Chestergate Road Closure, Macclesfield

Since yesterday, Chestergate in Macclesfield closed until 2014-02-09 to allow the demolition and rebuilding of number 123 on the road. The obstruction blocks the end of Catherine Street as well as Chestergate itself so a number of bus services are having to be diverted.

Service 130 between Macclesfield and Manchester is going the full length of Churchill Way before turning onto Cumberland Street before returning to its route at the roundabout where it meets Prestbury Road. Stops on Chestergate, King Edward Street and Chester Road are not being served while the road closure is in place.

From the seeing where the last bus of the day went, it looks as if service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford is diverting by the same route as the 130. What I do not know is how service 19 from Macclesfield to Prestbury via Whirley Barn is going. Looking at the placement on Cheshire East Council’s map, that too must be affected but I do not know how that is being diverted. If anyone has anything to add, then please let me know.

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.

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.

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.

Backing up as far as Henbury…

The current spate of road works continues. As if the attentions given to the A34 aren’t enough, we have gas network works blighting Macclesfield and the Broken Cross roundabout is the latest victim. Because of the need to rip up part of Gawsworth Road, one side of the roundabout is shut with temporary traffic lights controlling things. That they alternative between the three other roads leading into the roundabout is little consolation to anyone joining a queue at Henbury. It cannot be good on Chester Road either but I have not passed that way so I cannot confirm the situation. Saying that, things haven’t been so bad from the Fallibroome Road side but you can escape around by Upton Priory and the B5087 if needs be. If I were driving this way everyday, I’d be very tempted to find another route until all is over.

Needless to say, bus services like the 130 Macclesfield-Manchester, the 27 Macclesfield-Knutsford and the 19 Macclesfield-Prestbury are getting caught up in all of this and it was particularly bad on Friday evening. So, it’s very much a case of keeping an eye on the real-time bus tracker to see how things are going because things are almost certain to veer markedly away from the timetable. Let’s hope that this doesn’t go on too long because it is having a major impact. Do the people who plan these things realise what disruption gets caused?

Update: Traffic didn’t seem so bad when coming home through Broken Cross this evening. Have people decided to divert around the roadworks?