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 This has seen it exiting East Lothian with Lothian Buses setting up two subsidiaries to replace the withdrawn services, Lothian Country Buses and East Coast Buses.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.

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.

Disruption in Scotland

Scotland still is catching the brunt of storm force winds and heavy rain as I write this. Bridges are shut (Tay, Erskine and Forth) and public transport services heavily affected. West Coast Motors are not running buses in Oban and Bute; the latter being due to a power failure. Sticking with the west of Scotland, the last Scottish Citylink departure for Fort William has been cancelled and that tells its own story. Glasgow and Edinburgh too have seen service changes as operators struggle with the weather. Even with that, most services seem to be running and keeping an eye on announcements from the likes of First Glasgow or Lothian Buses would be no bad idea.

Trains do not seem to have got too badly though there were some line closures around Glasgow earlier. Nevertheless, tomorrow will see the aftermath of what is battering Scotland so things may not be operating as smoothly as usually is the case. After all, there has been some structural damage done to buildings and infrastructure with a wall falling on a car in Aberdeen. At times like these, the only hope that can be expressed is that everyone is safe.

Update: National Rail Enquiries have on their website a page describing train running in the current adverse weather conditions. It looks as if there is more disruption than what I suggested above, such as between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. There’s quite a list of cancellations there with services such as the Caledonian Sleeper from Fort William and local ones around Glasgow being examples.

Update 2012-01-03: Yet another storm has hit Scotland again and with much the same effects too.

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.

More than a colour connection

Over the past bank holiday weekend, I spent some time on the Isle of Man and that meant sampling its public transport system as I explored some of the island’s many delights. Steam trains and electric trams were in operation but it was buses that I was using with journeys taking to me to the likes of Port Erin and Peel. In a way, it’s surprising but I was on double-decker vehicles for all of this, something that helps when it comes to enjoying the scenery as you pass through it. Bus Vannin, the Manx government-owned bus company is the sole operator on the island and there are signs of that public ownership in the operation and the upkeep of the vehicles. It has single deckers too, Dennis Darts by the appearance of things, but these seem to be kept for shorter route and are the full length item and not the stubby short wheelbase counterparts that are so commonplace on the British mainland.

It cannot be said that all Manx roads are smooth but they’re not in bad nick at all and the driving of the buses that I used was stately and sedate rather than hurried, even are a short delay at some roadworks. I suppose that it helps that the island is not overrun with other motor traffic so stop-start driving condition are rare though I do wonder what things are like when the TT is in full swing, not that I am desperate to find out; quieter times will more than do me, thank you very much.

Some of those roads are narrow though and I’d advise against trying to get about the town of Peel with no map; I ended up walking in a circle while trying to get my bearings after a strenuous day’s walking. Seeing the way that tight corners are negotiated by double-decker buses is an eye-opening spectacle and cars use the same streets too. It helps to be unhurried…

The title arises from the colour scheme applied to the mixture of Dennis Darts, Dennis Tridents and, latterly, Wright Eclipse Geminis. The latter have gained a mix of maroon (madder?) and cream as have a few of the Tridents. Otherwise, it’s a combination of bright red and cream and it’s not as garish as it sounds. The newer buses get the Bus Vannin logo while older vehicles bear the arms of the Isle of Man, complete with triskelion and motto. It’s refreshing to see two liveries used side bt side without the pressure that many private sector operators feel when it comes to their brand identity.

Services are regular too with the backbone routes connecting Douglas with Port St. Mary, serving the island’s airport along with Castletown (the old capital) and Port Erin, Ramsey, via Peel or Laxey. Douglas has copious local services as well and these are but a selection of what is operated. Sunday services are more limited but are largely hourly on the main routes so they are more than usable. Interestingly, a Saturday service was offered on the bank holiday itself (the Isle of Man has a Mayday holiday too) when so many places on the British mainland are subject to Sunday service (Macclesfield is but one example).

My experience of the Manx bus system was a positive one and reminded me of another municipal operation: Lothian Buses. Apart from the use of marron or madder in their liveries and their public ownership, it is the driving that really sticks out in my mind as a similarity. While on my way to Port Erin, I was reminded of a journey downhill from Bruntsfield towards Tollcross when any bumpiness resulted in any easy off of the accelerator and I suppose that the way that they were glided around corners might have reminded me of the 42 up and around the Mound.

Where this mental meandering is taking me is the resurgence of madder on Lothian’s buses. I have to admit that the harlequin livery was never to my tastes and often wondered at the cost of its maintenance. It seemed like change for the sake of change when the madder and white livery that bedecked so many Olympians (Leyland and Volvo) looked just right. Was it all the idea of a chief executive who was parachuted in from Stagecoach and who wanted low floor buses to be made more distinctive? He’s retired now so it’s intriguing that the madder and white is coming back in a new form. The curves in the new scheme may leave me unsure but it’s good to have the more traditional colours on the way back. We are facing more financially constrained time so the new scheme might be easier and cheaper to keep, no bad thing at all. There was a consultation ongoing on Lothian’s website, something that I don’t remember from ten years ago but I had other things on my mind back then; starting a career after university was the biggest of them and that involved a move south to Cheshire, a good distance away.

In a way, it’s odd that an island excursion that took me out into quiet countryside went and reminded me of a bustling city but that’s what can happen at times. Now that I come to think of it, I haven’t been in Edinburgh so it might be a good time to think of fitting in a return visit.