On Trains & Buses

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

Older buses come out...

Posted on February 19, 2009

Since their introduction in late 2003, the Macclesfield to Knutsford service 27 has enjoyed flat-floored buses. Being used all day six days a week does take its toll and it has to be said that they were beginning to feel a bit ragged with engine idling not being the smoothest. However, they seem to have disappeared this week with K and L registered buses from the early nineties taking their place. While it can be a joy to savour 1990’s solid build quality again with engines having a satisfyingly throaty roar, the higher floors and the fact that the buses are not in their first flush of youth is a concern. Bowers may restore the Wright-bodied VDL’s that we did have yet but it’s curious that there is no word of the reasoning behind what has happened. I realise that we are in depressed economic times but going back to 15 year old vehicles does seem retrograde and some may not take too kindly to their appearance, especially those who aren’t so mobile. Let’s hope that it has nothing to do Cheshire County Council’s forthcoming demise because the VDL’s were leased from Arriva Bus and Coach. Let’s not be too glum (that’s difficult in the current climate, I know) because it might turn out that a much needed refurbishment is in progress. We’ll see what happens.

Update 2009-02-20: Spotted one of the VDL’s in service while on the way home so they may just have needed some work done on them. The others may return.

Road works...

Posted on January 14, 2009

For much of the past year, Cheshire County Council has had contractors replacing and adding traffic lights in different parts of Macclesfield. They have now descended on the heart of the town and it hasn’t been until then that the project was having much impact on me. Contraflows/single line traffic is now in operation on Churchill Way, taking out a lot of the road capacity and slowing things down further again thanks to the timings on the temporary lights that have been set in place. It might be best for cars, vans, trucks and buses to give the area a wide berth and use alternative routes such as the A523 Silk/London Road instead.

I accept that there might be a need for these works and we might even get better pedestrian crossing facilities after them, not at all a bad thing. However, they have had an effect on the operation of most bus services operating in the town. In addition, the bus stop next to the junction of Churchill Way and King Edward Street was taken out of use. It’s not a major inconvenience but it would have been nice to have had it signed as such before I started out on my way to work this morning. Thankfully, a workman let me in on the state of affairs and I found another one around the corner where I could wait in the cold for a bus that was 30 minutes late. My suspicion is that the road traffic conditions had no small part to play in this.

This is all due to continue until the end of March so our forbearance will be needed for a while yet. I don’t know if it was a general observation but I was getting the sense that traffic volumes were reduced anyway and, with what is taking place, it might be just as well. At least, it’s not going on as long as the works for returning trams to the streets of Edinburgh but it is a taste of what Edinburghers are facing.

Update: Someone must have given the council hell over this or they have been deluged with enquiries as a result (I can’t say that I’d be surprised if either or both did happen) because an FAQ has appeared on the end of the web page describing the works.

Improvements, what improvements?

Posted on December 14, 2008

The massive reorganisation that is the new train timetable changeover hasn’t been too kind to Macclesfield. It might not sound so bad to hear that we have been left with three an hour in each direction but it’s the timings that disappoint me, even if the frequency is a cut from that which we have been enjoying for a while now. What is the matter is that Virgin and CrossCountry don’t seem to have worked together to get their times in the hour better separated.

The main pattern for weekday service from Manchester is 27, 35 and 48 minutes past the hour. The CrossCountry in the 27 departure and the 35 is the Virgin one while the 48 is Northern Rail’s local stopping service that now goes all the way to Stoke-on-Trent, not necessarily a bad thing since it opens some new destinations for Macclesfield folk.

Sundays see the same sort of thinking about which I have already complained on my hillwalking blog , especially with the timings of the local stopping service; the TSO timetable had more services listed but these have since turned out to be a work of fiction. Until March 29th, Virgin and CrossCountry do well when keeping their Sunday services to different parts of the hour but this is forgotten on the date in question and both services end up so close together as make it laughable to suggest that Macclesfield is getting any more than an hourly service

This is the sort of thing that makes you want to go to a central timetabling authority to complain but there appears to be none so it’s a case of contacting each operator. Maybe, Passenger Focus might be able to provide some help if no satisfactory response is forthcoming from either of the companies in question. Our local MP is said to have “intervened” but, like a lot of places where he has stuck in his oar, it doesn’t seem to have the desired effect and we have been left with the less than ideal situation that we now face. It probably needs someone else to make an effort…

Is Arriva's retreat continuing?

Posted on December 12, 2008

This morning, I spotted that changes are on the way for the commercial 130 service that Arriva runs between Macclesfield and Manchester. I didn’t catch the details but I hope that there’s no backward steps from where we are now (newer buses, more regular service). In my search for more information, I visited Cheshire County Council’s website but so only an indication of timing changes for Saturdays.

While on there, I also noticed that services like the 392/3 between Macclesfield and Stockport and the 288 Knutsford-Wilmslow-Altrincham are no longer going to be operated by Arriva with BakerBus of Biddulph taking over the former and Vale of Llangollen running the latter. Cheshire isn’t well endowed with different bus operators so we end up getting ones from Derbyshire, Staffordshire and even North Wales coming into the fray. These services were contracted by the council so it could be that Arriva were uncompetitive in their tenders but the changes are a reminder of a trend that has all the hallmarks of a retreat.

Not so long ago, Arriva was the predominant operator in Cheshire but that its hold on that position is no longer as sure as it once was. Upheavals such as depot losses due to the introduction of new bus stations may well have had there part to play in all of this. For instance, bus services in Crewe are now run by a variety of companies with First Potteries and D&G running their fair share. In fact, Arriva’s depot in Crewe is now long shut with Macclesfield retaining one, even if they have had to move with the demolition of the old bus station to make way for a new medical centre.

Let’s hope that Arriva’s retreat from Cheshire doesn’t have an adverse impact of bus users like me. If there is a plan to reduce the frequency of the 130, I could commend it as an opportunity for another operator. Stagecoach perhaps? Well, Arriva does run the 130 from Manchester and it might be a wake up call for them.

Big changes ahead...

Posted on December 6, 2008

The December train timetable changes are ahead of us on mainland Britain again and there are some major alterations coming. Transpennine Express has notices up to that effect and Virgin has been making some big promises for a while now. Let’s all hope that it doesn’t turn out like the ill-fated Operation Princess did for Virgin CrossCountry a few years back.

If you can decipher such things and I have to admit that they seem to be as clear as mud in places, Network Rail has PDF’s for the current and forthcoming timetables on its website (there’s the £15 dead tree option too if you’re feeling flush); I honestly don’t envy Rail magazine ’s Barry Doe in reviewing the these documents. In addition, the various operators have begun to roll out PDF’s for their own new timetables on their respective websites (Northern Rail has already done the needful). For the majority of us who are so disinclined, the National Rail Enquiries website has a useful overview of what’s coming and has the changes already loaded into its system already so you can dispense with the old means.

Recent Snippets

14:21, June 27, 2022

From 2022-07-10, High Peak will be operating revised timetables for several of its services around Derbyshire. The Saturday frequency for Buxton town services 185 and 186 will be reduced to hourly while Monday to Saturday evening journeys on service 199 will no longer service Manchester Airport. The Transpeak service will see changes too but there is no timetable available at the time of writing.

The timetable for service 61 will change because of road works on the A5004 near Fernilee. These are for repairs following landslides that occurred earlier this year and will continue until 2022-09-25. Because of these, the bus route will be altered as follows: the usual route between Glossop and Whaley Bridge until Horwich End Crossroads where it goes via the B5470, running non-stop through Chapel-en-le-Frith before taking the A6 into Buxton. During this time, there will be no service to Fernilee or other stops on the A5004 Long Hill.

12:21, June 27, 2022

From 2022-07-01 to 2022-07-04, Midland Classic will be operating a Timber Festival Special service between Lichfield and Moira or Coalville via Swadlincote. This will be numbered X10 .

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