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 Monday to Saturday journeys on service 58 have been rerouted to replace the withdrawn town service 1.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instead of High Peak between Macclesfield and Stockport with the former of these serving Kerridge as a replaced for the withdrawn service 11.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.

A contract change and its wider effects

High Peak is to take over Monday to Saturday bus service 11 between Macclesfield and Kerridge from February 24th. This means that BakerBus, who currently run the service for Cheshire East Council and have done so for a number of years now, will be handing it over in less than three weeks time.

When BakerBus scaled back the number of Biddulph to Macclesfield journeys on services 99 and 99A last autumn, they left a 07:25 from Biddulph to Macclesfield that arrives at 08:24 and an 18:41 from Macclesfield that reaches Biddulph at 19:36. These were positioning journeys for their Kerridge service and will be withdrawn in less than three weeks time. This leaves the 18:37 from Biddulph to Macclesfield as the only relic of what once was a fairly regular service that now largely is a Biddulph to Congleton route these days, a trend that is set to continue. The remaining evening journey is a positioning one for the Monday to Saturday evening contract for Macclesfield to Crewe (and return) service 38.

However, GHA’s Monday to Friday commercial service 39 is to gain an extra morning journey from Congleton at 07:50 that arrives in Macclesfield at 08:10. That is ten minutes ahead of the first bus to Kerridge and the new timetable for service 11 has all its timings shifted thirty minutes earlier in comparison with the old one. That could come as a big surprise to anyone inattentive who is a regular user of the service.

Less dramatically, Arriva’s Crewe town service 6 is set to operate ten minutes earlier from March 23rd. Then, February 17th sees the withdrawal of Routemaster Buses’ less frequent services 828 and 884 between Crewe and Nantwich. These were peak time services and I hope that their demise will not affect too many folk.

While all this is a mixed bag, it is nothing compared to proposals in other local authority areas and I do hope that we will be spared more tough choices after what we got during 2011, 2012 and 2013. Many services that were supported are now commercial so its up to increased patronage to get them sustained and hopefully improved.

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.

Public Transport in Bollington

Public Transport in Bollington

Bollington once had its own train station on a railway that extended from Marple to Macclesfield. That is no more and much of the route of that railway is the Middlewood Way, a recreational cycling route between the two places formerly connected by a train line. Some of the alignment near Bollington has a truck depot across it and more of it may have been used for the Silk Road feeding the A523 into Macclesfield from Hazel Grove.

That former railway also served Higher Poynton and the platforms remain and get used as picnic areas by passing walkers, cyclists and equestrians. However, Poynton still has a train station while Bollington doesn’t. That means that residents of the latter need to get to Macclesfield or Prestbury since they have the nearest train stations. Of the two, it is the former that has the more trains due to its being a principal station on the West Coast Mainline.

Given the latter fact, it’s just as well that there is a plentiful supply of bus services connecting Bollington to Macclesfield. The 10 and 10A are the main ones with the first of these offering a half-hourly frequency during daytimes from Monday to Saturday. The latter runs all day on Sundays and lost its subsidy last year, thankfully without any reduction in service frequency. The equivalent Monday to Saturday evening services are set to lose their council funding next month and vigorous campaigning on the part of Bollington Town Council has Arriva trying out commercial operation. Hopefully, a good level of support from residents will see it continue like it does on Sundays.

There’s a service 11 to Kerridge too that adds to those going towards the Happy Valley, as Bollington is known due to having good mill owners in its industrial heyday. It doesn’t go the full length of the town but turns from the main road part way. It is a Monday to Saturday daytime operation with an hourly frequency. The operator is BakerBus on a council contract and it escaped attention during the 2012 cuts. Before BakerBus, Bostocks had the contract and Arriva had it before them again.

The last bus service for mention passes through Bollington on its way from Macclesfield to Stockport, the 392. The frequency is two-hourly and it too is operated by BakerBus on a council contract. The withdrawal of the 391 in Poynton means that it hasn’t escaped the current cuts. From the beginning of March 2013, it is set to terminate in Hazel Grove, a disappointing development.

There once were Sunday bus services along the route of the 392. Last year’s cuts saw the end of them with the 108 between Stockport and Leek withdrawn. That had three journeys a day in each direction and made walks around Leek more a reality for the bus user. That in turn had replaced a Sunday 392 that ran on a similar frequency though the last 19:00 departure from Stockport was a pointless affair.

Bollington is well supplied with bus services and those those who will fight to retain them too, the latter being an especially rare commodity in recent years in Cheshire East. They will need to continue their efforts, methinks. It helps that Bollington is a good place to visit thanks to its location among hills and all the things that happen there thanks to a sense of community that needs exporting to other parts of Cheshire.

Gas works

Macclesfield’s streets have been getting dug up again and it’s a reminder of what was going on around this time last year when traffic light renewal was under way. About that time, there seemed to be some gas works ongoing too and it is gas mains renewals that are causing the disruption at the moment. The powers that be seem to have focussed their attention around the roundabout at the intersection of Churchill Way and Cumberland Street/Hibel Road. So far, that doesn’t seem to having much effect on the buses that I use though services to Kerridge (the bus used for that service now displays its destination and the vehicle has gained a cherished registration mark too; what was wrong with the standard issue 54 one?), Bollington and Upton Priory surely can’t have escaped the build up of traffic caused by temporary traffic lights. Of course, it would be best if this sort of thing went away for a while but that might be why signs have appeared about a few weeks work lasting for eighty years afterwards. Only time can tell if that promise comes to pass with the rigid plastic pipes that they seem to be using.