An Arriva rearrangement to arrive in June 2014

This has been Catch the Bus Week across the U.K. and I have learned that something less positive is on the way for Arriva’s bus services in Cheshire East from the start of June. It comes in the form of many services seeing curtailment of evening journeys.

There are other less notable tweaks too in the form of changes to Macclesfield town services 2, 2A and 4 with the 31 and 31A between Crewe, Winsford and Northwich also coming into the same category. Further details of what is coming have yet to become clear but let’s hope that service reductions are not in order for these.

Others are less fortunate and Monday to Saturday journeys between Macclesfield and Bollington after 21:00. There is little sign of a campaign against this at the time of writing but it really took a big push to get Arriva to provide the commercial service that it has done since council funding was withdrawn. The same sort of thing is coming to Macclesfield town service 9 after 20:45 and circular town services 5 and 6 after 19:30. Also, the 08:35 and 09:05 Monday to Friday journeys on the Macclesfield to Hurdsfield town service are set to go too. These were route 21B and routes 21 and 21A will survive untouched though it does the morning peak travel time no favours at all.

Service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe loses out too. On Saturdays, there are to be no Arriva buses after 18:00 and that leaves a gap until the council-contracted BakerBus journeys that start at 20:35. It will be interesting to see if Cheshire East Council fills the gap here though I realise that money is tight with them. Otherwise, there is sense in pulling the short return journey between Macclesfield and Congleton that leaves Macclesfield shortly before BakerBus’s first evening journey to Crewe.

Also not escaping unscathed are services 37, 37A and 37E between Crewe and Northwich. There is set to be only journey from Crewe to Northwich after 19:00 and that leaves Crewe as the 37E at 19:34 to arrive in Northwich at 20:49. The other 19:00, 20:00 and 21:00 journeys will not operate.

Other than the above, it is the 23:00 journey from Crewe to Nantwich on service 84 that faces withdrawal. This completes a series of changes that look anything but positive. Recently, I learned that the head of Arriva Northwest is an accountant so it is tempting to lay the blame at bean counting but I reckon that is not the whole story. Of course, there is the matter of passenger patronage to be considered too and High Peak is withdrawing the the last journey of the day on service 14 between Macclesfield and Langley (a Monday to Saturday affair anyway since Arriva stopped offering a Sunday service) to leave no service after 18:00, not a good thing for any commuters though the new 109 service between Macclesfield and Leek could help to fill the gap. Maybe it’s time to support what services are running and get campaigning when we need to retain any that are threatened.

Update 2014-05-19:

BakerBus are to plug the gap left in the Saturday service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe. Their Saturday departures from Macclesfield will start at 18:35 and continue hourly until the last bus of the day. Their equivalent Saturday departures from Crewe will commence at 19:35 and continue hourly until the end of service, so ensuring a complete service over the whole day. If only something similar could be said for soon to be withdrawn services between Macclesfield and Bollington.

Update 2014-05-27:

BakerBus are set to lose their Monday to Saturday evening journey contract to GHA from the first Monday in July (2014-07-07) so that last evening journey from Biddulph to Macclesfield is set to go at the same time. GHA are taking over service 77 between Congleton and Kidsgrove, another Cheshire East Council contract, from the same date. No timetables are changing though.

It is not all bad news for BakerBus though since they won the contract to operate the soon to be discontinued evening journeys on Macclesfield local services 9 and 10 on Friday and Saturday evenings from the first weekend in June (2014-06-06) onwards. It would be better if Monday to Thursday evenings gained the same reprieve but anything has to be better than nothing at all.

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.

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.

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.

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.