I suppose that it can happen: this morning’s bus ride to work involved the driver talking a wrong turn at one point to end up one of Macclesfield’s numerous dead ends (all thanks to road reorganisations over the years). To his credit, the driver realised his mistake only to have to face doing a turn in a not so wide road with cars parked at either side and vehicles waiting for him to complete his manoeuvre on the carriageway itself. That he had a long wheelbase Dennis Dart compounded the problem but he managed the feat, corrected course with a sharp turn at the junction that he had misjudged and we were on our way again. His mistake had occurred at a fork in the road (the junction where Chester Road, Prestbury Road, Chestergate and King Edward Street in Macclesfield itself) and I suspect that it’s one that the driver concerned won’t be making again; that turn in the road should not escape from memory so easily…
I an mulling over a Christmas shopping trip to Edinburgh over the coming weekend (yes, I know that we are just after one) and decided to see if I could save on the £64 off-peak return fare by having a poke around the National Rail Enquiries website. It turns out that there is a way to manage the feat and a saving of around a third of the price is possible too without needing advance purchase tickets with their lock-in to specific train times. In fact, all that’s needed is a practice called rebooking where you get more than a single set of tickets for your journey and it’s valid so long as the train on which you are travelling actually stops at a station that is a destination for one set and a starting point for another. I have found that a set from my home station to Preston and from there to Edinburgh does the deed. The very nice part of all of this is that it can be done with off-peak return ticketing (the current incarnation of the old saver return), all walk on fares in other words. And there’s no need to resort to thetrainline.com with all their smugness and hubris either; well, I find their latest billboard campaign to be on the wrong side of insulting…
Bus and railway integration is a subject that could be discussed for hours and hours but I am raising it because of two services in the Lake District: the 505 and the 516. For one thing, it would be nice to see them start from Windermere train station but what would be better is if the service timings were more useful to those coming in for a day out in the fells. In fact, you can have the latter without the former and I would be happy with that. However, one does get the underlying suspicion that timings are designed for visitors staying in the area or locals, neither of which are things that I decry. In fact, I respect the right of local businesses to gain from an influx of winter visitors, even if my excursions tend to take the form of a day trip.
It’s all too easy when writing about public transport to report the less wonderful side so I am happy to give praise where it is due. Cumbria County Council and Stagecoach have been producing a glossy travel guide in A4 format that bundles together timetables for their area. Until recently, I had only ever encountered that which they produce for the summer and it is tightly focused on getting around the Lake District. Over the past weekend, i picked the winter equivalent and it seems to be even more comprehensive with services places outside the Lake District getting featured. Believe it or not, there’s more to Cumbrian hill country than the Lakeland fells with the Howgill fells and those around Shap coming to mind. There may be reduced frequencies and withdrawn services for the wintertime but both parties need a pat on the back for sharing what is available in such an accessible way.
This morning, I pressed the bell ahead of my stop as usual but the bus passed it by. I was told that I didn’t leave enough time for the bus to stop, a very surprising statement because I have done exactly the same as I have done on many a time and the bus has stopped as expected. My suspicion is that that the driver may not have realised that my stop was there at all, a disappointing state of affairs it has to be said. However, I have come across this before and contact was made with the bus company then to sort things out. I may need to do so again.
The route taken by my bus to work in the mornings passes through the grounds of Macclesfield General Hospital. However, the bus driver decided against it on this morning’s run due to the fact that she reckoned that she’d never get the vehicle through. She might have had a point because cars and other vehicles are parked anywhere and everywhere there, making the job of getting a long wheelbase single decker through there an unenviable task at the best of times. Limited space ensures that car parking is never going to be plentiful there so taking the bus seems a sound proposition and you get to save on parking and other charges too.
The incident does highlight a problem for bus drivers: their vehicles are large and all it takes is one inappropriately parked car or van to obstruct when road space is none too plentiful anyway. The town of Macclesfield has only recently gained traffic wardens and, whatever some may say, it really does need to be said that they have their use. If anything makes people think about where they are parking and whether an obstruction would be caused, then it only can be a good thing.
One of the things that is part and parcel of using public transport is having to share the same space with others. I don’t know if it is more prevalent these days but there are always some who bring there noise with them. It could be the young person at the back of a bus playing their music aloud rather than containing it in earphones or a group of lads engaging in loud banter on a night out (I encountered the latter while coming home from the Lake District last Saturday and some clearly were disturbed by it; some cringeworthy behaviour was on display when the train conductor was trying to get them to buy tickets, particularly by one individual who was “trying it on”). There are other examples of course but, when you fancy a peaceful journey, either of these could have you reaching for the personal music player (iPod?) or heading to a quieter part of a train. I suppose that our own tolerance of other people’s behaviour should temper our own so that we behave like we would like others to do. Maybe, if we all learnt that lesson, then using public transport could be a far more pleasant experience for all.
Transpennine Express is a train company that you could see mentioned here a lot. It just so happens that I was on one of their trains yesterday morning and in a carriage where there was no heating. It’s not exactly warm in the U.K. right now so having no heating meant that the Polartec fleece that I had on me came in very handy and I also had a down jacket in my rucksack that could have been used too if the need arose. To be fair about this, heating can fail even on very new trains like the one on which I was travelling. Older ones can be similarly afflicted too of course, like the one on which I was coming home to Edinburgh (where I lived at the time) from Coventry after a long taxing day at a selection centre for a certain large multinational IT services company. That was a good few years ago and those trains were subsequently replaced with Voyagers by Virgin Crosscountry and they still ply the U.K.’s tracks at the behest of Arriva’s CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast.
You have to wonder what some people are thinking when silly stuff happens. I was off to the Lake District for a day trip yesterday morning when the sickening announcement of trespassers on the line came through over the Piccadilly tannoy. It took the most of twenty minutes for the authorities to sort things out and things to get going again. I was lucky enough to be only delay by a matter of minutes but there were cancellations caused by someone’s thoughtlessness.