Cheshire East Bus Funding Cuts: A Final Picture?

The last time that I wrote about Cheshire East’s forthcoming bus service cuts, there still were a few details outstanding and these have come to light today along with more that I wasn’t expecting. One of those details that were outstanding were the Saturday morning journeys on the 130 Macclesfield to Manchester operated under contract by Arriva. Things remain as they are for the 06:45 and 07:45 journeys from Macclesfield and the 07:44 one from Handforth until January 27th of next year. Beyond that the journeys are set to get curtailed but we’ll need to see a new timetable to get the full story though my suspicion is some will start from Wilmslow given that terminating journeys there has been a feature of the service in recent years.

Other details from Arriva include running the Monday to Saturday Macclesfield town services 5 and 6 commercially until 22:00. There were changes coming and this is the form that they were taking. Commercial operation also is coming the Crewe to Chester service 84 with a next to ninety minute service frequency for services along the full route with the last departure from Crewe at 21:35. A 23:00 from their to Nantwich also will operate and the last service from Chester is set to run at 23:05. If only we had something similar for the equivalent services on the 130 route.

The mention of the 130 brings me to Wilmslow with faces becoming something of a bus service desert in evenings and Sundays. Handforth will be similarly affected too since the 130 serves both. However, it is the forthcoming withdrawal of 378 journeys on evenings and Sundays that really will quieten things in both places. Transport for Greater Manchester are covering the cost of the current service level until April 6th, 2013 when there is a contract changeover. That may allow a temporary reprieve but services are set to terminate on Grove Lane after that.

While on the subject of Stockport services, the 390 Bramhall – Poynton – Stockport one is to be reviewed with a planned change date of 28th January 2013. If they do happen to survive, it cut alleviate the curtailment of the 392 and 393 services at Hazel Grove. While that may sound promising, it’s best not to get too hopeful given recent experiences.

The only details that are outstanding now will be answered on seeing bus timetables. Scheduled public services has caught it in the neck this year while it was the turn of school-bus services last year. This year, most of them are making the transition to commercial services though the 108 from Leek to Fallibroome School is being truncated to start from Macclesfield. losing one of those journeys and a one that could have been useful to commuters if timings at the other end of the day were more sensible.

Now, all that really is left is to wonder at what faces us in the future. After all, there is the current Cheshire East Council overspend and tomorrow brings the reality of the Autumn Statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 2011’s bus service cuts looked more like trimming the edges but those in 2012 and 2013 are going further and it is starting to look very austere in deed now. If we are looking at more of the same next year, then any reductions will be even tougher again. Hopefully, any campaigning would be more energetic that it was this year.

The mention of lack of campaigning apart from the good folk of Bollington brings me to wondering if it might be possible to reintroduce lost services in the future when the economic outlook is better and public finances have recovered. Keeping a log of lost services might be a useful reference point should opportunities arise. With a story in the media about car use peaking and what the current situation is doing to people’s finances, it is tempting to think that a bit of risk taking on the part of bus companies would get us somewhere. After all, there was a lack of that on display from some in recent months and D&G comes to mind when I think of it. Bus services have had a rough ride in Cheshire East in the last two years and we could do with a boost.

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.