A New Appearance

If you have not been here for a while, you should see signs of a refresh. The old design used code that stopped working so the website had the appearance of having gone offline. That has been replaced by what you find here now and all appears to be working well so far.

Though there were continual updates to a lot of the content on here, 2016 still was a quieter year on here. Other things in my life took up more of my attention so longer entries were absent. Now that we are in 2017, the big task that dominated last year is behind me though there will be smaller ones to do in addition to my day job. The upheaval cause by bereavement still makes its present felt.

2016 also was a big year in world news with Britain sadly and narrowly choosing to leave the European Union in a referendum and the U.S.A. electing Donald Trump as its president. Both of these mean that uncertain times that lie ahead of us and the impact on public transport is as yet unknown.

Still, I did get to sampling train and bus services on much needed breaks away from a frantic everyday life. These included Austrian and Norwegian train services as well as Mallorcan bus services. They may provide inspiration for entries on here yet. The same may be said for the Swiss train network and Icelandic bus services too and these were experienced during 2015.

Otherwise, there are sure to be developments in British and Irish public transportation. After all, Bus Éireann is in financial trouble at the moment and needs to restructure its operations in order to survive. What that means for bus services in Ireland has yet to be seen and trade unions are unhappy too. Then, there is the long running saga of industrial relations problems in Southern Railway that have made life a misery for so many in the southeast of England. GHA Coaches went bust and the affects of that business collapse still are being felt across much of England and Wales. Such developments mean that there always is a need for some public transport advocacy too. Maybe it is time for a little more of that in these testing times.

Aftermath of Lough Swilly Buses Closure

Following the intervention of the U.K.’s HMRC, the London & Lough Swilly Railway Company is no more after period of financial difficulties. The name sounds like an anachronism in that the company essentially was a bus operator for its last decades and a decent website came about only in the last few years and remains online at the time of writing too.

Here is what the company to say for itself on the front page of its website:

The Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway Company was set up by an act of parliament in 1853 by the then parliament of Great Britain & Ireland. The first track between Derry and Forland Point was completed in 1863 with a further line to Buncrana in 1864. Further extensions were completed with a branch line from Buncrana to Carndonagh and a line from Derry via Tooban Junction to Letterkenny completed in 1883, this was further extended to Burtonport inn 1895.

In 1929 due to financial difficulties the directors decided to close some of the lines and replace them with buses and road freight. The railway finally closed in 1953 when the Buncrana – Derry line ceased. The company presently operates a cross border bus service between Derry and Buncrana, Letterkenny, Moville and to various towns in Inishowen and north Donegal. In addition the Swilly also operate a school bus service in Donegal under contract to C.I.E. The company also operate a Vehicle Testing Centre at its Bonagee garage in Letterkenny for PSV and commercial vehicles. The company presently employ in excess of 90 people.

The company is the oldest surviving railway company set up in the Victorian era that is still trading as a commercial concern.

The Derry Journal has its own piece on the chequered history of the company that closed its doors last month. Its network extended west from Derry across the north of Donegal and neither Bus Éireann or Ulsterbus really strayed that much on to its patch. Even the former contracted out schoolbus services to Lough Swilly on behalf of Éire’s Department of Education & Skills.

Before we get to talking about possible replacements for the Swilly routes that have been lost, here is a list with links to the old timetables too:

Buncrana – Derry
Carndonagh – Buncrana
Carndonagh – Derry
Derry – Culmore
Greencastle – Derry
Gweedore – Letterkenny
Kerrykeel – Letterkenny
Letterkenny – Derry
Muff – Derry

As of the moment of writing, most of these have yet to be replaced if my information is correct.  Bus Éireann has sorted out all the school services that Swilly used to operate so those will remain. They also are revised their Letterkenny to Derry service to mitigate the loss of Swilly’s journeys. The route numbers are 64 and 480, and the timetables combine to give reasonably comprehensive coverage of the day.

Ulsterbus has taken over the Muff to Derry service and it is numbered FY16. The service frequency looks good though there is a late start of 12:00 from Derry on Saturdays. It also has been reported that McGonagle’s of Buncrana have taken over the service between there and Derry and that bus passes are invalid on it due to a current lack of reimbursement from the authorities. That company appear not to have a website so I have yet to see a timetable for the new service.

Other than the above, there has been little sign of other routes being reactivated though Highland Radio had a story about Boyce Travel expressing an interest without much in the way of a response. Quite what happens next is unknown so it will be a case of waiting and watching. It would be pity if all the routes were lost because of a company failure.

Mayday Bank Holiday Bus Services for 2014

Not long after Easter, we find ourselves enjoying another bank holiday weekend so bus services are set to deviate from their normal Monday timetables and I have collected what I can find out about what is to be offered on here. In essence, it is a case of mainly observing Sunday timetables though there are exceptions that may be pleasant surprises for you.

Service Changes

Here’s a short list of areas or companies and the sort of service levels that they plan to offer on the Mayday Bank Holiday for 2014:

Bus Éireann

Mainly a Sunday service with some additional alterations.

Cardiff Bus

Sunday service

Cheshire East

Mainly a Sunday service

Coach Services (Thetford)

Sunday service: only routes 80, 82, 83, 85 & 86 will be served.

Dorset

Mainly a Sunday service level and they have a bus timetables collection too if you need to check further.

First Essex

Sunday service

Lothian Buses

Saturday service

Merseyside

Essentially a Sunday service and they have more information for anyone who needs it.

Oxford Bus Company

These have their own special timetable for the Easter and Mayday bank holidays. Some services operate to Sunday timetable, others as if it was a normal Monday and some not at all.

Pennine Motors

Saturday service

Preston Bus

Sunday service

Ridgways of Glamorgan

No service

South Yorkshire

Mainly a Sunday service

Stagecoach Manchester & Wigan

Sunday service

Strathclyde

Essentially, this centres on Glasgow but should apply to anywhere in Scotland’s western central belt. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has a summary of services for the Mayday Bank Holiday on their website.

Trent Barton

Sunday service

Vale of Glamorgan

Mainly a Sunday service with the only exceptions being Cardiff Airport services 905 and T9. They are running to a normal weekday timetable.

West Midlands

Sunday service. Network West Midlands have more information if you need it.

West Yorkshire

Metro have a leaflet containing the details you would need.

Yellow Buses (Bournemouth)

Sunday services with routes 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 2B, 3, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 6, 24 and A1 operating.

Nothing for you above?

If none of the above cover your area, Traveline always remains a useful port of call and their national or regional websites are listed below:

Scotland

Wales

Cumbria & Northeast England

Yorkshire

Northwest England

East Midlands, England

West Midlands, England

East Anglia

Southeast England

Southwest England

Hope you have a good one, whatever you do.

Disturbance

The current round of snow is having quite an effect on the transport network in some places. Thankfully, Macclesfield doesn’t seem to be the worst hit though there must be a considerable snow covering on the hills not far from the town and Buxton cannot escape either. The A537/A54 are closed to traffic so things cannot be good up on the heights. If it’s like what we got at the start of the year, they’ll need snowblowers to clear roads.

Bowers are unable to offer the full service that they usually do and the 27 Macclesfield-Knutsford route was only operated for part of the afternoon and it looked as if the same applied to the 19 Macclesfield-Whirley-Prestbury service. They are based in Chapel-en-le-Frith so that cannot help them. It’s one thing to struggle to get buses out from a depot but it’s another if drivers cannot get there in the first place.

From the bus tracker, Arriva seems to be able to keep the 130 Macclesfield-Manchester service going though there are delays and thoughts of them persuaded me to work from home today. A look at their latest update conveys to me the impression that we are getting off more lightly than some other places. They have created a summary in PDF so as to stop people hammering the website like they did at the start of the year.

One look at an update for the north of England confirms that a number of places cannot be served by rail, even, and Northern Rail has details on its website too. Sheffield is but one badly hit area and a work colleague of mine has a foot of snow covering his garden! No wonder First cannot run buses around the city. Northumberland and parts of east Yorkshire are taking the brunt of the weather and the disruption by the appearances of things. All in all, it seems that the weather is getting the better of the railways in places.

Ireland may have a maritime climate but it too is feeling the effects of the cold spell. Though most trains are running (only Docklands station in Dublin is not getting a service this evening), if subject to delays, the Irish Rail website is getting hammered. That may be due in part to the problems that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are having. The former’s services stopped around 20:00 this evening and the latter has been struggling to run services up and down the east coast of the country, to point that 19:30 was the end of operations for the day on many of them. The severe weather pages of the Irish Department of Transport are another calling point for general information, particularly about road conditions and any gritting.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its reputation, Scotland has got a right blast of the arctic conditions with even Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses being unable to offer a full service. The mixture of hilly terrain and hefty snowfalls must be at the heart of the problem but one only can imagine how much more challenging it is in the Highlands though train running problems are happening throughout Scotland.

Though numerous, what I have collected here is only a sample of what is happening out there. Maybe, it is too hard to keep on top of it all when you have a day job in another profession but I’ll see if I can share what I can on here.

Bikes on buses

I remember making a return journey between Charleville and Cork in Ireland when a passenger just popped a bicycle into one of the coach’s side lockers and it was carried without further ado. When I had the idea of doing the same on an outing from Edinburgh to Fort William, I was thwarted because carriage of bicycles on buses and coaches is not the norm. The phrase that lingers in my memory, regardless of whether it actually was said that way or not was “This is not a train”. Undeterred, I secured my bicycle and left it after me to enjoy a wonderful day out. The change of plan was no spoiler though the it did alter how I spent the day.

There are some who might say that the above contrast between Irish easygoing helpfulness, the same type that allows the carriage of forgotten luggage on a service coach from Galway to Dublin without charge or facilitating the retrieval of a case left on Dublin’s LUAS tram system by myself and I half-asleep after an early morning flight from Manchester, and British adherence to process and procedure. While I cannot doubt Irish helpfulness, I am more inclined to attribute the differences in outcome to differences in legal systems.

Whatever the cause, non-carriage of bikes by buses and the paucity of accommodation for them on trains (a story for another time) has fostered the growth of my interest in hillwalking at the expense of cycling. Ironically, it is in the types of places where I go walking that there have been innovations when it comes to carriage of bicycles by buses. In the Yorkshire Dales, trailers have been attached to Dennis Darts for the purpose. In other places, you see the use of racks mounted on the back for the same purpose and the X94 that goes between Chester/Wrexham and Barmouth comes to mind but there are others. Having bicycle pens within the buses themselves is another way of achieving the same and I have vague recollections of this being done in Snowdonia and the northwest of Scotland. On the subject of vague recollections, I have another one of seeing a photo in Buses magazine where seats have been replaced by a place to put bikes on what appeared to be a double-decker.

Though none of those ways to carry bikes on buses are widely available, there is an argument in favour of making that happen. After all, having a bicycle in a wheelchair or buggy space on a low floor bus is likely to cause a nuisance and you couldn’t even get one on the older step entrance vehicles. Then, there’s the prospect of breaking up a bike to carry it on a National Express coach service and that sounds like something that you would do if you were carrying one on an airplane. Of course, there are those folding bikes that people sneak onto commuter trains at peak times as luggage but is that really ideal for that day out in the countryside exploring its quieter roads? All in all, it’s a state of affairs that encourages car use but remains a tough nut to crack whichever way you go about it.