More on April 2014 Changes to Cheshire East Bus Services

Details are being revealed about changes to bus services in Cheshire East from the end of this month. First on the list is what is happening to Saturday journeys on Arriva’s service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester from the start of May. Thankfully, it is the section between East Didsbury and Piccadilly Gardens that is seeing any impact following loss of Transport for Greater Manchester funding. Journeys towards Manchester city centre at 07:55 and 08:55 are being dropped and Macclesfield-bound services leaving Piccadilly Gardens at 07:33 and 09:28 no longer will do so. Instead, they will commence from Parr’s Wood in East Didsbury instead at 07:51 and 09:51, respectively. Apart from those, there is on Arriva’s website what appears a confused comment on a Monday to Friday morning departure for Macclesfield but I will overlook that until the actual full timetable is published.

The current Monday to Saturday service 108 from Macclesfield to Leek and Ashbourne would appear to be getting split with the 108 only running between Leek and Ashbourne according to a new timetable on the Derbyshire bus timetables website. From the last Monday in April, it does appear that the new 108 is better than the old one with five journeys each way a day and the spread of the day served extends later into the evening time too.

But for information in an email from Staffordshire County Council about bus services, I would be mourning the complete loss of the Macclesfield to Leek section of the current 108. Apparently, there is to be a new two hourly service 109 between both towns. We may be getting another division in routes but that can be overlooked given the proposed improvement in the level of service. If we get that, then it needs supporting or we could lose it, not the sort of thought that I want to be putting around at all.

More changes are coming to BakerBus service 99 between Biddulph and Congleton from 2014-04-21 with a thinning out of off-peak journeys and strengthening of the peak timetable. Also, Buglawton is dropped apart from the single evening journey from Biddulph to Macclesfield in order to have a bus in place to operate the council contract for Macclesfield to Crewe services. While the new timetable looks very different to the old one, it remains workable and extended journeys on service 94, normally a Newcastle to Biddulph operation, to offer school transport connections early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Times for those journeys are as yet unavailable and make be added on here once I have them.

Other than these, early morning Monday to Saturday journeys on High Peak service 58 between Macclesfield and Buxton are being tweaked as follows:

Current 06:40 from Buxton to leave 10 minutes earlier at 06:30

Current 07:45 from Buxton to leave 3 minutes earlier at 07:42.

Current 07:10 from Macclesfield to leave 5 minutes earlier at 07:05.

Of these, only the 07:45/07:42 runs on Saturdays according to the High Peak timetable. It does seem that early morning bus travel on Saturdays is becoming less available than it once was and what has happened the 130 Saturday timetable also reflects this, taking us back to the start of the piece.

For whatever reason, April is bringing with it a lot of bus service alterations. Some are fully known while others are awaiting extra details that could added on here yet. Still, we are looking at tweaking and trimming rather than the chopping that is ongoing elsewhere. Hopefully, the evolving cost savings of recent developments like recent subsidy reductions on the Connect 88 between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham will keep those away from us.

Changes to High Peak Bus Services 2013-03-12

Here, I am referring to the bus company named High Peak rather than the area since it has its share of bus operators too. While I am most interested in its Cheshire operations, there’s a lot of change coming in its Derbyshire hinterland too.

That it operates services other than cross-boundary ones into Cheshire does look a little surprising when you consider that it’s based in Dove Holes near Buxton and that winter weather often takes its toll on their operations. Still, they are continuing with their Knutsford town service 300 even after they are planning to mothball the service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford. That’s now going out to tender so it’ll be interesting how things look from next month. Around the same time, the 300 is becoming a fully commercial operation that leaves out the Queensway and Tabley Road parts of the route though GHA’s 289 between Northwich, Knutsford and Altrincham offers an alternative to the 300, which may explain the change. A shortened Macclesfield town service 1 still continues though that was to be withdrawn and the Macclesfield to Stockport routes 392 and 393 are under their custodianship too. After those, there’s the cross-boundary services that took Bowers, High Peak’s predecessor, into Cheshire in the first place and these connect Macclesfield with Buxton (58), Glossop (64) and New Mills (60), occasionally along with other places that include Disley (60) and Bakewell (58).

Bus services serving Ashbourne are seeing a lot of changes from the start of April. The 42 and 42A direct services to Buxton are a casualty though the 441 is a partial replacement. Otherwise, it’s the 442 that’s mainstay with a largely hourly service on all days of the week except Sunday when a lower frequency over the whole route is on offer.

Otherwise, there are a number of less frequent Monday to Saturday services fanning out from Ashbourne to serve Thorpe (101), Parwich (102) and Kirk Ireton (103). This reorganisation means that the 111 to Parwich no longer will operate after the end of March. High Peak also gain a Monday to Saturday evening journey from Ashbourne to Derby; the service number is 109.

After those, there just are timetable and route tweaks. The 389 New Mills town service is among these as are the 390 Shire Hill Hospital to Whitfield and 394 Glossop to Stepping Hill Hospital. Following cuts in Cheshire East, you’d be wishing to be wishing for this scale of adjustment again but it may be a while coming given the times in which we live.

Along the route of the X1

When I first moved to Macclesfield, there was a bus service running from Manchester all the way to Derby that passed through the town. It was called the X1 and First operated it under contract to three councils: Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Before First won the contract, Stagecoach ran it and nearly made it a commercial prospect too. In fact, it had been in existence at least since the Crosville/National Bus Company days and it wasn’t a commercial success even then.

When First ran the service, they used a mixture of coaches and buses and their timetable was a limited one with only four to five departures each way a day and they weren’t all that useful between Macclesfield and Stockport either since the times nearly coincided with the similarly rare 392 journeys to the same destination. There was an additional school service operated by Arriva between Macclesfield and Leek on Monday to Friday mornings too that some could use for commuting to work; getting home by bus at the end of the working day involved either an early finish or a long wait, hardly an ideal state of affair but the successor 108 timetable is even less workable than the old one was.

After First lost the contract, Trent Barton took it over and the service number became 108, one that covers part of the route even today. While I cannot tell you which depot was used to operate the route, the driver changeover took place in Macclesfield bus station so if the bus running in one direction was late, the one going the other way was made late and it hardly was the best state of affairs for maintaining on time running of buses.

Macclesfield to Stockport Bus Travel Improvements

2003 and 2004 saw Cheshire County Council spent money getting in some new buses for subsidised services. Seeing the cuts that are being made now makes those times a distant memory and I reckon it might be U.K. government cash that made this possible. Some of those buses were used by Arriva to operate an enhanced Macclesfield to Stockport bus services using the 392 and 393 routes that we still have today. These buses were stationed in Macclesfield around the time of the opening of the current bus station and then moved to a Manchester depot after that.

Both buses were used to offer an hourly timetable from Monday to Saturday instead of a much less frequent one seven days a week. That’s the basis that we still have today though those buses have been with different operators since Arriva lost the contract in 2008. One went to High Peak for an improved Macclesfield to Prestbury while the other went to GHA as a backup for the main buses on their routes serving Northwich, Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham.

In their place, BakerBus had to bring their own buses when taking over from Arriva around four or five years ago. The timetable remained very similar though, apart maybe from re-branding it The Shuttle. Their tenure in charge of the route is coming to an end now with High Peak set to run it from next month. It will be interesting to see if their takeover means using older buses again. The 393 has been relegated to only a few journeys a day with the 392 becoming the main route for the new service. Timekeeping will be another matter to watch with the new timetable because the alternating 392 and 393 routes left some slack for keeping buses running on time because the 393 goes along the A523 via Adlington and 392 goes around by Bollington and Pott Shrigley.


Those 392/393 improvements meant the end of a Manchester to Derby service that went via Leek and Ashbourne. Now the course of the route was broken in four on all days apart from Sunday: Manchester to Stockport, Stockport to Macclesfield, Macclesfield to Ashbourne, Ashbourne to Derby. The very regular 192 does the first section and the second is served by the 392/393. The third one is served by Clowes 108 service, a rump of what went before. Their use of older Mercedes midi-buses appears to be a cost-saving measure and I have seen these running without ticket machines either, hardly an encouraging sign. The last section is well served with the SW1 service operated by Trent Barton with only a few Monday to Wednesday contracted services run by Arriva Midlands.

The Monday to Saturday frequency of each of these is varied. The 192 offers a 10 minute one, the highest of the bunch. It is as good as hourly for the 392/393 and SW1. The lowest of these is the 108 with only a few services each way a day and it has not escaped spending cuts either.

In fact, what brought the whole story of the X1 route to mind in the first place is a change that is coming to the 108 service. Until the weekend after the coming one, we have evening journeys such as a 18:15 from Ashbourne to Macclesfield and a 19:10 going all of the other way. The last journey from Ashbourne leaves at 20:20 and terminates in Leek. There was a Monday to Friday morning school service that got canned and the loss of the aforementioned Friday and Saturday evening journeys is next, kicking in from March 8th. It’s a far cry from a full X1 that I used to get from Stockport to Macclesfield one Saturday around a decade ago. Not only has a coherent long distance bus route option been dismantled but you have to wonder if things could get even worse than they are. After all, I have seen Clowes operate the 108 using a bus with no ticket machine and they are being left to carry on for now.

With all this dismantling, a Manchester to Derby bus travel option effectively was removed. All those changes mean that it is far from an attractive way to go anymore unless you plan on stopping off here, there and everywhere. This is nice countryside so that would be no bad idea but there’s no way of having a teaser now like the TransPeak service.

There Once Was a Sunday Service…

Even the Sunday and bank holiday route of the 108 meant a change at Leek with operators changing at the end of every council contract. BakerBus and then D&G were the custodians of the northern section while TM Travel ran the southern one. There were three departures each way and the two halves awaited each other at Leek bus station. Sadly, that service now is no more and I seem to remember a reasonable level of usage when I used it too.

The only existing remnant now goes between Derby and Ashbourne with only two return journeys extending as far as Leek, a loss of one from what went before. The service is the Sunday and bank holiday SW1 and Trent Barton is the operator. There are five journeys going each way, an improvement for the residents of Ashbourne and nearby Mayfield gains a few of the ones that don’t go as far as Mayfield too. It’s nowhere near as regular as the Monday to Saturday service but it’s good to see that it continues, which is more than could be said for the Sunday service along the rest of the route.

Any Sign of Better Times Ahead?

It seems that there has been a mixture of gains and losses along the length of the former X1 route with Sunday services decimated and the section between Macclesfield, Leek and Ashbourne seeing a reduced service on other days of the week. The continuing near hourly Macclesfield to Stockport bus service from Monday to Saturday is a bright spot though amongst the other gloom. Whenever there are bus services withdrawn, you have to ask if there ever can be a chance of some sort of return in the future. As gloomy as things appear now, it yet may surprise us though the “lost decade” isn’t over yet.

More cuts proposed for Cheshire East bus services

Cheshire East Council’s Public Transport Consultation has yielded its results and they don’t look all that pretty. Quite a number of services face extinction and it could happen just before Christmas according to the proposed timetable. Details of the affected services are divided into schoolday and non-schoolday categories and there’s overview of services receiving financial support too.

While it is a relief to see some pivotal services saved from cuts, there is a surprise too in the form of financial support being recommended for service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford. From next month, I was led to believe that was becoming a commercial operation. Maybe that’s like the bus stop sign professing the return of the sadly defunct Sunday journeys of service 108 between Stockport, Macclesfield and Leek following their demise last year. That sign in Oakgrove turned out to be incorrect so it might be the same with the aforementioned recommendation too. Events may have overtaken the consultation.

Returning to the planned losses, school services seem to be taking quite a hit again this year and it looks as if even more of them will be affected than last year. Some non-school services such as the 390 between Poynton, Bramhall and Stockport or the 391 between Middlewood, Poynton and Stockport face total withdrawal altogether. There are more services facing cuts than these but I have selected several for special mention below some that stand out for me. One only can hope that no more savings are needed but it could prove a forlorn one again in 2013.

Service 108: Macclesfield-Ashbourne-Leek

Friday and Saturday only evening journeys, one morning journey from Leek to Macclesfield and Fallibroome High School and afternoon journey from the latter to Sutton: the first of these would be a loss for anyone fancying a day out walking in the Staffordshire Moorlands and Derbyshire Dales but a journey a few years ago had few folk on it until Macclesfield so these were vulnerable in an era when public spending is under pressure.

Service 378: Wilmslow-Handforth-Stockport

The proposed cuts would leave only a Monday to Saturday daytime service with train travel being needed at other times. This looks a stark option so axes really are in action here.

Service 130: Macclesfield-Wilmslow-Manchester

Monday to Saturday evening journeys between Macclesfield and Didsbury are set for the chop. Sadly, they were seen as marginal during the last round of cuts and seem to be a target this time too. It makes me wonder how anyone working late at Alderley Park (there are some) is supposed to get home; it sounds like more expensive taxis are set to be all that they have if the service goes.

Early Saturday morning services are to be another casualty and it seems that train travel is being cited as an alternative to both. That argument has appeared before but it means that so many spots currently being served will lose what they have. This also was one of the services attracting the most public input and nearly a fifth of those were using it to get to work!

Services 5 & 6: Weston Estate Circular (Macclesfield)
Service 9: Moss Rose (Macclesfield)
Service 10A: Macclesfield-Bollington

Though these are three different services, they face the same cut: the loss of Monday to Saturday evening services. Interestingly, the 10A Sunday service came off council support last year and is run commercially now so there may be hope for some of these journeys. Otherwise, it’s a case of using the more expensive taxi option or walking (always of no cost, of course).

Service 38: Macclesfield-Crewe

It’s the Sunday evening services that are in the firing line here. There was a time when I really found these useful though they weren’t so well used so I can see why they are a target. Around ten years ago, there was a proposal to axe all evening journeys on this service but that thankfully never came to pass.

Service 84: Crewe-Nantwich-Chester

This another trunk service facing the axing of evening services and it seems to be all four of them on every day of the week. Again, train travel has been suggested as an alternative but it still looks an austere proposition.

A circular run

A sunny morning was enough to send ideas of improving on my Buxton photo collection into my head and me off on a spot of local travelling. The pondering carried on and designs on traveling to Bakewell came on steam too. They were strong enough to get me picking up a £10 Wayfarer ticket from Macclesfield’s train station before hailing a very full service 58 to Buxton. Much to my surprise, most stayed on it until Buxton itself because I might have expected most to disembark on the way up Buxton Road before leaving Macclesfield.

The day was largely grey by the time that I reached Buxton so no Buxton photos for me then. Inspection of bus timetables sent the idea of going to Ashbourne into my head. After all, it is a part of Derbyshire where I hadn’t gone before and a cloudy day is a chance to see somewhere new. A lack of sun and a chilly breeze were enough to send me onto the next service 42 (like the 58, also operated by Bowers). Along the way, the day cheered up again and I was surprised to see it leaving the A515 for a narrow lane but this was the deviation that serves the pretty place that is Tissington village. That was the only time that it left the A515 until Ashbourne was reached with the terminus being a collection of stances that passes as a bus station.

After spending an hour around a sunny Ashbourne and sampling a little piece of the Tissington Trail, it was onto the last stage of the journey: the 108 from Ashbourne to Macclesfield operated by Clowes with the support of councils in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. That service left with just two passengers on board but more were to join in Leek and near Bosley so it didn’t stay that empty all of the way. The route stuck with the A52 for longer than might be expected and there were some strange twists and turns before it passed Cauldon to join the A523 at Waterhouses. From there, it was all direct through to Leek and Macclesfield though it started to feel before Leek came into view.

All the buses on which I travelled were well used though none was as full as the Optare Solo that took me away from Macclesfield in the first place. That was the one conveying young families along with the now habitual contingent of bus pass holders and others like myself. In fact, all services were used by both young and old alike with the 42 dropping off some Indians in Tissington.

With its YJ05 registration, the Optare was the newest bus that I used and the age profile of the others was such that they dated from the mid/late 1990’s. Both were Mercedes midibuses that once were common around Macclesfield with a P-reg one operating the 42 and an M-reg one working the 108. Ride on all of these, even the older ones, was better than on some recent journeys between Wilmslow and Macclesfield on Arriva’s 130. In fact, the Clowes bus still retains its welcome sign and seat upholstery from its time in Arriva hands.

All buses operated pretty much to time and the timetables made it all work even when things were being worked out on the hoof rather than being planned beforehand. Now that I have seen how to get to Ashbourne, exploring the countryside surrounding the town is more of a possibility. Who knows what might come of that?