My run in with the West Coast Mainline Upgrade saga is probably worthy of a longer post but it seems that it is still continuing as much as ever and that’s in spite of their celebrating the end of things not so long ago. Thankfully, Macclesfield is being spared by the latest attentions but weekend engineering works continue apace between Lancaster and Lockerbie and the journey suggestions supply by the National Rail journey planner for Saturday and Sunday travel can send you around by the more expensive East Coast Mainline, or even via Birmingham if you try Macclesfield as your starting point like I did when I went experimenting. Currently, the idea of a day out among the Lakeland fells remains stillborn and that appears to be the case until the end of the month. As if that weren’t enough, works between Lockerbie and the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are to extend the disruption to Anglo-Scottish services into next month and beyond. It’s enough to make you consider going by coach instead and neither National Express or Megabus seem not to have made the running with what is taking place; they might need the business in these depressed times. Let’s hope that the railway works get scaled back to a reasonable level, without compromising safety, sooner rather than later to let us all travel in peace. That would be a change for good but I’m not holding my breath just yet.
I was up in Scotland over the weekend and got the chance to embark on a walk from Tarbet to a place called Rest and Be Thankful at the top of Glen Croe in Argyll. The full account of that excursion is best left for my hillwalking blog but it is sufficient to say that I got a few hours of sun on what later turned into a day on which nigh on incessant rain could attenuate one’s enthusiasm. Even with the soaking, it was still a good day out.
The name “Rest and Be Thankful” needs a spot of explanation given how odd it might appear. As far as I know, it dates from the days when cattle were routinely driven from the Highlands to the markets in the Lowlands. The place it describes is at the top of the pass lying between Cairndow and Arrochar. Doubtless, rest was needed after the ascent from the former and that may have something to do with the naming of the place. The fact that it could be the sort of place where you might linger on a good day helps the understanding. Somewhat surprisingly given all of this, no one has ever thought to build an inn up there, particularly given what drovers enjoyed for their recreation. To this very day, the place is bereft of any facilities apart from a car park frequented by a canny mobile takeaway. I suppose that some would object to there being anything more than this to leave the area as near unspoilt as is possible with Forestry Commission plantations everywhere.
My real reason for mentioning Rest and Be Thankful on here is because of the bus stop arrangements. Though the possibility of hailing a Scottish Citylink 926 or 976 anywhere along its route so long as the stopping place is a safe one, the A83 makes the operation tricky with all of the said road’s twists and turns as it weaves its way through the hills. That is partly the cause of Glasgow bound coaches stopping using a lay-by at the other side of the road. Anyone embarking on a return trip to Rest and Be Thankful should be told of the arrangement but I was ignorant of this because I had walked there and hailed the coach from the obvious side of the road. Because the A83 is busy anyway, I was none too surprised to see where the coach went, even it meant a dash across the thoroughfare on my part. I then got the explanation of the stopping arrangements so I thought that I’d share them here in case anyone plans to do something akin to what I did.
Perhaps confusingly, the 926 and 976 are operated by West Coast Motors in their livery. This follows a silly bus war last summer following Citylink’s decision to use Parks and Stagecoach in place of WCM, who had the work for quite a while. I have related the sorry tale already but I am glad that an amicable conclusion was reached by both sides. The timetable is back to where it was last winter and it’ll be interesting to see what is planned for the coming summer, though I reckon that the current economic climate could curtail any ambitious plans. Whatever happens, let’s hope that wasteful bus wars can be avoided for the foreseeable future.
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.
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.
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…
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.
21:47, January 31, 2024
The RMT union has announced two two-day work stoppages for 2024-02-19 to 2024-02-20 and 2024-03-04 to 2024-03-05, respectively. Like other strikes, this again is related to pay increases that the union complains are not keeping pace with inflation.