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.