Monday, 19 November 2012

Brian's Birkenhead, Blacon & Bromborough Bonanza

What else has Stagecoach bought?
The news that Uncle Brian has bought the First depots at Chester and Birkenhead provokes the fat bus bloke to have a look, again, at what he gets for his money.

He gets 28 School services, three Tesco routes and some odd journeys between Chester Bus Exchange and the Railway Station. None of these is particularly interesting to the enthusiast or student and past experience suggests that Stagecoach may well dispose of them quite promptly.
Most of the longer distance services have their origin as part of the one-time giant, Crosville, a company which dominated the area. The Wirral bit of ex-Croswille came into First's hands when they purchased PMT (Potteries).
Thus the current routes split into two groups.

Firstly, there are the Chester "local" services bought by First when the Council decided to sell in 2006. Before the sale took place, Arriva registered all Chester city services; there was a legal punch up; Arriva then withdrew from most but retained joint operation with Chester's successors on services 1, 2, 15 and 16.

First's on-line map gives a broad brush guide to what runs where. Of course, the map is out-of-date!
click on the map to enlarge

Although some  City services are now jointly operated by First and Arriva, Arriva's web site seems not to know this. This is from their timetables page.
Seems to be a few missing?

The longer distance and Wirral stuff is but a pale shadow of Crosville's might, but still in First's hands are two Wirral "local" routes; 38 to Hoylake and West Kirby at the corner of the Dee Estuary and the 41 and 42 linking Woodchurch with Birkenhead and Bromborough on the Mersey.
click on the map to enlarge

The 1, 41, 42, 71 and 72 have also been the subject of a Quality Partnership deal with Arriva, thus changing First's out-of-date map as well!

Quality comes to bus routes between Liverpool and Heswall and Liverpool, Birkenhead and Chester from 8 July 2012. Bus companies Arriva and First have joined forces with Merseytravel, Wirral Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council to improve and integrate services on routes 1, 3 and 401 to provide a better service between Liverpool, Ellesmere Port and Chester. And they’ve done the same on routes 71/72/171/172/472 which run between Liverpool and Heswall.
Service numbers 71, 72, 171 172 and 472 will be combined to become the 471 and 472, and the 1, 3 and 401 will become the 1, 2 and X2.
In what is termed a Quality Partnership there will be combined and co-ordinated timetables. This means on both routes a daytime bus every ten minutes throughout Monday to Saturdays daytimes with 30 minute services in the evenings and either 15 minute (471/472) or 30 minute (1,2) frequency on Sundays.
The Quality Partnership also allows tickets issued by either bus company to be used on both companies’ buses on these routes.

These partnerships are funny things. Whilst the timetable extracts above from Arriva's web site show the full integrated timetables, First only shows its own journeys, as with this example from the 471/472.
Partnership, what partnership? There's an X2 to Ellesmere in the mix as well.
In addition, First have the contract for the four Chester Park and Ride routes ...
... now operated (usually!) by branded vehicles.
These routes run every 10 minutes peak and every 12 or 15 off-peak.

The final piece of Brian's Christmas jigsaw is the franchise for the City Sightseeing tour of Chester running every 30 minutes (rain or shine) and numbered 100 on First's web site.
This vehicle, by the way, is ex Arriva London seen here fully roofed under the tram wires in sunny Croydon in 2003.
The quick dash through the detail gives some idea of what Stagecoach will add to their portfolio. Bits of the collection are activities that would not be regarded as "core" by Uncle Brian, so a goodly bit of disposal and re-organisation seems likely in the new year.

Plenty of fun-times ahead with more to come from First's sale shelf!

And a final question. Were not the precursors of the 471 and 472 (numbered in the Liverpool scheme) the first daytime bus routes to use the Mersey tunnel? Or is fbb, yet again, deluded?

 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 20th November 


  1. I have some Liverpool Corporation and Crosville timetables from the late sixties which suggest that the only bus service through the tunnel was operated at night by LCT when, presumably, the ferries were not working. Otherwise Crosville buses would face each other across the Mersey but never meet.

  2. At some stage a Wirral bus service "broke ranks", but I cannot remember which and when.

  3. According to the Merseyside Transport Trust (
    "In the 1970s the MPTE inaugurated a direct Heswall to Liverpool service (Rapidride 418/419) using one person operated Bristol RE single deckers operated by Crosville."
    These routes appear to be the precursors of 471/472. Presumably they were an initiative by MPTE to provide direct cross-river links for commuters from places where there was no direct train service. I believe that the other 4xx routes in Liverpool were express peak-hour only and also branded "Rapidride".

    I'm not sure when 418/9 began, but if it was after mid-1971, they will not have been the first cross-mersey daytime routes, as according to the Commercial Motor archive for 11 June 1971 (
    "A new express bus service between New Brighton and Liverpool—via the second Mersey Tunnel which opens later this month—foreshadows the threatened closure of the Mersey ferry link between the two areas. The service starts on June 28.The "Cross Mersey Express" will operate like the Liverpool Rapidride routes, picking up in the areas of Wallasey furthest from the ferries and railways stations and running non-stop into the centre of Liverpool. The journey from New Brighton will take 45 minutes and from Liscard 30 minutes. "

    I have a feeling this would have been run by MPTE, rather than Crosville, as it would have been seen as in former Wallasey Corporation territory, rather than NBC-owned Crosville.