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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.

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Posted on February 22, 2013 in Buses, Observations, Timetables

 

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Some Bus Company Changes

It now appears that the current economic climate and the curtailments in public spending have affected two companies based not too far away from where I live. The first is the merger of the operations of Bowers and the Trent Barton depot in Dove Holes near Buxton. Apparently, Centrebus and Trent Barton are embarking on a joint venture that is to be based in Dove Holes with the Chapel-en-Frith depot looking set to close. The name for the new company is to be High Peak and is to grace the roads of Cheshire as well as Derbyshire since Bowers run quite a few services around Macclesfield and Knutsford. The 199 Buxton-Stockport-Manchester Airport route is another one that is bound to be moved to the new company and that means that Greater Manchester will be included among the areas served too. The long distance Transpeak service between Manchester, Buxton, Derby and Nottingham is to stay operating like it does today with the Dove Holes depot staying in use as the northern base. It is going to take time for the changes to come into place but this autumn could see the first signs of the merger once the reorganisation along with the paperwork and authorisations that it entails have been completed.

In another development, D&G has felt the effects of bus subsidy cuts made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council. That situation must have made an approach by Arriva regarding acquisition of D&G’s North Staffordshire business look very attractive. The result is that Arriva is buying it to build up Wardle Transport, a subsidiary that it has in the area. After the sale, D&G will continue to trade from Crewe and its sister company in the West Midlands, Midland, is unaffected by the change.

The announcements for both of these changes mentioned the reality of a more challenging trading environment. This is the more pertinent for D&G because one of it founders set it up after the Labour party’s landslide election victory of 1997 in the hope of the then new government increasing the funding for bus services, something that actually did happen. Now that the proverbial pendulum is swinging in the other direction, we are seeing signs of consolidation and, in some unfortunate cases such as McKindless in Glasgow (once Scotland’s largest independent bus operator), company failures. While there can be no doubt that the bus business is facing a changed environment, it might have its upshots too with higher fuel costs and a reduced standard of living making families’ having an extra car more expensive than it was. If that were to increase bus patronage, it could compensate for the reductions in public spending but only time will tell whether or not that comes to pass, especially with some councils such as Northamptonshire having some very draconian proposals.

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Posted on June 18, 2011 in Buses, News, Observations

 

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Some Bus Company Changes

It now appears that the current economic climate and the curtailments in public spending have affected two companies based not too far away from where I live. The first is the merger of the operations of Bowers and the Trent Barton depot in Dove Holes near Buxton. Apparently, Centrebus and Trent Barton are embarking on a joint venture that is to be based in Dove Holes with the Chapel-en-Frith depot looking set to close. The name for the new company is to be High Peak and is to grace the roads of Cheshire as well as Derbyshire since Bowers run quite a few services around Macclesfield and Knutsford. The 199 Buxton-Stockport-Manchester Airport route is another one that is bound to be moved to the new company and that means that Greater Manchester will be included among the areas served too. The long distance Transpeak service between Manchester, Buxton, Derby and Nottingham is to stay operating like it does today with the Dove Holes depot staying in use as the northern base. It is going to take time for the changes to come into place but this autumn could see the first signs of the merger once the reorganisation along with the paperwork and authorisations that it entails have been completed.

In another development, D&G has felt the effects of bus subsidy cuts made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council. That situation must have made an approach by Arriva regarding acquisition of D&G’s North Staffordshire business look very attractive. The result is that Arriva is buying it to build up Wardle Transport, a subsidiary that it has in the area. After the sale, D&G will continue to trade from Crewe and its sister company in the West Midlands, Midland, is unaffected by the change.

The announcements for both of these changes mentioned the reality of a more challenging trading environment. This is the more pertinent for D&G because one of it founders set it up after the Labour party’s landslide election victory of 1997 in the hope of the then new government increasing the funding for bus services, something that actually did happen. Now that the proverbial pendulum is swinging in the other direction, we are seeing signs of consolidation and, in some unfortunate cases such as McKindless in Glasgow (once Scotland’s largest independent bus operator), company failures. While there can be no doubt that the bus business is facing a changed environment, it might have its upshots too with higher fuel costs and a reduced standard of living making families’ having an extra car more expensive than it was. If that were to increase bus patronage, it could compensate for the reductions in public spending but only time will tell whether or not that comes to pass, especially with some councils such as Northamptonshire having some very draconian proposals.

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Posted on June 18, 2011 in Buses, News, Observations

 

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Still ongoing

Yesterday saw me travel over to Derbyshire to see how things were over there. The hills between Macclesfield and Buxton were thickly plastered with snow but the A537 was clear on the way over though drifting snow was starting to cover it and cut down on visibility at the same time. It must have disimproved after that because the return journey on Bowers service 58 went around by Whaley Bridge on the return journey that evening. It was the 17:05 that I was using and doubts surfaces were surfacing regarding the running of the service and an enquiry of the helpful driver of the inbound service 61 from Glossop set things to rights after she rang the depot for information. That’s not to say that there weren’t confused passengers on board when the bus started to go a different to what was expected. Even so, we all got back to Macclesfield intact and that’s what’s important.

After spending some time enjoying the sunny snowscapes around Buxton, I popped over to Bakewell on the Transpeak service (the return wasn’t cheap at £5.80, it has to be said). Whiteness remained pervasive and the bus stuck to the A6 apart from serving Ashford-in-the-Water. Having come all the way from Manchester, it was running 10 minutes but that can happen on any day.

In general, there was a good supply of buses running in both Buxton and Bakewell but the story doesn’t look so good today. The only Bowers service running is the 61 between Glossop and Buxton so road conditions mustn’t have stayed as they were after more snowfall. Even trains running between Manchester and Buxton have been affected and drifting snow has been the given cause. A combination of more snow and it drifting about cannot be easy conditions within which to be working.

Around Macclesfield, there seem to be signs of a thaw and the 130 was out when I braved the conditions when I tried out my bike (most places were fine but I learned to keep away from steeper cambers and to keep a good tyre footprint on the road; any sliding was arrested by placing a foot on the ground so there was no bump of any kind). As I write this the sky is full of cloud and there has been the occasional flake of snow but tonight and tomorrow may tell tales yet. The cold spell is far from over so it’s a case of taking things day by day.

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Posted on January 10, 2010 in Buses, Happenings, Journeys, News, Timetables, Trains

 

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