmond – Colburn – Catterick Garrison
X27 Darlington – Richmond – Marne

No change.

X66/X67 Darlington – Harrowgate Hill – Stockton – Middlesbrough

The only change is to the Sunday timetable when journeys run thirty minutes later so as to interwork with services 5 and 5A. Otherwise, the Darlington departure point or the rest of the timetable is untouched.

Public Transport in Bollington

Bollington once had its own train station on a railway that extended from Marple to Macclesfield. That is no more and much of the route of that railway is the Middlewood Way, a recreational cycling route between the two places formerly connected by a train line. Some of the alignment near Bollington has a truck depot across it and more of it may have been used for the Silk Road feeding the A523 into Macclesfield from Hazel Grove.

That former railway also served Higher Poynton and the platforms remain and get used as picnic areas by passing walkers, cyclists and equestrians. However, Poynton still has a train station while Bollington doesn’t. That means that residents of the latter need to get to Macclesfield or Prestbury since they have the nearest train stations. Of the two, it is the former that has the more trains due to its being a principal station on the West Coast Mainline.

Given the latter fact, it’s just as well that there is a plentiful supply of bus services connecting Bollington to Macclesfield. The 10 and 10A are the main ones with the first of these offering a half-hourly frequency during daytimes from Monday to Saturday. The latter runs all day on Sundays and lost its subsidy last year, thankfully without any reduction in service frequency. The equivalent Monday to Saturday evening services are set to lose their council funding next month and vigorous campaigning on the part of Bollington Town Council has Arriva trying out commercial operation. Hopefully, a good level of support from residents will see it continue like it does on Sundays.

There’s a service 11 to Kerridge too that adds to those going towards the Happy Valley, as Bollington is known due to having good mill owners in its industrial heyday. It doesn’t go the full length of the town but turns from the main road part way. It is a Monday to Saturday daytime operation with an hourly frequency. The operator is BakerBus on a council contract and it escaped attention during the 2012 cuts. Before BakerBus, Bostocks had the contract and Arriva had it before them again.

The last bus service for mention passes through Bollington on its way from Macclesfield to Stockport, the 392. The frequency is two-hourly and it too is operated by BakerBus on a council contract. The withdrawal of the 391 in Poynton means that it hasn’t escaped the current cuts. From the beginning of March 2013, it is set to terminate in Hazel Grove, a disappointing development.

There once were Sunday bus services along the route of the 392. Last year’s cuts saw the end of them with the 108 between Stockport and Leek withdrawn. That had three journeys a day in each direction and made walks around Leek more a reality for the bus user. That in turn had replaced a Sunday 392 that ran on a similar frequency though the last 19:00 departure from Stockport was a pointless affair.

Bollington is well supplied with bus services and those those who will fight to retain them too, the latter being an especially rare commodity in recent years in Cheshire East. They will need to continue their efforts, methinks. It helps that Bollington is a good place to visit thanks to its location among hills and all the things that happen there thanks to a sense of community that needs exporting to other parts of Cheshire.

Gas works

Macclesfield’s streets have been getting dug up again and it’s a reminder of what was going on around this time last year when traffic light renewal was under way. About that time, there seemed to be some gas works ongoing too and it is gas mains renewals that are causing the disruption at the moment. The powers that be seem to have focussed their attention around the roundabout at the intersection of Churchill Way and Cumberland Street/Hibel Road. So far, that doesn’t seem to having much effect on the buses that I use though services to Kerridge (the bus used for that service now displays its destination and the vehicle has gained a cherished registration mark too; what was wrong with the standard issue 54 one?), Bollington and Upton Priory surely can’t have escaped the build up of traffic caused by temporary traffic lights. Of course, it would be best if this sort of thing went away for a while but that might be why signs have appeared about a few weeks work lasting for eighty years afterwards. Only time can tell if that promise comes to pass with the rigid plastic pipes that they seem to be using.

Still waiting on complete clearance

Heavy rain might have been visiting Macclesfield this morning but bus travellers between Macclesfield and Buxton still are being diverted around by Whaley Bridge. Of course, what is rain at lower levels can become sleet and snow up higher on those hills. With that there was last night, you wouldn’t have imagined that heavy rain lay ahead but such is the British weather that big changes like that often happen quickly. What does take a while is the melting of any ice that has formed and the rain only makes it more slippery in the interim period. The result is that I have tended to walk on the carriageway where the footway looks very suspect. Speaking of roads, buses are able to travel and the usual complement of buses serving routes 4, 10, 11, 21, 27 and 130 were out and about. So, while the snow hasn’t departed us yet, milder (and wetter) weather lies ahead. Quite where all the water locked up in snow and ice is going to go is anyone’s guess but rivers and streams could get very full and the next complaint that we get to hear could be about flooding. Well, there’s always something but we have little choice but to get through it.