A very changed bus network in Cheshire East

There may have been good intentions to write about these changes last month before they happened but other distractions got in the way and it is only now that I am doing so. Last year, there was yet another consultation about subsidised bus services in Cheshire East with the aim of saving money and the outcome has been drastic. It makes any need to update timetable pages on here look like a triviality. In the meantime, I will try my best to collate the changes here and remain open to learning about any that I may have missed.

The biggest change is that Sunday services around Macclesfield have been heavily reduced and the bus station building closed on that day of the week. Only the bus shelter at stand 9 sees service now and that is a big change from a situation shown in a photo from nearly ten years ago when the place looked full of buses awaiting departure on a Sunday afternoon.

Now, the only services serving the town of a Sunday are town services 5 and 6 now operated commercially without the later evening journeys that used to run by D & G Buses, service 38 to and from Crewe also operated by D & G Buses and service 58 to and from Buxton operated by High Peak. Arriva services 9 to and from Moss Rose, 10A to and from Bollington together with 130 to and from Manchester all are Monday to Saturday operations following withdrawal of their Sunday services.

Weekday evening services have been affected too with Arriva’s Macclesfield services 9 and 10A now going without the later Friday and Saturday night services that used to be provided. Later evening journeys on service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe not longer attract subsidy so it will be interesting to see if Arriva continues to operate the full timetable commercially as they do for now. The same change applies to D & G Buses Crewe town service 8  and Sunday journeys also are provided commercially.

Otherwise, route reorganisation is a good description for what else has happened. Monday to Saturday journeys on service 58 have been rerouted to replace the withdrawn town service 1. The same applies to services 391 and 392 now operated by Selwyns instead of High Peak between Macclesfield and Stockport with the former of these serving Kerridge as a replaced for the withdrawn service 11. D & G Buses commercial Monday to Saturday service 130 now runs between Macclesfield and Manchester Airport, replacing former service 200 between Wilmslow and Manchester Airport.

The mention of Wilmslow brings up another reorganisation that takes some added effort to explain. For some reason, it was seen fit to combine the routes of former services 27, 88 and 289 into a single block. The result is that service 88 now runs between Macclesfield and Altrincham via Knutsford and Wilmslow, replacing service 27 operated by Howards. There is an additional commercial route 88A between Knutsford and Wilmslow’s Colshaw Farm estate that acts as a replacement for Knutsford town service 300 together with commercial Knutsford town service 87. Lastly, service 89 connects Knutsford with Northwich and replaces that part of route 289 while Network Warrington has expanded its service 47 to Monday to Friday operation with some journeys extending as far as Knutsford.

Making alterations to existing services to replace withdrawn one applies else in Cheshire East too. For instance, route 39 between Crewe and Nantwich has been extended to replace withdrawn route 52.  Other changes in the area include new routes 70, 71, 72 and 73 operated by D & G Bus and service 78 saw a reduction in route length. New service 317 between Alsager, Sandbach and Leighton Hospital offers a replacement.

Additionally, new services have been set up to replace withdrawn ones. One is service 77 between Congleton and Kidsgrove that was replaced by part of service 318 between Alsager and Congleton. Route SB1 was renumbered as 316. There have been some losses too with service 99 between Macclesfield and Congleton via Bosley counted among them. Crewe town service 8 also changed around the same time and it now is Monday to Saturday service so you have to wonder if that lost its Sunday operation until you check the details.

Other routes were tweaked around Easter too and these include service 19 between Macclesfield and Prestbury, service 42 between Congleton and Crewe as well as service 84 between Crewe and Chester. Some changed operator like Congleton’s Beartown bus network though that otherwise remains unchanged.

In summary, there has been a lot of upheaval so I hope that this is the end of such cost saving since it has left some people stranded. That comment especially applies to Sunday services around Macclesfield and this will affect bank holiday services too since many operate to a Sunday timetable. One has to hope that this is the last of such initiatives because it all suggests an air of managed decline with cuts inducing more cuts.

Major changes to Congleton bus services from start of September 2013

Within the last few days, it has come to my notice that BakerBus are sharply cutting the number of services they operate in and through Congleton. The 99 from Biddulph will largely remain, albeit with only very few journeys extending as far as Macclesfield. Thankfully, both D&G and High Peak appear to be stepping in with replacements for the services that are facing withdrawal.

The latter are set to offer a new service between Macclesfield, Buglawton and Congleton. While this has yet to gain traffic commissioner approval, it has gained the number 39 and it will be of interest to see how the timetable looks. When High Peak did operate service 27 on a council contract, a number of those journeys started from or terminated in Congleton so they may know the route anyway from those less austere days.

As for the Beartown Buses brand, this may be set to disappear now that D&G are running their replacements and I cannot see route branding like that applied to Crewe service 1 (one1ink) appearing here. The current 77 service between Congleton and Kidsgrove is being redirected to go along Padgbury Lane, Ullswater Road and Sandbach Road to leave a new 76 to serve Banky Fields and The Westlands. The current service 42 too is seeing changes so as to include West Heath on its route. Otherwise, D&G will take over services 90 and 91 with both keeping their half hourly service frequencies.

There are services being lost with the 95 and the X38 ceasing to exist. However, D&G have registered a Monday to Friday service 36 between Crewe and Sandbach that is to be a partial replacement for the X38 while the 38 from Macclesfield to Crewe remains anyway.

The shape of all these new services has yet to become clear but there is cause for optimism given that other operators are stepping in instead of BakerBus. The service news from D&G should be worth watching just like that from High Peak, especially since I have learned of forthcoming timing changes to service 392 (morning and evening peak services) between Macclesfield and Stockport (also from September). There has been little alteration to bus services in Cheshire East for a while now with only the summer school holiday 378 service between Wilmslow and Stockport being the only newsworthy change until this week.

Update 2013-07-30

Links to new D&G service timetables have been added now so it does look as if the Traffic Commissioner is giving these the go ahead. Others should follow as soon as I get them; Traveline has yet to provide September travel information on its timetable lookup facility.

Update 2013-07-31

Details of High Peak service 39 have appeared today. It’s an hourly Monday to Saturday service that doesn’t operate on bank holidays and has extra peak time journeys from Monday to Friday. Apparently, it’s being offered on a commercial basis and the registration is under consideration by the traffic commissioner.

There also are details of the revised 99 and 99B service (again a non bank holiday Monday to Saturday affair as has been the case until now so no change there) available with Biddulph, Congleton and Buglawton being the main extent of the route and enjoying an essentially hourly frequency. The only journeys to Macclesfield are one in the morning that acts as a positioning journey for service 11 between Macclesfield and Kerridge and one in the evening that does likewise for the Monday to Saturday evening Macclesfield to Crewe Cheshire East Council contract (service 38). There is one evening journey from Macclesfield and that’s all for the day; it facilitates the return of the service 11 bus from Macclesfield to the BakerBus depot.

BakerBus Cheshire Route Changes 2013-03-14

BakerBus have been running bus services in Cheshire for longer than I have lived in the area. My first exposure to their offerings was the 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford. Its hourly frequency is set to become a memory unless there is a change in fortunes at some point. The buses that they used over a decade ago were Iveco midibuses that often were standee only on leaving Alderley Park. Thankfully, larger vehicles replaced them and these were Wright Handibus bodied Dennis Darts that later developed an irritating habit of unreliability before government money gave us new Wright Cadet bodied DAF and LDV ones in their stead. However, BakerBus was to lose the Monday to Saturday 27 contract and the buses they had for running it a few years later to Bowers shortly after the latter came into Centrebus ownership.

That was far from the end of BakerBus’s involvement in Cheshire bus services even if peak only services 34 between Congleton and Wilmslow via Alderley Park and 26 between Macclesfield and Alderley Park were withdrawn around the same time. Sending peak 130 Macclesfield to Manchester around by Alderley Park was a partial replacement as was the extension of some service 27 journeys to Congleton, never a successful move by the appearances of things.

Some service 99 journeys Biddulph to Congleton were extended as far as Macclesfield that go around by Bosley crossroads and using the A54 and the A523. These (the 99/99A/99B/99C) are to change in mid April and no longer will serve Bromley Estate in Congleton from then on. Instead, it will be turn of their Beartown Bus branded service 90 to do the needful so this is a service change and not a loss, exactly the type of thing that we need to hear more often at the moment.

Speaking of Beartown Buses, these are the town service network and more of their number are set to change around the same time as the others above. 76, 91, 93 and 95 are the affected routes and I am aware as what the alterations will be at the time of writing. The same can be said for the X38 from Biddulph and Congleton to Crewe too.

All of the services that are to change are Monday to Saturday operations and Congleton only has D&G daytime service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe passing through the town on Sundays. That’s not to say that BakerBus do not run Sunday services though since they recently won the contract to operate Macclesfield Sunday and bank holiday town services 5 and 6 and once had the contract for the 108 between Stockport, Macclesfield and Leek too before that went to D&G and the service got canned to save money in 2011.

Though they lost the 392 and 393 Macclesfield to Stockport routes to High Peak and their 391 got mothballed with the P1 (currently a GHA operation) replacing it as a Poynton local service, they still keep Monday to Saturday daytime service 11 between Macclesfield and Kerridge. With their other Cheshire operations such as service 9 around Crewe, this long established Biddulph operator is not set to leave us just yet if ever at all. Fortunes may ebb and flow but they have a good base in Staffordshire that must offer some opportunities for riding out any lulls. After all, it was not so long ago when they had contracts for Greater Manchester services so things do come and go.

Major Bus Service Changes Coming to Cheshire East

September always seems to be the time of year when many changes to Cheshire’s bus services take place.In the good times, it was a matter of seeing who would be operating council-supported services. Nowadays, though,there are public spending cuts to face. As it happened, we got a fair few around the same time last year and that trend appears to be continuing. Some services have survived the subsidy withdrawals with the Macclesfield to Bollington 10A Sunday service being among them.

Whenever a service survives commercially, it raises the question as whether it need the public money in the first place. The Sunday 10A looks very much like one of them since there was no change to the timetable when it lost its funding. With others, the effect is clearer as will be seen later.

The Beartown Bus network that provides Congleton’s town bus services is one of those moving beyond council funding. The effect of that change in fortunes is being felt from tomorrow with Bakers introducing a lot of changes as follows:

  • Services 90 and 92 have been cancelled and will be replaced by the revised 99, 99A, 99B, 99C service. Service 91 has been moved to a new registration with the new 95 service Congleton – Retail Park – Lower Heath with slight timing changes.
  • The separate 93 and D1 registrations have been cancelled and the journeys have been incorporated with the revised X38 registration. The X38, 76 and 93 services will provide a frequent service to and from West Heath and the X38 has been revised with more journeys to and from Crewe.
  • Service 76 is unchanged Monday to Friday, but the Saturday journeys now serve the West Heath loop via Chestnut Drive.

The Monday to Saturday service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford is another test case and will lose its subsidy from the 6th of the month. Thankfully, High Peak Buses (the Centrebus/Wellglade joint venture) are continuing with its provision although frequencies will be cut to at least 90 minutes as opposed to the hourly one that we have at the moment. Unsurprisingly, the ineffective Congleton journey extensions added to replace the long abolished service 34 between there and Alderley Park are being dropped. Speaking of Alderley Park, the 27 once was only way of getting there from Macclesfield by bus and the service frequencies suffer in the new timetable. Arriva have been operating the 130 Macclesfield to Manchester service through that site for a few years though and it now seems that more will be making use of that from October onwards. Knutsford comes off worse though since there is no alternative and I am left wondering at the sense of cutting these journeys when commuters can add patronage.  On the other hand, having an 18:40 departure from Knutsford to Macclesfield looks a positive move and it will be interesting to see how they get on with that journey.

While on subjects pertaining to High Peak, they will be taking over weekday daytime workings on services 1 (Macclesfield to Forest Cottage) and 14 (Macclesfield to Langley) from Arriva on September 16th. No change in route or timetable is involved and Arriva will continue to operate the evening and Sunday workings. However, they seem to be billing the routes as new to Macclesfield when Arriva have been providing them since before I moved to the town. Of course, they are new to High Peak so that may be one explanation…

Other than the above, there are small route changes forthcoming on Arriva service 10(A) between Macclesfield and Bollington and on Stagecoach service 378 between Wilmslow and Stockport. The former commences on September 16th and September 2nd is the start date for the latter. From what I have seen, these are the types of developments that you’d see when economic fortunes are good so there’s nothing very typical of our times here.

Then, there are various commercially operated school services starting from the reopening of schools next month. This is a reminder of how many schoolbuses lost their council money last year and how many got stopped in the middle of the school term too. Along with public scheduled services, these seem to be facing the same moves away from public funding and that appears to be the way the world is going around here.

Aside from all these, there has been a public consultation regarding supported public and flexible bus services. Encouragingly, there has been a huge response to this with the the presentation of the results of the exercise to the Cheshire East council cabinet being delayed until October because of the volume of information that needs processing. Quite what the outcome will be when cash is tight, it is hard to say. All the public meetings from which the input was collected were held during the day when those who work for a living would be unavailable so let’s hope that has no bearing on the results. October could yield some important news yet.

On a more positive note, Arriva has introduced new buses to Macclesfield with Silktown Links branding. They are Optare Solos and all have 12 registrations so we aren’t getting cast-offs from other places, an encouraging sign. Some of the SWB Dennis Darts that we had were getting on in years so it possibly was time for us to get something new for a change; a 61 reg Wright Gemini double decker has been sighted too since the start of the year though I cannot confirm if that’s a permanent fixture. Having newer buses in the area sits a little uncomfortably with all else that is happening and there could be much learnt yet. These times cannot be called steady anyway so we’ll need to get through them somehow.