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 Monday to Saturday journeys on service 58 have been rerouted to replace the withdrawn town service 1.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of High Peak between Macclesfield and Stockport with the former of these serving Kerridge as a replaced for the withdrawn service 11.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

Cheshire East Bus Service Changes: October 2014

All has felt rather quiet in the world of Cheshire East bus services in recent months. With the cuts that we have been seeing since 2011, that can be viewed as a good thing. There are times when no news can be good news and it has felt that bus services were in managed decline under the current government, which is how those thoughts developed in my mind.

However, we now have some good news for Knutsford too for service 27/27A/27B to and from Macclesfield is set to become hourly and service 88 to and from both Wilmslow and Altrincham is to become half-hourly in frequency. Also, the 88 service will call at Wilmslow’s train station too. While these are Monday to Saturday services with no Sunday operations, these are encouraging developments that I would like to see prospering and they come into place at the end of the month.

Improvements continue with Congleton’s town services being contracted to GHA after a turn with D&G on most of them and BakerBus having retained one from its original roster. If I remember correctly, D&G definitely was providing services on a commercial basis and I cannot speak for BakerBus. The continuing route numbers will be 90, 91 and 92 with D&G’s 39 being dropped. The places being served include Bromley, Mossley and Buglawton. Service 42 from here to Crewe also transfers to GHA with that seeing improvements too. The extension to Crewe train station may be getting dropped but there is to be an hourly service over the whole route from Monday to Saturday so weekends see a doubling of the number of journeys starting and ending in Congleton compared to what it is now.

Some services around Crewe and Nantwich have been replaced. These include Nantwich town service 53 as well as routes 44 and 44M. Routes 6 and 6M are to be extended as far as Nantwich and Millfields with service of Rail House, Gresty Road reinstated using a new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. The latter also gets reinstated on GHA’s service 6E too. Macclesfield to Crewe service 38 gets extended as far as Nantwich on Sundays replace the current 45/45A service on that day of the week. D&G get a contract for that portion of the extended 38 too. As for the remainder of the week, service will stay as it is and service 45 and 45A will see some alterations. Route 45 will serve Davenport Avenue in Nantwich with the last journey of the day reaching Beefeater, Marshfield Bank. The Saturday 08:12 service journey is to be replaced by a 07:50 one on service 45.

There are more Crewe-related contract wins for GHA too with the Sunday and bank holiday workings on Crewe town services 8 and 8A along with Monday to Saturday evening services commencing from Crewe bus station at 19:00, 20:00 and 2100 coming their way. Monday to Friday afternoon journeys on Crewe town service 9 have been awarded too to partially replace the withdrawn BakerBus service. Saturday journeys on service 78 between Nantwich and Scholar Green also are going here along with later Monday to Friday journeys that D&G will not operate on a commercial basis. GHA also are revising timetables for Nantwich circular services 51, 52 and 52A as well as that of service 39 between there and Crewe via Shavington and services 72 & 73 between Nantwich and Whitchurch now that the 75 contract has gone to Routemaster Buses.

The changes for D&G are not all losses though with their taking on service 32 from Sandbach to Crewe from BakerBus. There are to be four journeys each way on Saturdays and the first journey of the day towards Sandbach starting from Crewe train station and the last journey of the day from Sandbach terminating at the train station too from Monday to Friday. The current 16:45 journey from Sandbach is set to run at 16:35 too. Services 85 and 85B no longer will continue to Hanley though and will terminate at Newcastle instead.

Arriva continues its penchant for service trimming with its Crewe town service 6 losing its 06:50, 07:20, 10:50, 14:20, 17:30, 18:00, 18:30 journeys. Service of Rail House, Gresty Road get reinstated with new right hand turn from Nantwich Road. Its Crewe town service 8 also loses its 07:35, 10:05, 14:05, 17:35 and 18:05 journeys. Service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester also sees a little trimming with the Monday to Friday 17:40 departure from Macclesfield being truncated at Wilmslow and the Saturday 18:18 departure from Manchester to Wilmslow getting withdrawn. It’s not all bad news though with route 37/37A/37E between Crewe, Sandbach and Winsford getting an improved Monday to Saturday evening service. Service 84 between Crewe and Chester also sees some timetable tweaks but I have yet to learn what those are.

Otherwise, Routemaster Buses has secured a council contract for the following Nantwich rural services:

  • Thursday and Saturday only service 56 between Tiverton to Nantwich
  • Monday to Saturday service 68 between Leighton Hospital, Church Minshull and Nantwich
  • Wednesday only service 75 between Nantwich – Market Drayton
  • Friday only service 79 between Audlem, Nantwich and Hanley
  • Tuesday only service 83 between Nantwich, Bunbury and Chester
  • Monday only service 89 between Nantwich and Wrexham

Of these, services 56, 75 and 83 are existing services while services 68, 79 and 89 are new ones. Route 83 is gaining a revised timetable too.

All in all, there are a lot of council contracts being let here and that makes me wonder where all of the money has originated and how long any such largesse might last given the predicted slowdown in economic growth. Nevertheless, having any glint of good news after what has felt like a sustained managed decline in bus services is a pleasant reprieve. Being of Irish extraction, all the spending on road resurfacing and other things by Cheshire East makes me wonder what has happened or whether it has anything to do with next year’s Westminster elections. Hopefully, we will not be back to brutal austerity after those but only time will tell.

Cheshire Bus Service Changes during December 2013 and January 2014

Just because Cheshire East is quieter than this time last year or other places when it comes to bus services does not mean that there is nothing happening all the same. Other distractions have meant that anything that happened during November passed by on me so it’s best that I capture what is happening now and what is to come in the near future.

At the start of the week, Knutsford town service 300 saw some tweaks with a reduction in the number of journeys serving Lilac Avenue. Next Monday sees little alterations to the BakerBus service between Biddulph and Congleton with its occasional forays to and from Macclesfield. The current 99B journeys will be renumbered 99A and there will be two new journeys too: an 08:10 from Biddulph to Cionleton and one at 15:50 going in the opposite direction. In an age when bus services are being lost, this is a good thing to see.

Congleton town bus services are seeing changes on the last Monday before Christmas with the withdrawal of the 76 to Banky Fields and The Westlands; this last runs on the preceding Saturday. Services 90 to Bromley Estate and 91 to Mossley are seeing frequencies reduced to hourly on Saturdays and at certain times during the Monday to Friday portion of a week from the same day (2013-12-23).

In January, we are seeing more changes again, especially from the first Sunday on 2014. Crewe town service 6 is seeing big changes with Arriva only to operate buses between the bus station and Brookhouse Estate. D&G will then offer a longer version of the same route from Shavington to Leighton Hospital to replace the lost Arriva workings from the same date. Existing D&G services 6A and 6E will be replaced by their new service 6 at the same time.

Arriva services 31, 31A, 37, 37A, 37E and 38 also are seeing changes. Service 38 gets off the lightest with only the questionable Monday to Saturday 20:25 journey from Crewe to Sandbach lost and BakerBus have a council contract for a late evening service to make up for this anyway. In its place, there is a 20:20 departure from Crewe to Winsford Industrial Estate as part of a package of bigger changes to the service. Initially, I thought that the 37 was to become a Crewe to Winsford service with any short journeys becoming 37A journeys. However, the sight of journeys starting and ending in Sandbach makes me wonder if those are set to continue all the way to Northwich after the changes. The new timetable will make interesting reading when it becomes available and I hope that no one gets inconvenienced by the upheaval. Thankfully, service 31 still will go the whole way between Crewe and Northwich, albeit without serving Morrisons in Northwich any longer, while the 31A will become a Crewe to Winsford operation.

Other than the above, Macclesfield town service 21 gets a change of route with services from Hurdsfield to Macclesfield going via Hibel Road and Churchill Way from the first Monday in 2014. On the same day BakerBus also takes over Sandbach services SB1, SB2 and SB3 from D&G with only a slight change to the SB1 timetable at the time of the transfer. Speaking of D&G, they are introducing a new Congleton town service 39 that overlaps with High Peak’s service between the town and Macclesfield, in route rather than timings as far as I can see. It operates between the morning and evening peak travel times from Monday to Friday between Congleton and Buglawton and I hope there is no ill effect on the High Peak service caused by its introduction.

The last change pencilled in for January 2014 relates to the Sunday service for the 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester and it is seeing its share of toing and froing. Initially, GHA had lost the contract to D&G and the new timetable was to be a daytime only affair much like the Monday to Saturday operation of Arriva without the early Monday to Friday morning workings. However, GHA then decided to try running the service on a commercial basis and the council is withdrawing D&G’s contract offer. The appearance of the new GHA timetable is yet to be seen but I suspect that the timings could be like those set to be offered by D&G. However, there is one question lurking in my mind: the current GHA contract ends on 2014-01-12 and their new service starts on 2014-01-26 so will be there any 130 service on 2014-01-19 or that just something that needs tidying? All in all, the situation reminds me of what happened when they swooped in on the Macclesfield to Knutsford service 27 and that is going still.

Major changes to Congleton bus services from start of September 2013

Within the last few days, it has come to my notice that BakerBus are sharply cutting the number of services they operate in and through Congleton. The 99 from Biddulph will largely remain, albeit with only very few journeys extending as far as Macclesfield. Thankfully, both D&G and High Peak appear to be stepping in with replacements for the services that are facing withdrawal.

The latter are set to offer a new service between Macclesfield, Buglawton and Congleton. While this has yet to gain traffic commissioner approval, it has gained the number 39 and it will be of interest to see how the timetable looks. When High Peak did operate service 27 on a council contract, a number of those journeys started from or terminated in Congleton so they may know the route anyway from those less austere days.

As for the Beartown Buses brand, this may be set to disappear now that D&G are running their replacements and I cannot see route branding like that applied to Crewe service 1 (one1ink) appearing here. The current 77 service between Congleton and Kidsgrove is being redirected to go along Padgbury Lane, Ullswater Road and Sandbach Road to leave a new 76 to serve Banky Fields and The Westlands. The current service 42 too is seeing changes so as to include West Heath on its route. Otherwise, D&G will take over services 90 and 91 with both keeping their half hourly service frequencies.

There are services being lost with the 95 and the X38 ceasing to exist. However, D&G have registered a Monday to Friday service 36 between Crewe and Sandbach that is to be a partial replacement for the X38 while the 38 from Macclesfield to Crewe remains anyway.

The shape of all these new services has yet to become clear but there is cause for optimism given that other operators are stepping in instead of BakerBus. The service news from D&G should be worth watching just like that from High Peak, especially since I have learned of forthcoming timing changes to service 392 (morning and evening peak services) between Macclesfield and Stockport (also from September). There has been little alteration to bus services in Cheshire East for a while now with only the summer school holiday 378 service between Wilmslow and Stockport being the only newsworthy change until this week.

Update 2013-07-30

Links to new D&G service timetables have been added now so it does look as if the Traffic Commissioner is giving these the go ahead. Others should follow as soon as I get them; Traveline has yet to provide September travel information on its timetable lookup facility.

Update 2013-07-31

Details of High Peak service 39 have appeared today. It’s an hourly Monday to Saturday service that doesn’t operate on bank holidays and has extra peak time journeys from Monday to Friday. Apparently, it’s being offered on a commercial basis and the registration is under consideration by the traffic commissioner.

There also are details of the revised 99 and 99B service (again a non bank holiday Monday to Saturday affair as has been the case until now so no change there) available with Biddulph, Congleton and Buglawton being the main extent of the route and enjoying an essentially hourly frequency. The only journeys to Macclesfield are one in the morning that acts as a positioning journey for service 11 between Macclesfield and Kerridge and one in the evening that does likewise for the Monday to Saturday evening Macclesfield to Crewe Cheshire East Council contract (service 38). There is one evening journey from Macclesfield and that’s all for the day; it facilitates the return of the service 11 bus from Macclesfield to the BakerBus depot.

Still some council support forthcoming after all

Previously, I reported the then upcoming decimation of Monday to Saturday evening services on service 38 between Macclesfield and Crewe. Now, it seems that Bakerbus have a contract to run later evening journeys on an hourly basis from 20:35 to 23:35 in either direction, albeit without having to honour tickets issued Arriva or D&G. This is promising news and makes me wonder now becomes of the planned short Arriva journeys between Macclesfield and Congleton (20:30 and 20:57 in each direction) and the 20:25 from Crewe to Sandbach. Maybe, all will become more clear in time but the continuation of something like the current is nothing but good news. Apparently, the 38 gets considered a strategic service and the 130 from Macclesfield to Manchester gets nothing like the same status, as can be seen from the severe service reductions in recent times.

This changeover is to take place on June 3rd and there is another on July 1st: the return of council funding for service 77 between Congleton and Kidsgrove. The current timetable will not be changing so the current set up of four journeys in each direction from morning into early afternoon is to remain. Though the days of the route all the way to Hanley bus station in Stoke-on-Trent, it is encouraging to see its continuation given that Astbury and Mow Cop are calling points, the latter of these being especially important for being on the Gritstone Trail.

Crewe gets its share of support for town services too with D&G’s service 9 between Crewe and Wistaston getting support for its Saturday journeys. The result is that there are more journeys over near enough the full route (Elm Drive is not served) for more of the day than was the case before. To compensate for the omission of Elm Drive from service 9, all current service 8 journeys are to follow the 8A route (with a consequent change in route number) instead as they go between Wistaston Green, Crewe and Sidney. This new arrangement comes into place from June 9th and June 3rd also sees tweaks to services 44 and 44M between Crewe and Nantwich (44M gets re-timed and Monday to Friday 08:55 from Crewe changed to start from Shavington at 09:08 instead).

June 3rd also sees D&G taking over daytime journeys on Knutsford town service 300 from High Peak without a change in timetable. There is no word of council financial support for this but the sense of High Peak leaving Knutsford is not hard to see now that they no longer operate service 27 to there from Macclesfield. It still is out on a limb for D&G too and Tomlinson Travel continue with the evening ones and I have heard some complaints on the service that they provide.

For a change, this latest round of bus service announcements is good news; developments haven’t looked this harmless for a while. It also is intriguing to see council funding appearing now after what was looking like bus services being left to their own devices with some falling on such hard times that they couldn’t continue as they were. For a good while. it almost felt like the approach was a managed decline somewhat akin to that applied to the railways in Britain for a few decades and was quite ironic given that bus services were mooted as replacements for soon to be defunct railway lines in Beeching’s plans.

What makes me wonder a little though is the timing of all of this. Cheshire East Council has seen hefty staffing upheaval in recent months. Having experienced this sort of re-organisation myself a number of times during my career so far, I realise how much stasis they can cause and I find myself asking if the same thing befell Cheshire East; folk in fear of their jobs can be unable to make decisions and it looks like that was happening before what we see now. Beyond what was happening, it might be that folk can see their way ahead again.

Seeing the recognition of the 38 as a strategic service was a great development and I’d like to think that its Sunday evening journeys may be graced by the same thinking at some point in the near future. Maybe that’s being overly optimistic but I was beginning to think that Northern Rail’s service between Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent might have made services like those on routes 38 and 77 less critical in the eyes of some and hence more vulnerable to withdrawal. After all, loss of trust in bus services is a dangerous thing and seeing what was happening was making my mind veer towards the apparent safe haven of train services. Let’s hope that we have found the bottom now and that bus service news may be a bit more positive from this point forward.