On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

More Weekend Bus Services in Cheshire East

Posted on June 14, 2024

For once, there is some better news about bus services in Cheshire East. Sunday and bank holiday services have been very limited for too many years, and there is some movement on that now using government money made available in response to Cheshire East Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan. It is a far cry from having a busy bus station on Sundays that we had when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister. If we get a Labour government after the ongoing election, it will be interesting to see what happens, even if they have little leeway on spending.

Services 12 (Leighton Hospital - Crewe - Brookhouse Estate - Shavington), 38 (Crewe - Sandbach - Congleton - Macclesfield) and 130 (Macclesfield - Alderley Edge - Wilmslow - Handforth - Wythenshawe - Airport) got Sunday and Bank Holiday services added to their timetables from 2024-06-09. Of these, service 12 also got new Saturday evening journeys from 2024-06-08. From 2024-06-03, some timings on route 38 changed to improve service reliability.

The result for route 12 is that the Saturday service runs from around 07:00 until 21:00 with a frequency of approximately thirty minutes for most of the day, with frequencies halving after 18:00. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, buses run approximately every sixty minutes between Leighton Hospital and Shavington between 09:00 and 18:00 albeit with a reduced frequency to every 90 minutes in the middle of the day.

On route 38, Sunday and Bank Holiday buses run approximately every ninety minutes between Crewe and Macclesfield between 08:00 and 19:00. Route 130 is similar with buses running approximately every 90 minutes between Macclesfield and Handforth Dean between 08:00 and 18:00, the only exception being the last bus of the day from Handforth Dean that runs an hour after its predecessor instead of ninety minutes.

D&G Bus operates all of these except for the Sunday and Bank Holiday service on route 130, a surprise given that it operates that route every other day of the week. Even if High Peak Buses have the contract for the additional route 130 journeys, D&G Bus passes and tickets will still be accepted. The other element of surprise is that both D&G Bus and High Peak Buses are owned by Centrebus, making me wonder why they might be competing against each other for contracts. Of course, there may be another story here that lies outside my knowledge.

While none of this is near as good as what we had under the last Labour government, it is better than nothing. Hopefully, the new services get the patronage that is needed to sustain them. It is one thing to have subsidised services, but we know from recent experience that reasons can be found to remove these in an unfavourable political environment. After all, years of austerity have done serious damage to Cheshire’s bus network to leave a less dependable shadow of what once was in place.

Resilience? What Resilience?

Posted on January 4, 2024

For a change, I spent the Christmas and New Year period in Scotland. Having been in Macclesfield for the same since a New Year getaway to Tenerife in 2018/9, I felt that it was not before time that I went somewhere else. There was a time when I spent Christmas in Ireland every year until family bereavements stopped that, and the novelty of being in Macclesfield had well and truly left me.

Many Ways Obstructed

Christmas was spent in Edinburgh while New Year was spent in Aviemore. The weather may have been mixed, but some better days came too, especially when I was further north. However, Storm Gerrit really obstructed travel when I wanted to travel north. Because of flooding and other damage, getting north of Perth towards Inverness or doing the same towards Dundee or Aberdeen virtually became an impossibility.

Fallen Trees by Martin Martz, From Unsplash

All of this arrived on the first day of train services after the Christmas stoppage. That may explain the poor quality of information provided by the National Rail app on my phone, which was far too optimistic. Getting things updated can appear to more laboured than is optimal, and this was one case of that. If correct information had been available, I would have not gone as far as Perth only to return to Edinburgh again for another night.

Others had their plans disrupted as well, so you have to ask how everyone got accommodated. Staff in Perth were not impressed to hear that many had been advised to go that far, and it seemed that everything was running in an ad hoc manner. The weather warning only came through the night before in any case.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall had blocked roads as well. The A9 was impassable near Dunkeld, which meant that road transport was no help since it could not operate, and the railway was flooded between Stirling and Perth as well; a fallen tree blocked rail services to Aberdeen and also damaged a train. Only for needing to get to a hotel, I might not have bothered at all. Thankfully, the hotel in Aviemore took the first night off my stay and kept the rest of my booking in place.

With most Scottish Citylink services calling at Broxden Park & Ride instead of Perth city centre, it was enough to make one pause for thought before risking a trip out of town. In the event, getting a seat on any coach service would have been challenging anyway. However, knowing that Stagecoach service X7 linked Perth with Aberdeen might have made for an overnight stay there instead of Edinburgh, cutting down on travel time the next day. These are times when the likes of Booking.com can help with getting things sorted while on the move, though working through options takes some time and is not so easy on the move even with the power of mobile telephony these days.

A Long Way Around

Things were clearer the next morning, albeit in a more pessimistic manner. No train was running between Edinburgh and either Inverness or Aberdeen. Trying Edinburgh’s bus station was the only way to be sure that coach services were operating. Everything going up to Inverness was fully booked while I waited to see what if any trains were running. That still left Aberdeen as a possibility and a last minute booking got me on a laden coach going there. The next to four-hour journey allowed for plenty of time to see the countryside going by the coach windows. Busy traffic made for a sizeable delay serving Broxden Park & Ride when the service was running late anyway.

On arriving in Aberdeen, it was time to see if there was any way of getting to Inverness when no trains were going between the two cities because of flooding. Though very busy, there was a departure on service 10 that did what was needed. Having a seat was a bonus and a wheelchair user failed to get on board at a later stop because of how full the bus was. What lay ahead was a four and a half hour journey with fewer people on board after Inverurie and Huntly. That made things more comfortable, though the calls to Ardersier, Inverness Airport and Inverness Shopping Park were frustrating. That was because I spied the restoration of train services going south from Inverness. Thankfully, I got to that in time and avoided making an Uber booking.

The hotel in Aviemore was reached at least so no other bookings or booking changes were needed. Then, I could make the best of what came and there were few if any disappointments in the offing. All came together in the end.

From St. Helier to Elsewhere by Bus and Ferry

Posted on April 14, 2023

After seeing the transformative effect of spending some time in Ireland during March, I was lured into planning something similar around Easter. After surveying prospects of getting decent weather, I ended up plumping for Jersey after rejecting other possibilities like Galway, Stirling or Aberdeen. It helped that my brother enjoyed his stay on the island and that I went on a day trip there during a school excursion to Brittany.

Though Condor Ferries offer ferry connections from Portsmouth and Poole, I instead flew with EasyJet between Manchester and Jersey. Those flights were early in the day so that meant hotel stays that forwent breakfasting prior to being in an airport. Otherwise, they worked well, and I had empty seats next to me too. There was a delay to the return flight cause by understaffing at Jersey airport, but that was not critical for me.

Buses run frequently between Jersey airport and St. Helier from early until late, so that made the island’s largest conurbation my base for the trip. It also meant that I could make the best of its bus network for getting around the place, and that day outings by ferry became more realistic possibilities.

Liberty Bus (the name harkens back to the time of German occupation during World War II) operates all the island’s scheduled bus services on contract to its government. The company is owned by Tower Transit, who took it over from the now defunct HCT Group. Aside from arrangements for concessionary fare passengers, a flat fare policy is in operated. For contactless transactions, the tariff is £2.25 while this increases to £2.70 for those using cash. While there are Discover Jersey passes of one, three and seven day duration, the price of the single fare negated these, and I travelled on that basis around the island.

Aside from the airport travels, my journeys took me to L’Etacq, Rozel, La Corbière, Portelet, Gorey and St. John’s. Everything worked without drama, and the efficiency and the courtesy that I encountered was an example for operators elsewhere. My only concerns were centred around making the best of any walking opportunities and not to constrain myself with laggardness; there was a time when my plans were derailed by my reaching Liberation bus station too late on my second day on the island. There was always another option and some services ran very frequently; airport and Gorey ones stand out for me in this regard. Hourly frequencies are common though some places see less than this.

Though I had forgone ferry travel for getting between England and Jersey, I made use of its services for one day trip to Saint-Malo and another to Guernsey. Both had me forgoing breakfast at my hotel in favour of my getting something to eat during the crossings. Because there is often only a single sailing between destinations, not every day offered a day trip, so it was a case of picking from what was available.

In the case of Saint-Malo, it was a matter of choosing from the Saturday, Sunday or Monday options that were available to me. Because it offered the best chance of good weather, I chose the first of these. Many others did likewise, so the crossings were busy with queues for food service, especially on the morning sailing. Even so, efficiency and timeliness were the watchwords. On French side, that meant having plenty of buses available to convey passengers between the ship and the ferry terminal. It all allowed plenty of time to revisit somewhere that I had not frequented since my schooldays, and that was another attraction in going to Jersey in the first place.

Provision for day trips to Guernsey was not as extensive with only a Monday option working for me, though I seem to remember that there was a Thursday option too. Because the vessel was of a traditional type that also served Portsmouth, the food offer was better than on the catamaran that sped me to and from Saint-Malo. That was appreciated rather more than the delay to disembarkation that left me wondering how well St. Peter Port is for receiving foot passengers using minibuses. If the day had been brighter and drier, I might have on the outside deck more often. It probably was just as well that I was kept inside for getting something to eat; otherwise, I would have been torn between outside scenery ogling and the need to fuel myself.

The mix of Jersey island strolling and day-long getaways to other places all worked well. The weather may have been better earlier in the trip but even that was better than other locations that I considered. Transportation ran well in the main, with only ports and airports having any kind of untoward intrusion. This had been a worthwhile getaway.

An App Matures

Posted on April 2, 2023

When Virgin Trains ceased to operate, it came with a sense of sadness because it was the end of an era. For all their faults, it did feel as if it was an operator that cared about what it was doing, a long way from the “nobody cares” railway that some bemoan these days. Virgin and Stagecoach also have the good fortune of escaping the current criticism that is being levelled at both Avanti West Coast and First Transpennine Express as well as the travails of pandemic lockdowns.

Another of the things that I missed was the Virgin Trains train ticket app because of its integration with PayPal and the speediness of their responses when anything needed fixing. Once, I needed a refund, and it got resolved promptly. While I could have opted for the East Midlands app because of its PayPal integration, its Northern Railway counterpart got used more often despite any refusal to refund small fares and its dependence on credit and debit cards (it did store their details, though, so all you needed to remember was their CVC number). The pandemic has meant a near complete changeover from paper tickets to their electronic counterparts.

However, things have improved since then. Integration with PayPal came recently and that was followed by Google Pay capability as well. That all helps with buying tickets on the move or at short notice, which is just as well given the £100 fine for not having a ticket on trains when setting off from a staffed station (some are trying to keep ticket offices open, but there is a real danger of their closure when so many of us are using apps or online booking instead). Otherwise, there still remains the possibility of buying tickets on trains when starting from unstaffed stations.

Being an Android phone user, I cannot comment on integration with Apple Pay, though having that would not surprise me at all. In the main, I stick with the Google option for ease of use because PayPal usage can trigger multifactor authentication for larger purchases. Tickets do not always need activation either, and copies are sent by email too, so they can be added to Google or Apple wallets as well. That could be handy when the app hits a problem. After all, anything is better than the hassle of a fine when technology goes against you.

Arriva Depot Closures

Posted on March 14, 2023

Last month, Arriva announced the planned closure of its Oswestry, Winsford and Macclesfield depots. The first of these does not have as much of an impact as the others, the news of which has been featured on the BBC, in the Macclesfield Express and in Buses magazine.

The closure of the Oswestry depot will mean that many services will be based in Shrewsbury instead, with some being transferred to one or more other operators. The latter the following:

  • 449 Oswestry - Welshampton

  • 54 Oswestry - Cefn Y Blodwel

  • 71 Oswestry - Four Crosses

  • 79a Oswestry - Porth-Y-Waen

  • 405 Oswestry - Windsor Road

There is talk of handing over school services and the reduction in patronage of 46% is blamed. Contacts with Shrewsbury County Council apparently proved fruitless, possibly because public spending is heavily constrained at the moment.

The impact of the Cheshire closures is more serious since any services that Arriva currently operate will need replacement. Again, the cause apparently is a reduction in patronage and public spending constraints necessarily limit local councils’ ability to provide additional financial support. The affected services include the following:

  • 1 Northwich Circular via Rudheath and Weaverham

  • 3 Macclesfield - Weston

  • 4 Barnton to Leftwich and Kingsmead via Northwich

  • 4 Macclesfield - Upton Priory

  • 5 & 6 Macclesfield - Broken Cross

  • 6 Leighton Hospital - Shavington

  • 7 Winsford Local Circular

  • 9 Macclesfield - Moss Rose

  • 10 Macclesfield - Bollington

  • 31 Northwich - Winsford - Crewe

  • 37 Northwich - Winsford - Sandbach - Crewe

  • 38 Crewe - Macclesfield

  • 84 Crewe - Nantwich/Chester

D&G Bus has registered replacement services for routes 1, 10, 31 and 37 as well as changing their own routes 12 and 38 in response. They have a place on their website for collating information on what they plan to do and warn that things may change as the whole changeover progresses. The company also mentions service 84 in its plans, but Cheshire East Council has included details of a Stagecoach registration for service 84. This will be a Monday to Saturday 84 service that is hourly between Crewe and Chester and half-hourly between Crewe and Nantwich, with last buses leaving for the day at around 19:00 or 19:30.

Cheshire East Council also provides these further details of affected bus routes in their area:

Service Route Days Frequency
3 Macclesfield - Weston Estate Monday to Saturday Half-hourly
4 Macclesfield - Upton Priory Monday to Saturday Half-hourly
5, 6 Macclesfield - Weston / Upton Priory Monday to Saturday Early morning & Evening
6 Brookhouse - Leighton Hospital Monday to Saturday Half-hourly (evening services operated under CEC Contract)
9 Macclesfield - Moss Rose Monday to Saturday Half-hourly
10 Macclesfield - Bollington Monday to Saturday Half-hourly
31 Crewe - Winsford - Northwich Monday to Saturday Hourly
37 Crewe - Winsford - Northwich Monday to Saturday Hourly (evening services operated under CEC Contract)
38 Crewe - Congleton - Macclesfield Monday to Saturday Hourly (evening services operated under CEC Contract)
84 Crewe - Nantwich - Chester Monday to Sunday Every 20 mins between Crewe and Nantwich and hourly between Crewe and Chester

Quite how much of these gets replaced remains to be seen, but councils have to remain somewhat aloof from the efforts of commercial operators even if it becomes a messy process until things settle down afterwards. The planned withdrawal of Arriva from Cheshire East and from much of Cheshire West and Chester council areas is set to happen on 2023-04-23, with the previous day seeing the end of their operations. That means there is time yet for more things to be set in place and there is a petition against the closures that may or may not have an effect. My expectation is that the exits will happen, but this story will run for a while yet.

Update on 2023-03-30

First Potteries has registered a new service 6 between Crewe and Leighton via Bradfield Road, so all the Arriva services around Crewe appear to be getting coverage, even if evening service details have yet to come. What also remains outstanding are nay details of replacements for Macclesfield town services 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Uncertainty remains, so there could be more confusion before everything becomes clear.

Update on 2023-04-02

High Peak will be introducing service 14A to cover for the soon-to-be withdrawn service 9 between Macclesfield Bus Station and Moss Rose. Two hourly extensions to Langley will be offered on service 14, which will follow the same route as 14A for the shared portion, ensuring that a half-hourly frequency will remain available.

Also, D&G Bus is changing its service 19 to go via Upton Priory to replace the soon-to-be withdrawn service 4. Since service 19 will operate mainly with a two-hourly frequency, service 19A is to be offered between Macclesfield Bus Station and Upton Priory to ensure that an hourly service level will remain.

All of these will be Monday to Saturday services only, and it remains to be seen what will happen to those routes that serve Weston or what becomes of any Sunday or subsidised evening services. However, there will be a D&G Bus service X31 running between Winsford (including its estates) and Northwich on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Update on 2023-04-12

Evening journeys get Cheshire East Council financial support on services 37 and 38. Those on the former only go between Sandbach and Winsford while those on the latter cover the entire route.

There will be Sunday daytime journeys on route 84 with some extra evening Monday to Saturday services as well, following financial support from both Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West & Chester council. Everyone gets free travel on the first week that Stagecoach operates the service, too.

There is nothing on Macclesfield Weston service yet, but there is a tantalising slot reserved for service 3 in Macclesfield bus station in the new allocation, so anything could happen yet. That bus station allocation shows several empty bays, a startling reminder of how the bus network has declined over the last decade or so.

Update on 2023-04-17

D&G Bus will take over service three between Macclesfield bus station and Weston as well, so that bus station stance allocation was a hint of things to come. Otherwise, service 12 between Leighton Hospital, Crewe and Shavington gains council-contracted Monday to Friday evening journeys while service one gains an extra early evening journey between Northwich and Weaverham following from council financial support. Since the changeover is just a week away, one has to wonder is the new network is fully announced by now. If anything more does come up, it will get added here.

Update on 2023-04-24

There is just one last minute development to add: D&G Bus have added a service 84X between Crewe and Nantwich. Details on the Cheshire East Council website are a little confused, but this runs up to hourly on Sundays and half-hourly on other days of the week. It will operate free of charge until 2023-04-29, and I am left wondering if we now have competition between different bus operators. Is D&G trying to keep Stagecoach out of its area? Only time will answer that question.

Recent Snippets

22:27, April 12, 2024

Bellevue, near Seattle, has a free electric shuttle bus service in the form of Bellhop, operated by Circuit. According to 425, they seem to be happy with how things are going so far, and the conurbation is being linked to Seattle by light rail too.

21:51, January 31, 2024

Earlier in the month, LNER announced the start of a simpler fares pilot to proceed for two years from 2024-02-05. Only three kinds of fare are available and both Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak fares are unavailable.

Flexibility continues in the form of Anytime tickets with Advance ticket being the most restricted. There is a new semi-flexible offering called 70min Flex that allows travel on any service departing within 70 minutes of the booked departure.

Thankfully, flexibility remains for walk-on passengers despite some appearing to want a book-ahead railway. Apps may be a workaround, but there is something about turning up and going that is so precious.

Extras & Utilities

Carrying Bikes on Buses

Transport Blogs

Privacy Policy

Get in Touch