A Changeover in the Scottish Borders

Over the weekend, I was in Scotland for a few days and went for a few walks through the hills around Peebles and Broughton. Because, I had based myself in Edinburgh, I was making use of the X62 between there and Peebles and checking on my options before I left home revealed a change that happened last month.

Now that First has been released from the obligations previously imposed on it, it has been retrenching in the Scottish bus market. This has seen it exiting East Lothian with Lothian Buses setting up two subsidiaries to replace the withdrawn services, Lothian Country Buses and East Coast Buses. In the coming weeks, the former is set to be merged with the latter and some service improvements are coming too.

Within the last month, First also exited the Scottish Borders with West Coast Motors taking over their operations. This has resulted in the formation of new company is called Borders Buses and has taken over all routes previously operated in the area by First. For now, timetables and fares are unchanged but Borders Buses can change things as it sees fit once it has settled into its new role. Some buses have been hired in from First until replacements are introduced though there already are some new white vehicles operating under the new fleet name. In addition, some buses from Perryman’s Buses also see service on Borders Buses routes and that is another part of the West Coast Motors group so the Campbeltown based parent company is not new to this part of Scotland.

The result of all the changes is that West Coast Motors has moved its interests from Argyll and Bute, Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands not only into the Borders but also into Northumberland. It has come quite a way from its Argyll heartland so it will be interesting to see how it goes now given that the recently reinstated Borders railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh is having an impact.

Update on 2017-04-20:
Buses magazine reports that the operations of both Perryman’s Buses and Borders Buses are to be merged with the latter name persisting. So far, there is little sign of that apart from legal lettering on buses showing the same postal address.

On the way to another year

From the travel point of view, 2010 got a very dramatic ending with the cold temperatures that brought us snow and ice. While it was the airports that bore the brunt of the weather, train and bus services suffered too, particularly in the first round of the cold weather. With the temperatures set to drop again in the next few days, we’ll have to see what happens. After all, it was in January of the year ending tonight that we really saw the snow cause trouble around eastern Cheshire. Who knows what lies around the corner?

Speaking of what may come our way in the future, we have what comes from any public spending cuts in Britain and Ireland. Warrington, North Yorkshire and Derbyshire already have shown signs of what may be precipitated by cuts to council budgets. There’s no word on anything like that from Cheshire but that may change.

Still, rail has seen some announcements regarding investment and can be said to have done better than expected. However, that has to be tempered by the prospect of sizeable hikes in ticket prices beyond those we have seen in recent years.

All in all, 2011 could become more interesting than some among us would rather. It could be one where we have to stand up for what services we have so that total savagery is avoided. Still, not everything has to be sacrificed so we’ll have to enjoy using what we can. Hope the new year is good to you and that you come through it untouched by any economic torment.

A day ticket wouldn’t have cost much more…

Yesterday, I got out for a walk that took me from Kidsgrove to Wheelock near Sandbach. To get home, I caught the 38 and the single fare was £3.60. Arriva operate the Macclesfield-Crewe service both commercially and with council support, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. Gratifyingly, it was being well used when I was travelling yesterday evening with a healthy mixture of fare-paying and pass-wielding patrons. It was well driven too, not an experience that I can always about my experiences of using this service, particularly for occasions when travelling on the last one of a Sunday; Crewe bus drivers apparently have a reputation for being a bit mad in the driving, justified, so I may have had one. To return to the issue of the cost of travel, I don’t begrudge the fare that I was charged but the price of an Arriva day ticket is £4 and that makes me wonder if there are single fares of more than the price of a day ticket. Perhaps, asking for a day ticket when travelling from Crewe to Macclesfield or vice versa might be an idea even when embarking on a one way trip. It’s a thought that I’ll keep in mind.

When a return costs less than a single

Most of my trips to Éire involve my taking a taxi to Manchester Airport on the outbound portion and a train journey back from there on my return. The full price single would appear to be around the £10 mark but its been a while since I purchased one so I am not sure of the price. The reason for that is that I stick with Cheap Evening Returns (or whatever they are called in these allegedly simpler times of Advance/Off-Peak/Anytime ticketing) instead and the whole cost comes to £5.30 (£1.60 as far as Manchester Piccadilly and £3.70 from there to Macclesfield). A recent inspection of the National Rail website reveals that the same price is offered to you for travel between 18:30 and 21:00 so their algorithm must be getting more slick to pick up these things. Another example is the cost of a single fare for travel from Manchester to Macclesfield is usually £7.30 but, on the website, this drops to £3.70 for travel during the same time period. In a time when every pound matters, knowing of this stuff is useful though Northern Rail conductors are good when it comes to supplying you with cheaper fares in the evening time.