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Cannock to Telford with Chaserider

Wednesday 9th June 2021

It’s exactly five months since Arriva sold its Cannock based operations comprising about a dozen bus routes, 46 vehicles and the Delta Way bus garage to D&G Bus back on 9th January, so with a brand new service introduced last week, I thought it was a good time for a visit and see how the new regime is bedding in.

It’s a long time since I’ve visited Cannock’s bus station and I’d forgotten just how basic the facilities are.

For the size of town it’s quite a busy bus station with ten drive through stands spread over five through lanes with lots of barriers to deter pedestrians crossing other than on designated pink coloured walkways.

As well as D&G Bus, buses operated by National Express West Midlands on the 20 minute frequency route X51 to Birmingham …

… and a sister company to D&G Bus called Select (it has common ownership as well as a common livery) also operate from the bus station.

There’s a shelter at each stand with two separated horizontal bars which I assume is meant to be an apology for a seat. I wonder if the designer has ever sat on one.

I also wonder what council officers and politicians at Staffordshire County Council and Cannock Chase District Council think about the facilities.

There are timetables showing departure lists at each bus stop and D&G Bus have added a traditional style timetable for their services.

There’s a supposed “real time” departure sign at each stand with the destination shown on the other side which is helpful.

But what’s missing is any information to tell you which service departs from which stand. There are a couple of blank poster cases which would be ideal for this purpose by the steps from the adjacent shopping centre.

I had no idea where the new route X14 to Telford and Oakengates leaves from so walked around each stand looking in the timetable case until I found it.

I eventually found details on stand 8 including a large print timetable for the new service. It was alongside the departure listing for route X51 which was out of date showing a former half hourly service, now improved to 20 minutely.

So not only a bus station with sparse information, but wrong information too.

It was a good job I had plenty of time to search around for the departure; and it also gave me an opportunity to see the gradual rebranding of what was once an Arriva stronghold into the resurrected Chaserider brand D&G have chosen to trade under in this area.

It’s a throwback to the brand first used by Midland Red North in 1980 which lasted until 1992.

The purchase deal with Arriva included a motley collection of vehicles including ageing (16-17 years older) Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Darts and Optare Solos from 2008/9.

Inevitably these are still running round in Arriva livery with Chaserider logos but D&G have introduced enough newer vehicles in their smart red livery to create a good impression of the new regime.

Maybe they’re not all in tip top mechanical condition though …

…. but I’m sure the former Arriva vehicles present more challenges – as I found out.

D&G have left the route network inherited from Arriva largely unchanged since the January takeover with demand devastated by Covid and the DfT’s Covid Bus Service Support Grant CBSSG meaning it wouldn’t have been a priority to make changes.

New route X14 is the first foray into trying a new commercial opportunity. The timetable is a one bus affair providing a two-hourly frequency between Cannock and Telford along the fast A5 Watling Street, only diverting off to serve Shifnal on the outskirts of Telford and the rather upmarket residential area of Priorslee on the approach into Telford town centre.

Route X14 continues beyond Telford to terminate at Oakengates while back in Cannock on the inbound journey it runs via the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet before reaching the town’s bus station.

The Monday to Saturday timetable (no service Sundays) doesn’t get going until 08:42 so I’m guessing the bus probably does a school journey before that, but afterwards it keeps going until 20:40 fitting in six return journeys in that 12 hours with only five minutes stand time in Oakengates and two minutes in Cannock every two hours, meaning it’s a very tight wheel turning time of 56.5 minutes each hour.

And as I found out on Monday when I gave it a try, it’s far too optimistic, not least because there are major roadworks disrupting traffic in Oakengates necessitating a delay infused diversion.

I’d planned to catch the 12:42 (12:40 arrival) from Cannock bus station. It was only a driver waiting to take the bus over that reassured me the bus was on the road, as by 12:50 there had been no sign of the bus.

Sadly my enquiring tweet to the Chaserider Twitter feed enquiring about its whereabouts didn’t elicit any response.

The bus eventually appeared after another five minutes and the driver coming off for a break explained the delays were caused by the roadworks. The driver taking over had already told me he’d had to miss out Oakengates one day last week due to late running and it looked as though the same would happen again on this occasion.

All the more so as halfway along the journey we came to a sudden stop on the busy single carriageway A5 as it appeared the bus was getting stuck in first gear. After some chivvying by our driver and the classic turning everything off and back on again at the master switch (a few times) we eventually got going again.

Only for the same thing to happen as we reached Priorslee. Again after a few attempts our driver managed to get us going and nursed us into Telford’s bus station where he terminated the journey.

I was a bit surprised to see the bus allocated was one inherited from Arriva for what I’d assumed would be a prestigious new route for the new Chaserider brand. It felt the bus had seen better days and wasn’t really the impression you want for a brand new service, especially with mechanical issues and roadworks disruption.

We’d arrived into Telford 25 minutes late which wasn’t bad considering the delays but our driver did have his foot down hard most of the time. It had been a very fast journey.

There were a couple of passengers who were already on board at Cannock bus station, presumably having boarded at the Designer Outlet and wanted to go to Oakengates so were disappointed to end up in Telford.

A passenger had alighted in Cannock and was reassured her return journey to Telford was at 14:42 which subsequent events proved was misplaced optimism. Another passenger boarded with me in Cannock and travelled to Telford. We picked up one passenger in Shifnal and three in Priorslee travelling locally into Telford who were waiting for an Arriva bus on another route.

The X14 has got potential as there’s no convenient public transport link between the two towns. It goes past Weston Park which might be a draw. But it’s going to take a lot of effort to market it and raise its profile.

I didn’t see much evidence of that on Monday.

There was an advert which popped up on the departure screens in Telford’s bus station every few minutes along with the usual Covid precautions advice etc but the revamped bus station in the town has an aversion to bus timetables although commendably D&G Chaserider have rebelled against Telford & Wrekin Council and stuck timetables at the departure bay used by the X14.

Other departure bays are completely devoid of information; they don’t even let you know which routes depart from which bay. It’s the new “minimalist” approach to bus information I suppose.

You have to rely on the electronic displays which list departures in time order for the next 30 minutes or so. It’s not very reassuring if you’re a stranger or new to travelling by bus.

Admittedly there are six (three back to back) of the screens along the length of the bus station concourse.

It’s no good thinking you can call into the nicely refreshed Arriva run Travel Office when the bus station was rebuilt as an edict from Arriva HQ has determined all such helpful facilities to encourage passengers must be closed. As this one is.

Still at least there are a few bench type seats at each stand; a luxury not available in Cannock.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned rather negative comments, it is good to see Telford’s bus station in its refreshed state, as the former one was looking rather tired.

It’s located at one end of the town’s huge shopping centre which has also had a makeover and extensions; but make no mistake the town is dominated by the car as the map showing where everything is inside the shopping centre admirably demonstrates. It’s surrounded by seven large car parks.

Still at least the map does show the bus and train stations.

And mention of the train station reminds me to highlight the good and bad there too. Inside the station building you can find a poster giving a map of Telford’s bus routes as well as information about routes 4 and 5 which provide a frequent link to the town centre if you want to avoid the ten to fifteen minute walk.

It would be nice to think the map is up to date. Sadly it doesn’t look like it is with a quick comparison with the map on Arriva’s website.

It’s also rather optimistic for the poster to advise “for our timetables please visit the bus stops outside the station …”

… as the only information at said bus stops is to let you know that the shelter is provided by Telford & Wrekin Council.

Still; I suppose that is helpful to know.

It looked to me that the Council is more keen on providing fun looking bus stop flags around the town, than useful information for passengers.

Back to D&G’s Chaserider and its website is giving information about some extensive changes to bus routes from 21st June.

As well as revamping existing routes and taking over route 71 (Cannock to Wolverhampton) from Select, with routes 7 and 8/8A moving the other way from Chaserider to Select, two further new routes are being introduced – route 1 providing a new half hourly fast link between Cannock and Walsall and route 61 an hourly off peak service between Chase Terrace (to the east of Cannock) and Lichfield.

A few suggestions – use the smart Chaserider branded buses to create a good image and impression on the two new routes (rather than the former Arriva buses, which don’t); produce an attractive leaflet to promote the services and make them widely available; and make sure the timetables are realistic.

It’s beginning to come together for Chaserider but there’s a long way to go yet. The forthcoming changes on 21st June will create new links which I hope will be a success. Thank goodness for Covid Bus Service Support Grant, once again.

Roger French

PS My journey back from Wolverhampton to Euston with Avanti West Coast on Monday was on an 11 coach Pendilino. There were 13 people in the three coaches designated First Class (Coaches K, J and H) while Coach G (still designated First Class on the doors and outsides) was a completely empty Standard Premium. The Train Manager made no announcements about its availability. Meanwhile Standard Class was busy albeit social distancing was still maintained. And yet again the on board cafe would only accept cash. It’s not very impressive and this Standard Premium idea really is bonkers.

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

19 thoughts on “Cannock to Telford with Chaserider Leave a comment

  1. I wonder where the blame should rest about bus stop and bus station publicity . . . whilst CBSSG is propping up the industry financially, it does seem to have stifled all commercial / publicity nous.
    Is it beyond the realms of possibility that the operators and the bus station owners meet up and agree that publicity should be updated and thereafter maintained? If the major operator takes responsibility for timetables and departure lists, and accepts material from other operators (perhaps in a standard A4 size) for display . . . surely it’s a win-win for all!! Maybe a local transport-users group could get involved??

    I’m bound to say that, even here in Intalink-land, there are still too many instances of out-of-date bus stop timetables on display . . . in one case a route that was restored in July 2020, but to a revised and reduced timetable, still has January 2019 departure times shown. It may well be “all on-line” . . . but a correct bus-stop panel reinforces information . . . if both sources disagree, which one is correct??

    I do understand the pressures on financials, but as we move (hopefully) out of lockdown . . . we need to up our collective games.

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    • Agree. Perhaps Colchester is prescient. For decades the Councils and operators have failed on publicity (probably everything else too) and the local BUGS have tried their hardest to pick up the slack. Kudos.

      For the future outside the mets, just who apart from the tourists, a few enthusiasts and those who genuinely have no option, is expected to use the buses? We are in never-neverland.

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  2. I did some epic research in Cannock (actually the Pye Green Circular) in 1999 on the time consequences of various kneeling policies.
    If you think the bus station is basic now, you should have seen it then.
    It looks as if the Mini Pointer Dart we used might still be in the fleet.

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  3. I see from your photograph that the travel shop has ‘unfortunately’ closed. As it appears to be Arriva policy to provide no encouragement to use its buses, where does ‘unfortunately’ come into it? Unfortunate for the passenger, I suppose. Unfortunately, Arriva’s management has no interest in providing information and assistance to would-be passengers.

    Oh, and you tried to elicit, not illicit, information, although the latter word may describe many bus companies’ view of requests for quality information.

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  4. Regarding the Arriva map, the one on the website is out of date as Service 11 now extends from Lawley to Wellington via Tesco and replaces the short section of service 15 beyond Wellington.

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  5. I admire D&G for taking on Cannock depot in the current climate and I hope they make a good go of it. It was a shame to see how quickly Arriva downgraded the depot from 2014, It was seemingly on the up with Sapphire – but the state of the fleet and network they left for D&G makes it look like neglect had set in. I also hope that the energy being put in at Cannock isn’t at the expense of their Stoke homeland. Chaserider territory has pleasent roadside information at most stops – D&G stops in Stoke still languish with their March 2020 lockdown ‘Please see online’ notices in timetable frames. The websites for both brands leave a lot to be desired, especially as, far as I can tell, Stoke city council fail to provide their own versions of bus timetables.

    I see the logic in the Chaserider brand but again, it’s perhaps a shame that they are treating the Stoke & Cannock networks separately as a unified D&G brand stretching from Cheshire to Wolverhampton & Walsall could have stronger than the separate parts of D&G Crewe, D&G Stoke & Chaserider. Inter-urban links may have been easier to establish. Instead they seem to be actively widening the gap between the networks by installing Select as the main operator of the Stafford town services. Though tickets are inter-accepted, Select are even more of a traditionally quiet operator, a basic website – not particularly loud about advertising their services to potential new customers. A note on their ‘shared ownership’ – it’s my understanding that D&G/Chaserider is an entirely owned subsidiary of Centrebus which of course leads back to Mr J Peddle. Mr Peddle personally is then a minority shareholder of Select but it’s majority shareholding and management is local, similar to the much more commercially dynamic Midland Classic.

    The efforts of Staffordshire and Telford local authorities are dire, especially in an area where buses by far provide the majority of public transport journeys. Staffordshire recently had a hand in breaking apart the very efficient D&G service 14 from Hanley to Stafford which linked together multiple rural travel requirements & the ‘bustitution’ of Barlaston railway station into a neat, user friendly route. It’s been broken up into no less than 6 separate routes between 4 operators with no coordination between them. It’s enough to make you worried about what they may come up with for ‘Enhanced Partnerships’.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I do wonder, whilst agreeing to much of what Greenline727 says, whether it’s rather unfair to judge the quality of roadside information as we’re coming out of a pandemic.

    True, some areas seem to be a lost cause, but in Intalink-land there was a deliberate policy to suspend updating of roadside timetables. I raised an eyebrow on this at the time, but in hindsight it was probably the right thing to do. Remember bus services could (and did) change with as little as 72 hours notice with some routes being suspended with only cursory notification to the Traffic Commissioner. Only in the last week have some contracted services reverted to their pre-Covid timetables.

    Hertfordshire produces stop-specific timetables containing multiple routes so it was difficult to see how it could ever keep up – and this is without their roadside contractor furloughing staff during the first lockdown.

    I think judging all authorities in, say, 6 months time would be more worthwhile.

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  7. Midland Red(North)had a few sub brands other than Chaserider.I remember seeing one with Telus on it which I’m guessing was a play on Telford Bus or was it Tell Us in the age when passengers where becoming customers?Tell Us but we won’t listen.the Midland Red must have been a huge bus company but only ever saw it after it’s glory years towards the very end of NBC ownership and after and it had already been split North,South,East( later Fox 🦊 )and West.the first Midland Red bus I ever saw was on Crossroads and Benny was waiting for the bus to Evesham and a Leyland National in full NBC poppy red came in with Midland Red (West) and the NBC reflected arrows on the side , can’t remember if they where in front of the name or behind, guessing that was about 1983/4?

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    • I lived in Telford at the time of the Tellus introduction in April 1978, and the local press claimed that Tellus was a derivation of a name of a Roman God!

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    • There was also Mercian which was based on the Tamworth garage. There was also Hotspur and I have no idea where that was!

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      • Hotspur was probably Shrewsbury or perhaps Stafford? although I’m not sure if Stafford came under Midland Red or PMT? probably the meeting point of the two companies? Shrewsbury was definitely Midland Red (North) although Midland Red (West)came in from the south possibly Crossville and PMT too?

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    • Chaserider was one of a number of Midlend Red local fleetnames that came about following the Market Analysis Projects of the late 70s/early 80s, based upon Stafford and Cannock depots. All corners had similar fleetnames whether it be Nuneaton (Hunter), Swadlincote (Lancer), Worcester (Severnlink) etc. Midland Red North were keener than other firms and continued the use of their local names for many years after the other MR firms dropped their use with Hotspur (Shrewsbury and Ludlow), Wellington (Tellus) and Tamworth (Mercian). In fact, during the post de-reg period, they were adopted as the main fleetname and that may explain why they arguably stuck in the mind longer too.

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  8. Shame you have to mention a TRAIN station. It has been a RAILWAY station for over 150 years. Why the change?

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  9. GoAhead Bus

    GoAhead have reported that passenger numbers are now at about 67% of pre covid levels. I suspect there may be a bit of a spike where people suddenly started to go out again so that number may drop back a few percent. The next question is what will happen when the June lockdown comes in, That’s assuming it does. That’s just another unknown

    With it looking less and less likely that holidaying abroad will be much of an option there may be opportunities for coach companies to run coach to the UK holiday resorts for both holidays and day trips particularly if he weather forecast proves to be accurate

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    • The Rugeley town services have been confirmed as never returning, having operated only a week or two under Chaserider before being suspended. The 63 had already been diverted around Pear Tree in place of the 23, whilst the 826 will get diverted via the Coalpit Lane section only of the 24, leaving Setterfield Way and the northern side of Brereton unserved, along with the Penk Drive and Plovers Rise section of the 22. The three routes took two buses to operate but only ran interpeak. It’s not too surprising they have finally gone.
      A potentially confusing part of the new timetable for Brereton is that the timing point has been Coalpit Lane for ages, meaning the bus stop on Main Road at the junction with Coalpit Lane (the first stop in the village), but now it means the bus goes up Coalpit Lane, turning before the Main Road bus stop. St. Michael’s Church is now the time point on the 828, which is the second stop!

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  10. In reply to Dan above . . . I also agree that suspending bus stop publicity updates in Lockdown 1 was probably the correct thing to do, but we are now some way out of Lockdown 3, and Government is starting to look at returning to “normal” society, which will include more use of public transport.
    To my mind, this is exactly the time that bus stop timetables are desperately needed to be accurate . . . the slightest encouragement NOT to get back on the bus will be all that many people need.
    In six months time it might be too late . . . let’s see Intalink lead the way again!!

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  11. I work for Select Bus Services and for the last week have been designing and printing correct timetables for Stafford town centre, some of which went up yesterday. My next task is to do bus stops along the routes so that everything is accurate for when people return to catch the bus

    Liked by 1 person

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