Forthcoming Sunday bus service reductions in Derbyshire

After yesterdays post about how Cheshire East’s bus network has changed within the last few weeks caused a spike in the number of visitors to this website, I now am broaching a similar subject regarding Derbyshire. Details of recent service changes and some forthcoming ones are available on the county council’s website but they do not extend until the end of May when the reductions that I am describing will take place. Details of these are scattered around the Derbyshire bus service information portal.

Because I often go for walks in the Peak District, some of the affected bus services mean more to me than others because I have used them at some point. For instance, some of the ones facing Sunday service withdrawal service 66 between Buxton and Chesterfield, service 173 between Bakewell and Castleton as well as service 442 between Buxton and Ashbourne. In addition, service 61 between Buxton and Glossop together with service 170 between Bakewell and Chesterfield will go from an hourly frequency to a near two hourly one. All of these could be used by walkers so I am surprised by the timing of the reductions because we are facing into the summer time when more would be lured out of doors and the year’s busy holiday periods are ahead of us.

There are other services that I may not have used that are seeing Sunday service withdrawals that affect those that regularly use them. These include services 15A between Dronfield and Marsh Lane, service 16A between Dronfield and Chesterfield, service between Ashbourne and Matlock, service 140 between Matlock and Alfreton as well as service 217 between Matlock and Chatsworth. It is worth pointing out that these losses all come as part of a wider collection of changes around the same time so it is not just Sunday services that are affected.

Some services such as on route 212 between Bonsall and Derby or route 449 between Illam and Bakewell face complete withdrawal but these were very infrequent services. Evening service reductions on Chesterfield town service 39 and evening service withdrawal on route 55A between Alfreton and Chesterfield are coming around the end of May too.

Other changes around the same time are not so drastic. Tweaked timetables are to be introduced for the following services: route 1A between Ripley and Aldercar, service 63A between Chesterfield and Matlock, route 91 between Chesterfield and Holymoorside, service 171 between Bakewell and Middleton, route 178 between Bakewell, Over Haddon and Monyash, route 218 between Bakewell and Sheffield, Pronto route between Chesterfield and Nottingham, Swift route between Derby, Ashbourne and Uttoxeter, Transpeak route between Manchester, Buxton and Derby.

Other routes see operator changes such as Matlock routes M1 and M4 while these also see withdrawal of Saturday services. Service 231 between Alfreton and Pinxton, service 149 between Alfreton and Sutton, Clowne town service 75 together with services 73 and 74 between Clowne and Crystal Peaks  are others that see their operators changing though there is to be no timetable change in either case. That is not the case for services 26 and 26A between Crystal Peaks and Kiveton Park, service 48 between Brampton and Clay Cross or service 49 between Clay Cross and Bolsover but those changes are relatively minor.

There is one goo piece of news in all of this since Moorlands Connect is to return at the start of June. In some other places like Lancashire where all bus service subsidies were removed, there is some restoration of services but it probably will take a change of political will to halt the ongoing decline in bus services. Without that, you are not going to get more people depending on buses to get them around and even minor changes like what is coming in June on Arriva service 29 and 29A between Burton and Leicester may worry some until they see all is well.

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.

Breakup

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.

A tale of two Wayfarer tickets

Confusingly, being in Cheshire means that we have access to not one but two Wayfarer tickets for getting out and about certain places using public transport. They are very different as I discovered when I asked for one a bus to Buxton one day; what I got wasn’t the ticket that I expected!

What I had expected to get for my money was Transport for Greater Manchester’s Manchester Wayfarer ticket.  For the £10 adult tariff, you can have a sheet of folded card where you scratch off the year, month and day for when you want to make use of it. The fact that it’s a multi-modal ticket makes it really useful because you can mix and match train and bus services on a day out.

The extent of the rail network in which the Manchester Wayfarer is valid is more than that in Greater Manchester itself with parts of Cheshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire included. Looking at the full map will tell you where you can go using the ticket.

The region within which the Manchester Wayfarer can be used on bus services is greater than with trains. Looking at the full map shows that parts of Staffordshire and West Yorkshire are included along with those in the validity area for train travel. It really strikes me that a day out from Manchester to Ashbourne becomes a possibility and there’s a lot to be said for that flexibility.

In addition to the £10 adult ticket, there are other Manchester Wayfarer ones. For instance, there’s a £5 one for folk aged from to 15 or 60 and over along with holders of the National Concessionary Travel Pass. There’s a group one too for £20 that is an option for family groups. The maximum number of folk over the age of 15 for this four person ticket is two but that still suffices for days out with kids in tow.

What I got on that bus that Sunday morning was a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket printed using the vehicle’s ticket machine. This, as the name suggests, is for train and bus travel within Derbyshire and to only certain points outside the county’s boundaries. One of these is Macclesfield but the centres of Sheffield, Burton-on-Trent and Uttoxeter also gain coverage on journeys to and from the county. That Stockport wasn’t included became clear to me on attempting to travel to there from Buxton on the 199 bus service that then was operated by Trent Barton. The Wayfarer got me as far as the county boundary and another ticket was needed to get me the rest of the way, highlighting that I didn’t have the Wayfarer ticket that I though I had.

The adult version of the Derbyshire Wayfarer costs £11.10 and allows you to have a child under the age of 16 travelling with you without need for another ticket. There’s a concessionary version too for £5.55 which bizarrely allows you to bring a dog instead of a child and there I was thinking that dogs didn’t need tickets for using public transport! There’s a group ticket too for £20 that has the same rules as per its Manchester namesake. That’s not because Beeston and Nottingham train stations sell variants costing £15.80 for the adult version and £7.90 for its concessionary counterpart so that you can explore parts of Derbyshire with one of those stations as your starting (and ending) point.

So, what I needed to do on that Sunday was to go to Macclesfield’s train station for a Manchester Wayfarer as I have done a few times since then. While its Derbyshire equivalent is widely available on buses, trains and train stations, you need to go to train stations, Transport for Greater Manchester travelshops and some bus company offices for the Manchester one unless you get it by post. The great thing about these scratch and use rover tickets is that you scratch off the date panels only when you need to use ticket so you can have a few of them in hand until you want to travel using one. That makes the postal way of getting them seem less strange than otherwise would be the case.

Once you realise which Wayfarer is which, these are very useful rover tickets for their respective areas. Their having different names would make matters clearer but that’s only thing that is to be said against them. Unlimited multi-modal travel over the course of a day for small fee is no bad thing at all, especially with the monetary pressures that many face.

Update on 2016-05-10: The Derbyshire Wayfarer now costs £12.30 and the Manchester Wayfarer costs £12 from a train station.

Update on 2017-11-10: The Derbyshire Wayfarer now costs £12.60 and the Manchester Wayfarer costs £13.