Options that come and go29th March 2008
The options that I have in mind for this post are of the public transport variety. I have noticed that there are years when I visit an area a lot and that is down to number of factors: it might be somewhere new for me to explore and the weather conditions are more favourable there than other places. A window of opportunity for getting there using public transport can be yet another contributor.
After all, public transport options do change over time and not always for the better. One factor that contributes to this is public demand. There have been times when the frequency for bus services has been improved only for it to be cut back again, possibly because of patronage. An example of this that comes to mind is the T3 Trawscambria service that became hourly in 2006 but is as good as two-hourly these days, even if some services extend to and from Chester with Wrexham being the main northern terminus. the trouble with this is that there is the nagging question as to whether enough time was allowed for patronage to build up; that is something that might take a few years rather than twelve months in some cases.
The next thing that crops up in my mind is the loss of a public transport connection and rail-bus connections particularly come to mind. Sunday rail-bus connections in Bangor (in Wales, not NI) or the lack of them have disappointed me in the past. Having the bus leave before the train arrives does sound a bit ridiculous but short connection times are just as useless, especially when you recall how late trains can be.
Then, there regulatory hurdles to be overcome. One that recently came into play was the 50 km limit for local bus services brought into force following an EU directive. That has done for a Sunday Dalesbus service operated by Arriva and introduced changes where there previously were through services. I could see the 555 in the Lake District being hit by this as well. However, I suppose that England and Wales had a better express bus system like Ireland and Scotland, then all of this wouldn’t cause any problems.
The route length limitation can be seen as a piece of regulatory madness but there are home grown ones in the U.K. too. One that annoys me a little is the intervention of the Competition Commission in the Scottish bus market following the coming together of Scottish Citylink and Stagecoach’s Megabus. Thankfully, a sensible compromise was reached with services on some routes going to Parks of Hamilton and they are agreeing to work with Citylink as regards timetables and ticketing. Otherwise, it could have further fragmented an already fragmented system and is an exhibition of the sort of mindset that could stop us ever getting the joined up transport system that we so desire.
What has brought all of this to mind is the retiming of the Macclesfield-Crewe bus service on Sundays to leave twenty five minutes earlier. I seem to remember that an early departure from Macclesfield on Sundays was a possibility some years back but it has since disappeared for some reason. So, the earlier start for the bus service in question is very much a good thing, even if it means that last one home is earlier too. That earlier first departure restores the option of getting to Shropshire and Mid Wales after its being removed by train retiming. I hope to make good use of this opportunity to explore Shropshire and mid Wales a bit more. Who knows but I may even walk new sections of the Offa’s Dyke Path. Not all of the world’s going downhill…