On Trains & Buses

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

Joys of cascading?

Posted on November 27, 2008

On first sight, having someone else get the pleasures of nice new buses instead may not sound so wonderful. However, if you get their old buses, it may not be all that bad.

The 130 Manchester-Macclesfield service seems to have had a feel of a Cinderella about it, especially when you consider the buses that have purveyed the route over the years. When I first moved to Cheshire, daytime service was largely supplied mid-engined Leylands that felt and sounded tired. That unloved feel also applied to Leyland Lynxes and early Leyland Olympians were drafted in too. P-reg Mercedes minibuses, then among the most recent buses in the Macclesfield fleet, were used for on evening services. When early Dennis Darts came in replace the Leylands, there was a definite improvement in the journey quality.

When the service changed from hourly to half-hourly, tired ex-London L-reg Dennis Darts with Northern Counties bodies were brought in and continued in service through the tumultuous changeover to a new bus station in Macclesfield. That meant that Arriva lost its depot and the uncertainty in the summer of 2005 caused drivers to leave the company with staff shortages causing service cancellations and resulting in passenger discontent. It’s none too clever what can happen when management take their eye off the ball. I think that there might have been a changeover from Arriva Midlands North to Arriva Northwest and Wales in and around the same time too, which may not have helped even if it was a more sensible organisational arrangement.

Things stabilised when the service started to run from a depot in Manchester instead of Macclesfield and newer buses from Merseyside came on stream. These were again Dennis Darts but with Eastern Lancashire bodywork and ex-Liverpool registrations. These have been mainly M-reg with the occasional N-reg turning up at times too. Their age made them susceptible to mechanical breakdowns, particularly when stuck in heavy traffic for extended periods, so getting newer vehicles is an advance. Some were also a bit louder than might be liked; M169WKA caused me to complain twice before it was sorted after a lengthy absence from service.

Arriva’s 263 route in Greater Manchester seems to getting new Wright single deckers and it looks as if we are getting the X-reg Dennis Darts that they are displacing. While suspensions do feel worn on some of these, we are not getting a bad deal with the airiness of the interiors, the better seating and the extra legroom. Our “new” buses may be eight years old but the Plaxton bodywork still has a certain freshness about it and they are standard length too, something that seems to trouble some of the drivers at times. In recent years, we seem to have been getting ever newer buses every few years so it will be interesting to see when the next batch of more modern vehicles are offered to us and what they might be like.

When it all becomes too much

Posted on November 24, 2008

The last thing that anyone wants to see while awaiting a train is someone dropping down onto the tracks in front of it. However, that’s the sight that I witnessed in Oxenholme on my return from a walk among the Cumbrian fells on Saturday evening. I feared the worst and got myself away into the ticket office before I saw too much and left the professionals to deal with it. Call me a coward if you want but what I saw was already shocking enough and I really didn’t need to see any more; in any case, getting out of the way allows the emergency services to do what is needed without any hindrance. Thankfully, the train was halted in time so any injuries suffered were no way near as bad as those where my mind had gone on me.

Of course, something like this remains a serious matter and the police were in attendance (local police were there and I saw no sign of British Transport Police though they might have come later on) and conducting their investigations while an ambulance carried the unfortunate lady away for hospital treatment. Statements have to be taken and the scene assessed, all things that eat up time.

Luckily, my journey was only held up for an hour and I was home by 21:30 anyway so my thoughts are only with the lady concerned, her people and those had more to do with it than me. From what I could gather, the incident had the appearance of someone trying to do away with themselves, not at all a nice thought but a situation that could be triggered by financial troubles in these gloomy times. Let’s hope that it works out well for all concerned.

Events dear boy, events

Posted on November 23, 2008

I was out for a walk in the Lake District yesterday and I stumbled on a heaving Ambleside. The reason for all the people being there was the turning on of the Christmas lights, an annual tradition . There are various pieces but the one that gets it a mention on this blog is that there is a parade in the late afternoon that puts a stop to the progress of any buses. I was not the only the only one that stumbled on this unawares because it was the cause of a disgruntled “Where the hell is the 555?” from a waiting passenger in Windermere.

The result was that quite a number of us were stood outside in the freezing cold waiting far longer than we ought to have done, not that I am decrying the fun that was in train since it is something that is much needed in the current economic climate. The 555 that was to take me from Ambleside to Windermere was stopped in its tracks while all was going on and the 599 that I eventually used was itself held up. It just goes to show how a traditional event can really impact bus services, particularly when there’s no alternative route for buses to follow. That police didn’t seem to be prioritising the passage of buses didn’t help either.

However, I cannot say that all smaller places where big events are ongoing do see their bus services disrupted. For instance, Dolgellau’s Eldon Square can be closed for such things but with diversions in place, a much better way of doing it. It still does not alleviate accommodation shortages due to the annual Cadair Idris hill race on the Saturday of the second bank holiday weekend in May but buses continue run as planned, a much better outcome.

Super Voyagers are a changing...

Posted on November 18, 2008

The weekend that’s just gone featured a return journey from Scotland that had me a Virgin Super Voyager between Glasgow and Preston. Even after the loss of the CrossCountry franchise, Virgin has retained some of its Voyagers, the ones with tilting capability for 125 MPH running, for use as part of its remaining West Coast franchise. These tend to be used for workings that include Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh together with London to Chester and Holyhead.

They have been talking been talking about refurbishing these train interiors so that the travelling public would know if they were on a Pendolino or a Super Voyager and I seem to have come upon the results of those changes. I may be a reader of Rail magazine but, only for the normal traveller not caring so much for such things, I would not be so sure that they are succeeding that well if what I saw was any guide. The coach in which I was travelling had no airline style seating with at table seating everywhere. Taking a cue form the said Pendolinos, those tables did have retractable table tops but they were sliding rather than flip-up. That made for a two-tier table top that may not be to the taste of everyone but I was unperturbed. You also seem to sit higher too and there are no seats that aren’t next to a window. In fact, any gaps forced by this layout are left there to be used for luggage storage, a very useful way of doing it. That’s not to say that Super Voyagers will become devoid of airline seating because a quick look into other carriages while changing train and platform in Preston revealed one coach with only that style of seating, if my eyes didn’t go and deceive me (we all know what can happen).

My experience of travelling in the refurbished trains left me with no displeasure so I must rather like what they have done. The old interiors were getting rather tired anyway after their seven or so years of use. it remains to be seen what CrossCountry do with their Voyagers but I’m not sure that their actions would be the most positive of developments with their replacement of the shop/buffet with a trolley in combination with increases in seating capacity. Another possibility that comes to mind is the addition of Manchester-Scotland runs to the West Coast franchise to remove the three-carriage sources of discontent that Transpennine Express has inflicted on the travelling public from time to time. All in all, Virgin’s Super Voyager refurbishment is a reminder of a reasonable if imperfect operator that i would like to see continue to ply their various ways on Britain’s railways and maybe even return to haunts as of now unfrequented by their flair.

A need for tagging luggage?

Posted on November 17, 2008

I was in Scotland over the weekend and made use Scottish Citylink’s coach services like I have done on a lot of previous trips up there. I can report pleasant experiences from using them on this time around but noticed something new: being asked to tag the rucksack that I had with me with name and address so that it could be identified later. This was a new one on me and the tag that I was given had both Scottish Citylink and Megabus branding so my guess is that it applies to both companies. In an age where a lot of luggage can look alike, any time spent at an airport carousel awaiting your bag or case will confirm this, you can see their point. Even so, National Express don’t seem to be bothering with such requirements for now anyway and I have never carried luggage on coaches, buses or trains that I couldn’t easily pick out afterwards. The pretty anonymous looking cases that I tend to use for airline travel are another matter entirely.

As it happened, I made two different journeys with Citylink and was only asked to tag luggage for one of them. The first journey made was from Glasgow to Ardlui and the second from Butterbridge (between Cairndow and Rest and Be Thankful) to Glasgow with a walk through hill country sandwiched between both of these. The outbound trip from Glasgow was operated for Citylink by Stagecoach and the return one used West Coast Motors as the contractor (hurrah for the sensible resolution to the summertime bus war). That luggage tagging was only mentioned for the outbound service might be because I was getting on the coach at Buchanan Bus Station and I was hailing the other coach from the side of the road in damper weather, hardly the sort of circumstances for ensuring compliance with the rigours of due process and procedure. Even so, the need to have you luggage tagged for Citylink and Megabus is still something to keep in mind, even if it isn’t applied consistently or other operators such as National Express don’t bother with the requirement.

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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