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 Monday to Saturday journeys on service 58 have been rerouted to replace the withdrawn town service 1.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of High Peak between Macclesfield and Stockport with the former of these serving Kerridge as a replaced for the withdrawn service 11.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