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A visit to Crewe and Chester

Monday 13th September 2021

I’ve been meaning to pay a visit to take a look at Chester’s relatively new “Bus Interchange”, opened in March 2017, for some time and a delay on the West Coast main line (axle counter failure near Rugby delaying and diverting all trains through Northampton) recently meant my extensive plans for the day had to be aborted and Chester seemed a good alternative destination.

I travelled via Crewe, a town I usually only know from interchanging at its famous historic railway station, and for a change decided to make an extended visit and take the bus over to Chester rather than the hourly non-stop train run by Transport for Wales supplemented by some Avanti West Coast operated journeys.

Crewe’s bus station and town centre is a fairly lengthy walk from the rail station – being just over a mile away – so I hopped on local bus route 6 operated by Arriva which picks up close to the station exit opposite the rather dated and forlorn looking Rail House (above).

The bus station and its adjacent long closed vehicle maintenance facility also look rather forlorn and sorry for themselves these days …

… perhaps not surprising in view of grand plans to regenerate the surrounding Royal Arcade site including the construction of a brand new bus station as well as an adjacent 400 space multi-storey car park …

… well this is well-heeled Cheshire, and leisure, “restaurant and retail units anchored by a new state-of-the-art (what else?) cinema”.

The bus station will have “an enclosed passenger waiting area” which will be an improvement on the current rather windswept concourse. Current plans involve a temporary bus station to be located to the west of the current site in Summer 2022 to enable construction of the new bus station to begin and optimistically opening in Spring 2023.

Meanwhile the current bus station has gone a bit OTT with covid precautions all still on display despite social distancing requirements easing.

However, I was pleased to see departure times at the stand departure points looking well presented…

… and there were even details of tickets and fares on display which must be something unique for bus stations, so well done East Cheshire Council for that.

It’s dated April 2019 so is now over two years old leaving me wondering if it’s up to date.

Arriva route 84 crosses the border from Crewe into neighbouring unitary authority West Cheshire and Chester every hour with additional journeys providing a twenty minute frequency as far as Nantwich.

It’s operated by seven year old Wright Pulsar bodied VDL (formerly DAF) chassis single decks. They don’t come with any fancy branding and offer a fairly basic but functional Arriva interior.

We carried about a dozen passengers out from Crewe who had all alighted by the time we reached or at Nantwich just over 20 minutes later except for one other passenger besides myself who also travelled through to Chester.

One passenger boarded in Nantwich and then whereas we’d normally head off along the A51 to Chester, that trunk road was closed for roadworks and we embarked on a lengthy detour which helped explain why the bus had arrived into, and left, Crewe ten minutes late.

Our driver did her best to bash on through the windy well used A 534 and A49 on the diversion and we reached Tarporley back on line of route 15 minutes down and began picking up passengers again reaching Chester with another dozen on board but still inevitably well behind schedule.

Our driver hurriedly got everyone waiting on board and left ten minutes late again. I feel sorry for the drivers on the route who are battling valiantly to minimise the impact of cumulative delays on timekeeping as the day progresses especially as the Arriva website confirms the closure will last for two months.

I feel sorry for people living along the closed section of the A51 who’ll have no bus for two months. The screengrab shows the information as it appears online, rather than my poor cutting and pasting.

Chester’s bus station (called a ‘bus interchange’) still has a new feel about it even though it’s now four and a half years old.

It’s very spacious and is laid out in a similar style to Middlesbrough’s bus station with a central bus parking area surrounded by a U shape layout of bus stands and passenger circulating area.

There are 13 stands with four (A to D) facing on to the adjacent George Street …

…. which can easily be served when the main entrance area containing the toilets and customer service desk is closed.

It looks like a well thought out designed facility with plenty of room for both passengers and buses.

I’d have liked to see a few more seats on the eastern side of the ‘U’ …

… but on the plus side, information displays are very good …

…. and the free access to clean well presented toilets a very impressive and welcome facility.

It’s usually well resourced Combined Authority/PTEs which build and run extensive bus station facilities, so West Cheshire and Chester deserves fulsome praise for this impressive Bus Interchange especially as they also seem to be manning the information desk.

It’s perhaps not quite as well located as the old facility which was closer to the retail heart of Chester, but the walk is not excessive by any means, and it’s closer to the rail station than the old one was, although I note that some bus services (notably Arriva’s high profile route 1 to Wrexham still terminate there) and the station to town centre shuttle bus still runs.

All in all, a welcome development in Chester and let’s hope Crewe can match it in 2023.

Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement enjoy Britain’s splendid scenic delights travelling by bus and train, and commenting along the way.

7 thoughts on “A visit to Crewe and Chester Leave a comment

  1. The toilets look fine.
    But knowing they would have been free and clean is of little consolation if you’re caught short at 5.10pm or any time on a Sunday.
    Hopefully, the paper notices suggest these limited opening times are only temporary during the pandemic.

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    • Yes, isn’t it odd that councils etc think that people only need to spend a penny during office hours and would never need to relieve themselves at any other time….

      Typical council “run to suit us, not the people who need to use it” attitude…

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  2. I have used the Chester facility myself and was not impressed. It is cold and the information boards are not particularly helpful. One problem is that there can be duplicate route numbers, so a 1 could be local to Blacon (the old corporation service), the 1 to Liverpool (old Crosville C1) or even the 1 to Wrexham (old Crosville D1), although the latter is not serving the bus station at the moment.
    As the terminal is horseshoe shaped moving between stands can take some time.
    At least Crewe’s 60 year old facility has all the passenger stands grouped together.

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  3. Given I am a Cestrian, I feel best placed to respond to some of the article.

    The 84 trips to Chester are normally double deckers but because of the diversion, there is a low bridge and Arriva are being cautious with it using single deckers.

    Seats on the eastern side, you can sit along the glass on the right. That is all wooden seats. Plus the metal chairs. Really, they could do so much more over that side but they won’t. so much empty space for secure bike parking or amazon lockers etc. No need for it to be so empty over that side.

    As for the bus station office, it’s all done under QWest, a council and private company partnership thing. They do things through that to avoid public accountability. The bus station office isn’t the best either since it is an information only office. No NatEx tickets or CitySightseeing tickets sold. and I believe no information on the fares for services.
    The bus station toilets stink awful and they are shut more often than they are open because they can’t be bothered to get them cleaned. You were just lucky they were open when you were there.
    The cash machine goes in and out of charging you for cash withdrawal.
    The western side is a wind tunnel and in cooler weather, it’s awful. Horrible to be in and the other side is far too big for what it does. As they close the eastern side at night as well (not an issue in itself), it means anyone for the night coaches has to either walk all around the bus station from stand N or the coaches stop at not the right stand because it’s difficult for passengers to get to.

    I think while the bus station may be ok, it’s been hugely detrimental to the other side of the city which is now dying slowly. It is slightly better for the supermarkets though. A lot more could be done to improve it, it now lacks the will to make improvements and better use the available space.

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  4. GoAhead Hedingham Suspend a number of service due to driver shortage

    We are very sorry but we are currently failing to run all our bus services because we have had a lot of bus drivers leave us at short notice.
    To make planning your journeys easier, we have cancelled some journeys.

    Panther Travel buses will be used on some journeys on route 3 until further notice but don’t worry your Hedingham tickets will be sold and accepted on these buses.

    We are making every effort to restore these journeys as soon as possible and apologise for the disruption caused.

    Like

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