Lost Welsh Independent Bus Companies

It was before Christmas 2017 when the idea for this post entered my head after learning about more Welsh bus company collapses. Though I might have had the motivation to write it up then, the topic felt unseasonal so I left it to one side for a while.

There are plenty of reasons why the subject is too sober for what was supposed to be a joyful time of year. In the companies listed below, there seems to be a repeating story of hardship and subsequent collapse. In some cases, business management was not what it should and the Welsh traffic commissioner never takes too kindly to sudden closure of any bus company and there has been too much cause for hearings to take place in Welshpool.

Most of the affected concerns operated rural bus routes under council contracts, an easier revenue earner during the years of Labour government in London but much tougher now in more austere times. Such is the geography of Wales, that many firms prospered once more funding was on offer from the late nineties until the end of the next decade. One bus industry professional commented that he was involved in setting up a business in the nineties because public subsidy was about to increase and the Cheshire bus network was much stronger back then so the same might have been possible for Wales.

That is not how it is now and bus patronage cannot be helped by service cuts either so a vicious circle comes into being. Then, smaller firms suffer and the hilly nature of Wales makes it hard too for large operators with Arriva and Veolia pulling out of mid Wales. It all makes for a troubled network so the presence of the Welsh Government support TrawsCambria network is invaluable because we cannot say that all is well yet.

When you see the list below, it is easy to see how instability can rein so anything that helps has to be good. After all, bus passengers need to sure that services will operate as advertised and the last thing that councils need is repeated re-tendering of services. Hopefully, the decline can be halted and we see a reduced number of failures over time. You only can hope for better.

D & J Jones and Son

In the wake of the collapse of GHA Coaches, this Wrexham based operator took on a lot of extra work before it too collapsed immediately before Christmas 2017. It was said that staffing issues were the cause rather than financial pressures but it left Wrexham Council with the task of replacing many services in order to keep transport services going in the borough.

Express Motors

2018 started with much change in the bus network in northwest Wales (Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy) because of this operator’s loss of its licence. The cause was a coach crash in France that revealed discrepancies in vehicle maintenance records. There were two family owned companies on site with similar names, one offering private and the other providing local bus services. Both were closed and a replacement company appears not to have been set up to continue in the bus service business. The result is that all council contracted routes were retendered.

GHA Coaches

GHA Coaches rose very quickly across North and Mid Wales as well as Cheshire and Shropshire. It now looks as if the expansion may have been too rapid for service quality declined and cashflow problems meant that taxes were unpaid and service quality suffered too. In the end, the company was wound up by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The company’s directors tried starting another company but were disqualified from continuing with such operations by the traffic commissioner, an understandable action given how quickly GHA Coaches had collapsed and the chaos that resulted.

Padarn Bus

Llanberis’ Padarn Bus was another bus company that failed in northwest Wales and there was a fraud investigation mounted after that happened. That happened in 2014 and so comes before others on this list. It was a sign of what was to come.

Silcox Coaches

This Pembrokeshire operator failed for financial reasons not long before GHA Coaches. The business had been sold in order to gain added investment that never materialised. It then was bought back by the family that owned for much of its long history but it never recovered.

A New Appearance

If you have not been here for a while, you should see signs of a refresh. The old design used code that stopped working so the website had the appearance of having gone offline. That has been replaced by what you find here now and all appears to be working well so far.

Though there were continual updates to a lot of the content on here, 2016 still was a quieter year on here. Other things in my life took up more of my attention so longer entries were absent. Now that we are in 2017, the big task that dominated last year is behind me though there will be smaller ones to do in addition to my day job. The upheaval cause by bereavement still makes its present felt.

2016 also was a big year in world news with Britain sadly and narrowly choosing to leave the European Union in a referendum and the U.S.A. electing Donald Trump as its president. Both of these mean that uncertain times that lie ahead of us and the impact on public transport is as yet unknown.

Still, I did get to sampling train and bus services on much needed breaks away from a frantic everyday life. These included Austrian and Norwegian train services as well as Mallorcan bus services. They may provide inspiration for entries on here yet. The same may be said for the Swiss train network and Icelandic bus services too and these were experienced during 2015.

Otherwise, there are sure to be developments in British and Irish public transportation. After all, Bus Éireann is in financial trouble at the moment and needs to restructure its operations in order to survive. What that means for bus services in Ireland has yet to be seen and trade unions are unhappy too. Then, there is the long running saga of industrial relations problems in Southern Railway that have made life a misery for so many in the southeast of England. GHA Coaches went bust and the affects of that business collapse still are being felt across much of England and Wales. Such developments mean that there always is a need for some public transport advocacy too. Maybe it is time for a little more of that in these testing times.

August Bank Holiday 2015 services in England and Wales

The Summer Bank Holiday falls on the last weekend in August for England, Wales and Northern Ireland while it falls on the first weekend in August for Scotland and Éire. This listing of alterations to public transport services is for the former since the latter has passed a few weeks back. My mind was elsewhere then due to an elongated weekend spent in Iceland.

Cardiff Bus

Apart from road closures causing a diversion for the baycar service, it will be a Sunday service for the Welsh capital city’s main operator and industrial action sadly is set to cause disruption during next Wednesday with a special timetable in operation. It is first of several such stoppages that are planned during September and October so this dispute hopefully will get sorted sooner rather than later.

Cheshire East

Most bus services observe a Sunday timetable and some such as service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester move over to a new timetable. That gets it useful departures from Macclesfield at 08:00 and 08:55 when the first journey used to be at 10:00. One wonders why they did not introduce this earlier in the year but that is how it is.

First Cymru

Sunday service around Swansea and areas of West Wales served by First too.

First Potteries

This again mainly is a Sunday service with a two hourly frequency on service 23 to Stone with service X32 not operating from Newcastle.

First Great Western

Industrial action is going to cause disruption so it is best to check train running times before you travel. Trains operated by other companies are going to be busier so that needs to be borne in mind.

Greater Manchester

The Manchester Pride Festival Parade is a cause of some bus service diversions during Saturday and there are others continuing over the whole weekend. Stagecoach has information on their affected services. The event affects not only buses for all modes of transport share the load.

Otherwise, a bike show in St. Petersgate in Stockport is affecting other Stagecoach bus services. There is ongoing railway engineering too and that means that some trains terminate in Manchester Victoria on Sunday and Monday instead of Manchester Piccadilly as usual. Metrolink trams return to St. Peter’s Square even if they do not stop there for a few months yet.

Merseyside

Bus services run to a Sunday timetable with journeys commencing around 08:00.

Metrobus

It is a Sunday service too for Metrobus services around Surrey, Kent, East & West Sussex.

Newport Buses

Another Welsh operator observing a Sunday timetable, exclusively this time around.

Sanders Coaches

Also operating a Sunday timetable for their bus services around Norfolk.

South Yorkshire

It is mainly a Sunday timetable for bus services with Unity Coaches service 127 and Stagecoach Nightbus services not operating at all. Trams are also are observing a Sunday service apart from disruption due to engineering works. Trains are running to a normal Monday timetable, again subject to engineering works.

Tyneside and Wearside

The Metro light rail system will be working to a Saturday timetable and. most GoNorthEast buses are running to their Sunday timetables.

West Midlands

Buses and trams are running as per their Sunday timetables. Planned engineering work is set to disrupt trains that normally travel via Stafford or Stone.

West Yorkshire

Wets Yorkshire Metro have a full summary of any differences to services over the Bank Holiday weekend. Leeds Festival is on until Sunday so that has its impact. Otherwise, most bus services observe a Sunday timetables on the Bank Holiday itself. Other bus services in operation include those making up the DalesBus network along with service 10 between Leeds and Temple Newsam, service 812 between Haworth and Stanbury, service 906 between Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge and Widdop and service 951 between Huddersfield and Glossop. The extra services also run on Sunday and, of these, services 10, 906 and 951 also run on Saturday. The Elland Road park and Ride service is not working on Sunday or Monday though. Engineering work also takes its toll on train service so it is worth checking before you travel.

Yorkshire Coastliner

Again, Sunday timetables are in operation with all services in and out of Leeds are diverted via Scholes and Aberford until 16:00 and Seacroft village will not be served until then either.

Yourbus

It is a Sunday service for these too.

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.

The Rise of GHA?

In recent years, GHA Coaches and its subsidiary Vale Travel have started to make inroads to Cheshire East that the North Wales operation hadn’t done until then. It all started with school bus contracts using mid-life double decker buses seemingly based in Macclesfield and that still is their base in the area.

Next, they won the contract for the Connect 88 service between Knutsford, Wilmslow and Altrincham from Arriva who had operated it using the route number of 288. New buses were acquired for the Monday to Saturday service, which must have come as a welcome surprise to those who were regular users of Arriva’s ageing and step entrance Dennis Darts. Low floor Optare Versas have been the mainstay since then although other older buses appear from time to time.

The 289 between Northwich, Knutsford and Altrincham was another service that GHA gained and I am not sure when that happened; my first sighting of it was of a sunny Friday evening in May 2012 when I glimpse the bus to Northwich passing through Knutsford. It again is a Monday to Saturday service and has something like five departures each way a day.

In recent months, the number of services coming under their custodianship has increased with the 200 between Wilmslow, Styal and Manchester Airport being the first that I noticed. That is a seven day hourly daytime service that always seems to escape the cuts that blighted others. Is it because it only needs one bus and one driver all day? They possibly are the most cost effective so that wouldn’t surprise me.

The Connect 19 service between Macclesfield, Whirley Barn and Prestbury is yet another hourly Monday to Saturday daytime service that they operate after taking over from High Peak, who had run it for a number of years. Sunday services between Macclesfield, Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Manchester on the 130 route became yet another contract that they won, also from Arriva, and commenced in the middle of January and I got to seeing one of the Optare Versas for the Connect 88 running on it.

That wasn’t all because the P1 between Middlewood, Poynton and Hazel Grove became yet another entry on their roster of services and fitted the Monday to Friday hourly daytime service too. Thankfully, its institution meant the 392 and 393 services still run from Macclesfield into Stockport and don’t terminate in Hazel Grove as may have been feared.

Their most recent activity has involved a little risk taking on their part since they have applied to register a service along route 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford. There is a little confusion about this since the council were in the throes of issuing a tender for contract when GHA appear to have looked at the ridership figures and decided to go running it commercially, albeit on a largely two hourly timetable as opposed to High Peak’s 90 minute one. It again is a Monday to Saturday daytime affair with the first and last services of a Saturday being dropped. Cheshire East Council are waiting for the actual registration to go to completion before telling anyone what is happening even if GHA already have a timetable on their website. Though the risk taking is to be welcomed, it all looks confused and I hope things work out for the new service and that it gets the patronage that it needs. There have been many lost bus services in our area already and more aren’t needed.