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.

Autumn 2015 Bus Service Changes around Cheshire East

After a long quiet spell with no change to bus services in Cheshire, we now have a lot happening throughout August and into the start of September. Some services get minor timetable changes, whatever that might mean. From 2015-08-22, these are  D&G’s services 1A and 1B between Crewe Business Park, Crewe and Bentley Motors  as well as service 78 between Nantwich and Rode Heath. Then, on the week commencing 2015-08-31, it is the turn of Arriva’s service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester (week commencing 2015-08-31) together with Network Warrington’s services 5, 5E and 35 between Warrington and Altrincham. On the same week, Stagecoach’s service 378 between Wilmslow and Stockport reverts to its normal timetable once the summer school holidays are over.

In Crewe from 2015-08-22, there are a number of changes caused by D&G and GHA ceasing to operate service 9. Suggested alternatives include a new service 7 operated by D&G between Crewe and Elm Drive or services 8 and 8A between Wistaston Green, Crewe, Sydney and Elm Drive. The latter sees Routemaster buses operating its evening journeys and minor change to daytime ones operated by D&G. From 2015-08-24, Routemaster buses are to be operating new services 9 and 9A between Crewe and Wistaston and a new service 20 with three journeys between Crewe, Kingsway and South Cheshire College.

Other changes to bus services around Crewe include the truncation of D&G service 6 to operate between Crewe and Shavington only. Suggested alternatives for getting between Crewe and Leighton Hospital are Arriva’s services 6, 31 and 31A. GHA services 39 and 44 are possibilities for those travelling between Shavington and Nantwich. From 2015-08-24 though, D&G are introducing a new service 12 between Crewe, Coppenhall and Leighton Hospital that goes via Mablins Lane and Parkers Road. The last of the current batch of changes to Crewe bus services starts from 2015-09-06 with First’s service 3 between Crewe and Newcastle or Keele no longer serving Leighton Hospital so the preceding collection of services have been suggested as alternatives.

Encouragingly, GHA are offering extra journeys on services 38 between Macclesfield, Congleton and Crewe, 88 between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham and 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester from the week commencing 2015-08-31 along with additional early morning and early evening journeys on a new service 27X between Macclesfield and Knutsford that complements the existing services 27, 27A and 27B that they already operate. Service 130 is seeing new early and late Monday to Saturday journeys and something similar is coming to service 38 too so I will be interested to see what is being proposed. Service 88 is getting two extra early evening journeys so they must be doing well with that since they enhanced it over a year ago.

Lastly, 2015-09-06 sees a consolidation of services acquired by D&G from Bakerbus earlier in the year. Service 99 is to be withdrawn with service 94 revised to served Congleton as well as Biddulph and Newcastle. This seems to fit the theme of all the changes with any withdrawals being substituted by new or existing services with new journeys being added to existing services too. The picture is not a discouraging one then and I shall await with interest details of those extra journeys whose times I have yet to know. This entry may be tweaked a little yet.

Cheshire East Bus Service Changes: October 2014

All has felt rather quiet in the world of Cheshire East bus services in recent months. With the cuts that we have been seeing since 2011, that can be viewed as a good thing. There are times when no news can be good news and it has felt that bus services were in managed decline under the current government, which is how those thoughts developed in my mind.

However, we now have some good news for Knutsford too for service 27/27A/27B to and from Macclesfield is set to become hourly and service 88 to and from both Wilmslow and Altrincham is to become half-hourly in frequency. Also, the 88 service will call at Wilmslow’s train station too. While these are Monday to Saturday services with no Sunday operations, these are encouraging developments that I would like to see prospering and they come into place at the end of the month.

Improvements continue with Congleton’s town services being contracted to GHA after a turn with D&G on most of them and BakerBus having retained one from its original roster. If I remember correctly, D&G definitely was providing services on a commercial basis and I cannot speak for BakerBus. The  continuing route numbers will be 90, 91 and 92 with D&G’s 39 being dropped. The places being served include Bromley, Mossley and Buglawton. Service 42 from here to Crewe also transfers to GHA with that seeing improvements too. The extension to Crewe train station may be getting dropped but there is to be an hourly service over the whole route from Monday to Saturday so weekends see a doubling of the number of journeys starting and ending in Congleton compared to what it is now.

Some services around Crewe and Nantwich have been replaced. These include Nantwich town service 53 as well as routes 44 and 44M. Routes 6 and 6M are to be extended as far as Nantwich and Millfields with service of Rail House, Gresty Road reinstated using a new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. The latter also gets reinstated on GHA’s service 6E too. Macclesfield to Crewe service 38 gets extended as far as Nantwich on Sundays replace the current 45/45A service on that day of the week. D&G get a contract for that portion of the extended 38 too. As for the remainder of the week, service will stay as it is and service 45 and 45A will see some alterations.  Route 45 will serve Davenport Avenue in Nantwich with the last journey of the day reaching Beefeater, Marshfield Bank. The Saturday 08:12 service journey is to be replaced by a 07:50 one on service 45.

There are more Crewe-related contract wins for GHA too with the Sunday and bank holiday workings on Crewe town services 8 and 8A along with Monday to Saturday evening services commencing from Crewe bus station at 19:00, 20:00 and 2100 coming their way. Monday to Friday afternoon journeys on Crewe town service 9 have been awarded too to partially replace the withdrawn BakerBus service. Saturday journeys on service 78 between Nantwich and Scholar Green also are going here along with later Monday to Friday journeys that D&G will not operate on a commercial basis. GHA also are revising timetables for Nantwich circular services 51, 52 and 52A as well as that of service 39 between there and Crewe via Shavington and services 72 & 73 between Nantwich and Whitchurch now that the 75 contract has gone to Routemaster Buses.

The changes for D&G are not all losses though with their taking on service 32 from Sandbach to Crewe from BakerBus. There are to be four journeys each way on Saturdays and the first journey of the day towards Sandbach starting from Crewe train station and the last journey of the day from Sandbach terminating at the train station too from Monday to Friday. The current 16:45 journey from Sandbach is set to run at 16:35 too. Services 85 and 85B no longer will continue to Hanley though and will terminate at Newcastle instead.

Arriva continues its penchant for service trimming with its Crewe town service 6 losing its 06:50, 07:20, 10:50, 14:20, 17:30, 18:00, 18:30 journeys. Service of Rail House, Gresty Road get reinstated with new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. Its Crewe town service 8 also loses its 07:35, 10:05, 14:05, 17:35 and 18:05 journeys. Service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester also sees a little trimming with the Monday to Friday 17:40 departure from Macclesfield being truncated at Wilmslow and the Saturday 18:18 departure from Manchester to Wilmslow getting withdrawn. It’s not all bad news though with route 37/37A/37E between Crewe, Sandbach and Winsford getting an improved Monday to Saturday evening service. Service 84 between Crewe and Chester also sees some timetable tweaks but I have yet to learn what those are.

Otherwise, Routemaster Buses has secured a council contract for the following Nantwich rural services:

  • Thursday and Saturday only service 56 between Tiverton to Nantwich
  • Monday to Saturday service 68 between Leighton Hospital, Church Minshull and Nantwich
  • Wednesday only service 75 between Nantwich – Market Drayton
  • Friday only service 79 between Audlem, Nantwich and Hanley
  • Tuesday only service 83 between Nantwich, Bunbury and Chester
  • Monday only service 89 between Nantwich and Wrexham

Of these, services 56, 75 and 83 are existing services while services 68, 79 and 89 are new ones. Route 83 is gaining a revised timetable too.

All in all, there are a lot of council contracts being let here and that makes me wonder where all of the money has originated and how long any such largesse might last given the predicted slowdown in economic growth. Nevertheless, having any glint of good news after what has felt like a sustained managed decline in bus services is a pleasant reprieve. Being of Irish extraction, all the spending on road resurfacing and other things by Cheshire East makes me wonder what has happened or whether it has anything to do with next year’s Westminster elections. Hopefully, we will not be back to brutal austerity after those but only time will tell.

Chestergate Road Closure, Macclesfield

Since yesterday, Chestergate in Macclesfield closed until 2014-02-09 to allow the demolition and rebuilding of number 123 on the road. The obstruction blocks the end of Catherine Street as well as Chestergate itself so a number of bus services are having to be diverted.

Service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester is going the full length of Churchill Way before turning onto Cumberland Street before returning to its route at the roundabout where it meets Prestbury Road. Stops on Chestergate, King Edward Street and Chester Road are not being served while the road closure is in place.

From the seeing where the last bus of the day went, it looks as if service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford is diverting by the same route as the 130. What I do not know is how service 19 from Macclesfield to Prestbury via Whirley Barn is going. Looking at the placement on Cheshire East Council’s map, that too must be affected but I do not know how that is being diverted. If anyone has anything to add, then please let me know.

Still some council support forthcoming after all

Previously, I reported the then upcoming decimation of Monday to Saturday evening services on service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe. Now, it seems that Bakerbus have a contract to run later evening journeys on an hourly basis from 20:35 to 23:35 in either direction, albeit without having to honour tickets issued Arriva or D&G. This is promising news and makes me wonder now becomes of the planned short Arriva journeys between Macclesfield and Congleton (20:30 and 20:57 in each direction) and the 20:25 from Crewe to Sandbach. Maybe, all will become more clear in time but the continuation of something like the current is nothing but good news. Apparently, the 38 gets considered a strategic service and the 130 from Macclesfield to Manchester gets nothing like the same status, as can be seen from the severe service reductions in recent times.

This changeover is to take place on June 3rd and there is another on July 1st: the return of council funding for service 77 between Congleton and Kidsgrove. The current timetable will not be changing so the current set up of four journeys in each direction from morning into early afternoon is to remain. Though the days of the route all the way to Hanley bus station in Stoke-on-Trent, it is encouraging to see its continuation given that Astbury and Mow Cop are calling points, the latter of these being especially important for being on the Gritstone Trail.

Crewe gets its share of support for town services too with D&G’s service 9 between Crewe and Wistaston getting support for its Saturday journeys. The result is that there are more journeys over near enough the full route (Elm Drive is not served) for more of the day than was the case before. To compensate for the omission of Elm Drive from service 9, all current service 8 journeys are to follow the 8A route (with a consequent change in route number) instead as they go between Wistaston Green, Crewe and Sidney. This new arrangement comes into place from June 9th and June 3rd also sees tweaks to services 44 and 44M between Crewe and Nantwich (44M gets re-timed and Monday to Friday 08:55 from Crewe changed to start from Shavington at 09:08 instead).

June 3rd also sees D&G taking over daytime journeys on Knutsford town service 300 from High Peak without a change in timetable. There is no word of council financial support for this but the sense of High Peak leaving Knutsford is not hard to see now that they no longer operate service 27 to there from Macclesfield. It still is out on a limb for D&G too and Tomlinson Travel continue with the evening ones and I have heard some complaints on the service that they provide.

For a change, this latest round of bus service announcements is good news; developments haven’t looked this harmless for a while. It also is intriguing to see council funding appearing now after what was looking like bus services being left to their own devices with some falling on such hard times that they couldn’t continue as they were. For a good while. it almost felt like the approach was a managed decline somewhat akin to that applied to the railways in Britain for a few decades and was quite ironic given that bus services were mooted as replacements for soon to be defunct railway lines in Beeching’s plans.

What makes me wonder a little though is the timing of all of this. Cheshire East Council has seen hefty staffing upheaval in recent months. Having experienced this sort of re-organisation myself a number of times during my career so far, I realise how much stasis they can cause and I find myself asking if the same thing befell Cheshire East; folk in fear of their jobs can be unable to make decisions and it looks like that was happening before what we see now. Beyond what was happening, it might be that folk can see their way ahead again.

Seeing the recognition of the 38 as a strategic service was a great development and I’d like to think that its Sunday evening journeys may be graced by the same thinking at some point in the near future. Maybe that’s being overly optimistic but I was beginning to think that Northern Rail’s service between Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent might have made services like those on routes 38 and 77 less critical in the eyes of some and hence more vulnerable to withdrawal. After all, loss of trust in bus services is a dangerous thing and seeing what was happening was making my mind veer towards the apparent safe haven of train services. Let’s hope that we have found the bottom now and that bus service news may be a bit more positive from this point forward.