On Trains & Buses

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Major Bus Service Changes Coming to Cheshire East

Posted on August 19, 2012

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September always seems to be the time of year when many changes to Cheshire’s bus services take place. In the good times, it was a matter of seeing who would be operating council-supported services. Nowadays, though, there are public spending cuts to face. As it happened, we got a fair few around the same time last year and that trend appears to be continuing. Some services have survived the subsidy withdrawals with the Macclesfield to Bollington 10A Sunday service being among them.

Whenever a service survives commercially, it raises the question of whether it needed the public money in the first place. The Sunday 10A looks very much like one of them since there was no change to the timetable when it lost its funding. With others, the effect is clearer as will be seen later.

The Beartown Bus network that provides Congleton’s town bus services is one of those moving beyond council funding. The effect of that change in fortunes is being felt from tomorrow with Bakers introducing a lot of changes as follows:

  • Services 90 and 92 have been cancelled and will be replaced by the revised 99, 99A, 99B, 99C services. Service 91 has been moved to a new registration with the new 95 service Congleton - Retail Park - Lower Heath with slight timing changes.

  • The separate 93 and D1 registrations have been cancelled and the journeys have been incorporated with the revised X38 registration. The X38, 76 and 93 services will provide a frequent service to and from West Heath and the X38 has been revised with more journeys to and from Crewe.

  • Service 76 is unchanged Monday to Friday, but the Saturday journeys now serve the West Heath loop via Chestnut Drive.

The Monday to Saturday service 27 between Macclesfield and Knutsford is another test case and will lose its subsidy from the 6th of the month. Thankfully, High Peak Buses (the Centrebus/Wellglade joint venture) are continuing with its provision although frequencies will be cut to at least 90 minutes as opposed to the hourly one that we have at the moment. Unsurprisingly, the ineffective Congleton journey extensions added to replace the long abolished service 34 between there and Alderley Park are being dropped. Speaking of Alderley Park, the 27 once was the only way of getting there from Macclesfield by bus and the service frequencies suffer in the new timetable. Arriva has been operating the 130 Macclesfield to Manchester service through that site for a few years though and it now seems that more will be making use of that from October onwards. Knutsford comes off worse though since there is no alternative and I am left wondering at the sense of cutting these journeys when commuters can add patronage.  On the other hand, having an 18:40 departure from Knutsford to Macclesfield looks like a positive move and it will be interesting to see how they get on with that journey.

Saying with the High Peak network, they will be taking over weekday daytime workings on services 1 (Macclesfield to Forest Cottage) and 14 (Macclesfield to Langley) from Arriva on September 16th. No change in route or timetable is involved and Arriva will continue to operate the evening and Sunday workings. However, they seem to be billing the routes as new to Macclesfield when Arriva have been providing them since before I moved to the town. Of course, they are new to High Peak so that may be one explanation…

Other than the above, there are small route changes forthcoming on the Arriva service 10(A) between Macclesfield and Bollington and the Stagecoach service 378 between Wilmslow and Stockport. The former commences on September 16th and September 2nd is the start date for the latter. From what I have seen, these are the types of developments that you’d see when economic fortunes are good so there’s nothing very typical of our times here.

Then, there are various commercially operated school services starting from the reopening of schools next month. This is a reminder of how many school bus services lost their council money last year and how many got stopped in the middle of the school term too. Along with public scheduled services, these seem to be facing the same moves away from public funding and that appears to be the way the world is going around here.

Aside from all these, there has been a public consultation regarding supported public and flexible bus services. Encouragingly, there has been a huge response to this with the presentation of the results of the exercise to the Cheshire East Council cabinet being delayed until October because of the volume of information that needs processing. Quite what the outcome will be when cash is tight, it is hard to say. All the public meetings from which the input was collected were held during the day when those who work for a living would be unavailable so let’s hope that has no bearing on the results. October could yield some important news yet.

On a more positive note, Arriva has introduced new buses to Macclesfield with Silktown Links branding. They are Optare Solos and all have 12 registrations so we aren’t getting cast-offs from other places, an encouraging sign. Some of the SWB Dennis Darts that we had were getting on in years so it possibly was time for us to get something new for a change; a 61 reg Wright Gemini double-decker has been sighted too since the start of the year though I cannot confirm if that’s a permanent fixture. Having newer buses in the area sits a little uncomfortably with all else that is happening and there could be much learnt yet. These times cannot be called steady anyway so we’ll need to get through them somehow.