Forthcoming Sunday bus service reductions in Derbyshire

After yesterdays post about how Cheshire East’s bus network has changed within the last few weeks caused a spike in the number of visitors to this website, I now am broaching a similar subject regarding Derbyshire. Details of recent service changes and some forthcoming ones are available on the county council’s website but they do not extend until the end of May when the reductions that I am describing will take place. Details of these are scattered around the Derbyshire bus service information portal.

Because I often go for walks in the Peak District, some of the affected bus services mean more to me than others because I have used them at some point. For instance, some of the ones facing Sunday service withdrawal service 66 between Buxton and Chesterfield, service 173 between Bakewell and Castleton as well as service 442 between Buxton and Ashbourne. In addition, service 61 between Buxton and Glossop together with service 170 between Bakewell and Chesterfield will go from an hourly frequency to a near two hourly one. All of these could be used by walkers so I am surprised by the timing of the reductions because we are facing into the summer time when more would be lured out of doors and the year’s busy holiday periods are ahead of us.

There are other services that I may not have used that are seeing Sunday service withdrawals that affect those that regularly use them. These include services 15A between Dronfield and Marsh Lane, service 16A between Dronfield and Chesterfield, service between Ashbourne and Matlock, service 140 between Matlock and Alfreton as well as service 217 between Matlock and Chatsworth. It is worth pointing out that these losses all come as part of a wider collection of changes around the same time so it is not just Sunday services that are affected.

Some services such as on route 212 between Bonsall and Derby or route 449 between Illam and Bakewell face complete withdrawal but these were very infrequent services. Evening service reductions on Chesterfield town service 39 and evening service withdrawal on route 55A between Alfreton and Chesterfield are coming around the end of May too.

Other changes around the same time are not so drastic. Tweaked timetables are to be introduced for the following services: route 1A between Ripley and Aldercar, service 63A between Chesterfield and Matlock, route 91 between Chesterfield and Holymoorside, service 171 between Bakewell and Middleton, route 178 between Bakewell, Over Haddon and Monyash, route 218 between Bakewell and Sheffield, Pronto route between Chesterfield and Nottingham, Swift route between Derby, Ashbourne and Uttoxeter, Transpeak route between Manchester, Buxton and Derby.

Other routes see operator changes such as Matlock routes M1 and M4 while these also see withdrawal of Saturday services. Service 231 between Alfreton and Pinxton, service 149 between Alfreton and Sutton, Clowne town service 75 together with services 73 and 74 between Clowne and Crystal Peaks  are others that see their operators changing though there is to be no timetable change in either case. That is not the case for services 26 and 26A between Crystal Peaks and Kiveton Park, service 48 between Brampton and Clay Cross or service 49 between Clay Cross and Bolsover but those changes are relatively minor.

There is one goo piece of news in all of this since Moorlands Connect is to return at the start of June. In some other places like Lancashire where all bus service subsidies were removed, there is some restoration of services but it probably will take a change of political will to halt the ongoing decline in bus services. Without that, you are not going to get more people depending on buses to get them around and even minor changes like what is coming in June on Arriva service 29 and 29A between Burton and Leicester may worry some until they see all is well.

A troubled campaign?

Within the past week, Northern Rail has launched its Get a Ticket campaign to stop folk travelling without paying. However, it is at times like this that holes in the ticketing system not only emerge but are trotted out by passengers who do not take kindly to being suspected of criminality. Also, it is easy to roll out a campaign without considering what needs to be in place for such a thing to work.

In fact, it is pretty telling that Northern Rail are admitting that buying a ticket at a destination station has to be a fallback for passengers. It would be better for credibility that a few things had happened before the campaign begun. There also will be doubts in the minds of the travelling public as to how seriously to take these things, no matter how hard hitting a YouTube video campaign accompanied by a Twitter one can be.

The first is to install ticket machines at every station on their network, both staffed and unstaffed. If money is an issue, and it is bound to be one, then move machines from stations already staffed by other train operating companies such as Virgin to where they really are needed. Here’s an example: there is one Northern ticket machine in Stockport so that could be removed from there and installed in a place like Poynton where there are limited opportunities for buying tickets prior to travel.

Another development would have been to introduced ticketing via mobile phone apps. A recent update to Arriva’s bus ticketing app (they have made it very, very clunky and it sounds as if they are not keen to hear that either) shows that this needs careful execution if it is to work well. After all, if there is too little time for getting a ticket before boarding a train, that can be addressed while the train is moving because you should have time then to get things sorted.

Next up is ensuring that conductors do offer passengers opportunities to buy tickets from them and some can be lacklustre when it comes to this. On late night services, I have seen the conductor staying in his cab all the time and no one has the chance that they may need. This can cause cynicism with some thinking that a conductor is hiding away reading a newspaper instead of doing their job. The “hiding” word was mentioned in a tweet and Northern Rail didn’t take so kindly to its mention either. Nevertheless, when someone accused train staff of being lazy and used somewhat coarse language in so doing, they got asked to give an example. If I find one while out and about, I will be flagging this up to Northern. To be fair, there were opportunities to buy tickets on Northern services that I have used over the last two days (which is more than be said for an East Midlands one that I used between Stockport and Sheffield when no conductor was to be seen).

After motivating staff to do their job, there’s the matter of overcrowding and having too few folk to process ticket transactions on a busy train. The first one is the more difficult at the moment because that shortage of trains. Hopefully, electrification will allow the cascading of trains from the southeast to the north when new rolling stock down there replaces them. With Pacers (classes 142, 143 and 144) becoming obsolete from 2020, any extra trains really will be needed if a crunch is to be avoided. Getting in more staff to check tickets is another matter and those doing so at stations could be ideal for such a change in duties.

Senior management may think that there are plenty of ways of buying train tickets and there is a good list: via the web, at a train station and on a train. However, all of these can be improved by a mixture of mobile phone ticketing, greater availability of ticket machines, better motivated staff with more of them on busy trains and more train capacity. all of that takes investment so it is easy to see the attractions of an inexpensive online campaign over the web. What that does need though is credibility with a travelling perhaps weary from fare increases and there needs to be balance if there is not to be resentment at perceived heavyhandedness. Passenger patronage may be increasing now but that is never to say that things will stay that way indefinitely so goodwill always needs to be retained.

 

A tale of two Wayfarer tickets

Confusingly, being in Cheshire means that we have access to not one but two Wayfarer tickets for getting out and about certain places using public transport. They are very different as I discovered when I asked for one a bus to Buxton one day; what I got wasn’t the ticket that I expected!

What I had expected to get for my money was Transport for Greater Manchester’s Manchester Wayfarer ticket.  For the £10 adult tariff, you can have a sheet of folded card where you scratch off the year, month and day for when you want to make use of it. The fact that it’s a multi-modal ticket makes it really useful because you can mix and match train and bus services on a day out.

The extent of the rail network in which the Manchester Wayfarer is valid is more than that in Greater Manchester itself with parts of Cheshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire included. Looking at the full map will tell you where you can go using the ticket.

The region within which the Manchester Wayfarer can be used on bus services is greater than with trains. Looking at the full map shows that parts of Staffordshire and West Yorkshire are included along with those in the validity area for train travel. It really strikes me that a day out from Manchester to Ashbourne becomes a possibility and there’s a lot to be said for that flexibility.

In addition to the £10 adult ticket, there are other Manchester Wayfarer ones. For instance, there’s a £5 one for folk aged from to 15 or 60 and over along with holders of the National Concessionary Travel Pass. There’s a group one too for £20 that is an option for family groups. The maximum number of folk over the age of 15 for this four person ticket is two but that still suffices for days out with kids in tow.

What I got on that bus that Sunday morning was a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket printed using the vehicle’s ticket machine. This, as the name suggests, is for train and bus travel within Derbyshire and to only certain points outside the county’s boundaries. One of these is Macclesfield but the centres of Sheffield, Burton-on-Trent and Uttoxeter also gain coverage on journeys to and from the county. That Stockport wasn’t included became clear to me on attempting to travel to there from Buxton on the 199 bus service that then was operated by Trent Barton. The Wayfarer got me as far as the county boundary and another ticket was needed to get me the rest of the way, highlighting that I didn’t have the Wayfarer ticket that I though I had.

The adult version of the Derbyshire Wayfarer costs £11.10 and allows you to have a child under the age of 16 travelling with you without need for another ticket. There’s a concessionary version too for £5.55 which bizarrely allows you to bring a dog instead of a child and there I was thinking that dogs didn’t need tickets for using public transport! There’s a group ticket too for £20 that has the same rules as per its Manchester namesake. That’s not because Beeston and Nottingham train stations sell variants costing £15.80 for the adult version and £7.90 for its concessionary counterpart so that you can explore parts of Derbyshire with one of those stations as your starting (and ending) point.

So, what I needed to do on that Sunday was to go to Macclesfield’s train station for a Manchester Wayfarer as I have done a few times since then. While its Derbyshire equivalent is widely available on buses, trains and train stations, you need to go to train stations, Transport for Greater Manchester travelshops and some bus company offices for the Manchester one unless you get it by post. The great thing about these scratch and use rover tickets is that you scratch off the date panels only when you need to use ticket so you can have a few of them in hand until you want to travel using one. That makes the postal way of getting them seem less strange than otherwise would be the case.

Once you realise which Wayfarer is which, these are very useful rover tickets for their respective areas. Their having different names would make matters clearer but that’s only thing that is to be said against them. Unlimited multi-modal travel over the course of a day for small fee is no bad thing at all, especially with the monetary pressures that many face.

Update on 2016-05-10: The Derbyshire Wayfarer now costs £12.30 and the Manchester Wayfarer costs £12 from a train station.

Update on 2017-11-10: The Derbyshire Wayfarer now costs £12.60 and the Manchester Wayfarer costs £13.

Blame it on the Happy Mondays…

Not wanting to waste a weekend that promised some decent weather had me out on a Sunday trip to Edale. All was going swimmingly until the driver of the Northern Rail service that was to take me the last stretch of the outbound journey had to tell us that there was a delay due to not having a conductor. For safety reasons, one has to be present and I suppose that it helps with revenue protection too. That delay was to be 15 minutes and all passengers that were on board had to disembark until a train conductor arrived. Overheard conversations revealed that there had been a night out and that someone was feeling rough after it. Was that the reason for the delay? That question remains unanswered but there is another: how do railways staff have lives involving going to live gigs at the same time as having a job that involves weekend working? Well, it doesn’t make getting out to see the Happy Mondays and their like any easier.