Life after Arriva in Cheshire

Tuesday 2nd May 2023

Following the closure of Arriva’s bus garages in Macclesfield and Winsford and the company’s withdrawal from Mid Cheshire on Saturday 22nd April I took a few rides around the area last Friday to see how the first week of the new regime was going with D&G Bus principally at the helm.

D&G Bus already had a presence in the area so its takeover of former Arriva routes simply expands its previous network.

It’s produced a couple of composite timetable leaflets giving details of all the routes it operates across both Mid Cheshire (based on Crewe) and East Cheshire (based on Macclesfield) with both containing timetables and ticket details as well as some helpful maps.

I saw a passenger with one so twigged drivers would probably have supplies and on asking the driver was handed one for the Mid Cheshire area on one of the buses I travelled on.

D&G Bus have pretty much replicated Arriva’s former routes and by some judicious diversions of the hourly inter-urban 31 and 37 between Crewe, Winsford and Northwich it’s covered the former Winsford town service route 7.

Buses from D&G Bus’s sister company Centrebus have been drafted in to help – here in Northwich a 31 turns into a 37

Route 31 operates the quicker route between Crewe and Northwich taking 65 minutes while the latter operates via Sandbach and Middlewich and takes 95 minutes. Six buses interwork between the two routes at both Crewe and Northwich.

I caught the 10:03 from Crewe to Northwich route 31 and stayed on the same bus for the 11:20 return journey on route 37. Both journeys carried a good number of passengers with 24 on the former and an impressive 48 on the latter, being particularly busy between Sandbach and Crewe as well as local riders in Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich.

There’s a coordinated half hourly frequency between Crewe and Sandbach between routes 37 and 38 with the latter continuing to Macclesfield.

Readers may recall I wrote about the head to head competition on this route back in December so now Arriva has withdrawn, the corridor between Crewe, Sandbach and Macclesfield has become a sustainable and profitable operation.

D&G Bus isn’t the only game in town post Arriva. First Bus has taken on the former local route 6 between Crewe town centre and Leighton Hospital on the north west edge of the town by interworking it with its inter urban route 3 from Hanley but D&G Bus also cover the route to Leighton Hospital with its 31.

Also on the scene is Stagecoach which decided it wanted to grab the Crewe to Chester corridor operating it from its Chester base. Arriva’s route 84 used to run hourly with additional short journeys on the busy corridor between Crewe and Nantwich making for a 20 minute frequency on that section.

The complication now is that D&G Bus also fancied taking on the 84 but in the event shied away from running the full route to Chester and instead are just claiming a stake in the route as far as Nantwich by running a half hourly 84X with two buses. These leave at 28 and 58 minutes past each hour from Crewe taking 21 minutes as the route taken is slightly more direct along the A534 rather than deviating via Willaston, as Arriva did and Stagecoach journeys now do, taking a slightly longer 23 minutes.

Stagecoach are running an hourly departure to Chester leaving Crewe at 38 minutes past the hour and an hourly short to Nantwich at 08. A similar pattern applies in the reverse direction from Nantwich with D&G Bus at 01 and 31 and Stagecoach at 11 and 41.

Note how D&G have the 20 minute gap before their departures which is handy for them. The coordination doesn’t work on Sundays as Stagecoach are running a 90 minute frequency to Chester.

I had a ride up and down this latest example of a route spat and found numbers mediocre to good, with the D&G bus journeys having an edge on Stagecoach but it’s not a long term sustainable position with one bus an hour too many, unless more passengers can be generated.

Passengers were treated to a promotional free fares offer by both companies on their 84/84X journeys all last week.

Over in Macclesfield Arriva ran a number of local routes which it had high hopes for back in 2017 by introducing a fleet of Mellor Strata bodied minibuses, but alas it wasn’t to be and D&G Bus now reign supreme in that town too.

Flashback 2017 when Arriva introduced a new fleet of Mellor Strata buses in Macclesfield

Back in Crewe work is progressing on the retail, multi-storey car park and new bus station development on the site of the former bus station and long closed Arriva (corner Crosville) bus garage.

Everything has now been demolished with evidence of piling underway for the new structure.

The temporary bus station has been well laid out considering the constraints on these things …

… and it was good to see updated departure lists on display.

I spotted a bus routes by stand list in one of the small temporary shelters, albeit a bit small to read and not very prominent. It looked as though it had been added as an after thought.

Over in Nantwich bus station the bus stop displays were still showing Arriva’s presence with out of date maps but I’m sure these will be updated shortly.

As you can see from the photos D&G Bus is a sister company of Centrebus run by the astute Julian Peddle and I’m sure Julian has assessed the commercial outlook and will once again prosper from Arriva’s continued retrenchment.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

12 thoughts on “Life after Arriva in Cheshire

Add yours

  1. I am on the number 6 brookhouse Dr route
    I find it difficult to get the number 12 shavington bus to town as I suffer from health problems


  2. My old stomping ground. Crosville, Arriva and now D&G. Excellent D&G website. For bus explorers could not find a day ticket for whole network for one person. For 2 people there is the ‘duo’ for £10.50. Still not bad value if you’re alone. (You can get to Chester from Northwich on the 82).


    1. Sadly, there’s not a D&G day ticket. For their operations in Staffordshire and the Potteries, you would have to go for the multi-operator Knot ticket that is also valid on First, Diamond, Select, and Arriva.

      It’s good to see that D&G is producing its publicity in the same format as the erstwhile Midland Classic.

      The competitive spat between Crewe and Nantwich is perhaps unsustainable but it is a consequence of Stagecoach and their timetable. They put forward a half-hourly service with hourly projections to Chester simply because they’re operating “from the wrong end”. Half hourly really is too low a frequency (it has historically been 3 or 4 buses per hour) so not a surprise that D&G believes there’s an opportunity.


      1. Last time I was in the area, a few years back, it was 3 both with two shorts fitted around the hourly Chester. This might be sustainable, but who wins might depend on the reliability of the Stagecoach service.

        When Roger reported on the competition between Arriva and D&G, I thought the big company would win.


  3. Repackage the profitable routes with the loss making routes, in a nice little sweet & sour bundle and then passengers may be in with a chance of receiving a reliable, value for money service…


  4. I followed in the footsteps of our intrepid blogger on Friday 5 May to explore an area that I’ve never visited before. My first bus was the 1005 Crewe to Northwich on Route 37, which left Crewe Station 9 minutes late, and never really managed to recover time. However, we carried around 55 passengers en route, with around 35 pax into Northwich; the majority between Winsford and Northwich, although passengers boarded / alighted all along the route; around 12 passengers boarded on the Route 31 departure at 1150, but about 5 minutes late.
    Northwich is a pleasent town, although a heavy rain shower curtailed my wanderings.

    My return was on Route 31 at 1250 from Northwich to Crewe, which carried around 30 passengers in total, again mainly between Northwich and Winsford. The bus arrived from Route 37 12 minutes late (again with a load of around 15 pax), so departed 5 minutes late, although some spirited driving south of Winsford saw an on-time arrival at Crewe.

    The bus stands now all have a departure list displayed, although only an A4 sheet wrapped in a plastic wrapper . . . it would be good to see a proper vinyl version, as the temporary facilities will ne there for some time. Bigger shelters would also be useful . . . my arrival coincided with a cloudburst, and the small shelters were very crowded!!

    I caught a Stagecoach 84 “short” Nantwich, having just missed a D&G 84X journey (which left with around 20 pax on board). . . only about 10 passengers were carried throughout the journey. The deviation through Willaston was worthless for passengers, and parking made progress very slow. It was interesting that on this journey, and on my return, passengers were waiting on the main road, where, of course, the service level is doubled.

    Rain threatened at Nantwich, so I returned promptly on an 84X, which arrived with around 15 passengers on board, and departed with 12 pax, picking up more along the route. Both operators are charging £2 “return for a single” prices, so we’re seeing a real “bus war” here. I’d say that D&G may well prevail in the long term, based on the numbers seen yesterday . . . whether it’s loyalty or something else isn’t clear. The Bus Station at Nantwich is incredible . . . posters from 2018 and 2019 predominate!! Just covering them with white vinyl would be better . . .

    I would say that some of the D&G fleet is untidy, with a lot of lower body panel damage, and a bit of a mix of livery styles. Their only Sunday operation is on the new 84X . . . otherwise most routes finish by 1900 – 2100, with only 3 buses out until late evening. Kudos for the leaflet, though . . . loadings on all D&G buses seen were encouraging . . . maybe the publicity is affecting numbers??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just to add that, on the “greenline727” passenger counting metric; where around 25 passengers per service hour denotes commercial viability, I’d say that Routes 31 / 37 have a good future, and if Stagecoach withdraw, then Nantwich at 3 BPH on the main road will also do well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I should point out that D&G had 7 weeks to get this up and running, so buses were sourced from all over, we had no idea how many drivers would come to us and effectively setting up a new operation takes considerable resources. The Arriva operation was losing circa £1m per annum, and as Stagecoach thought it was a good idea to pinch the best route, there isn’t a lot of fat left.
    The Councils did a great job getting roadside up to date and reprinted the local bus maps on their websites. It remains to be seen if the new network is stable, being a prosperous area Cheshire East has one of the lowest bus passenger journeys per head of population in the country.


  6. Sadly the nail in the coffin for Arriva’s one time Crosville network here was the pay expectations of the UNITE union, whose actions saw their members out of a job.

    I understand Julian was stood outside the D&G gates on day one telling staff that as far as he was concerned TUPE didn’t apply and if they wanted a job these were the new conditions to which they must agree!


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