Friday 31 January 2020

Happier Happenings in Halton (3)

It was just a week ago that rumours began circulating of "trouble-at-t-mill" for Halton Transport. Drivers had not turned up to work and some school services had not run. the word on the street was that the company was to be placed into receivership by its owners, Halton Borough Council.

But the council remained tight-lipped despite it being known that "behind-closed-doors" meeting were on-going.

Then, just after lunch, the formal announcement came.

Amazingly, within minutes pf the formal statement, Arriva had published timetables for some replacement services. These were as follows:-

Halton 14A/14C - Runcorn, Widnes, Hough Green, Liverpool
Arriva 14A - Runcorn, Widnes, Hough Green

Halton 17 - Widnes, St Helens (joint with Arriva)
Arriva 17 - Widnes, St Helens
Arriva's contribution to the joint service was a bus every hour, so here there was an increase to every 40 minutes, not the most helpful of frequencies but and improvement on hourly!

Halton 61 - Liverpool, Prescot, Widnes, Runcorn
Arriva 61 - Childwall, Prescot, Widnes, Runcorn
the replacement 61 does not make it into central Liverpool, instead turning at Childwall near Doddy's famous Knotty Ash.
The Rocket look surprisingly modern ...
... so might be a modern replacement for a hostelry demolished to make way for yet another mega junction.
Liverpudlians will know - the pub is bottom right.

Halton 62 - Warrington, Runcorn, Widnes
Arriva 62 - Runcorn, Widnes
Arriva do not run between Warrington and Runcorn, but see below.

One week later (well, yesterday afternoon actually when fbb checked) Arriva had "upped" route 17 to every 30 minutes ...
... but leaving the 14A, 61 and 62 as shown above. It must be remembered that Arriva is a major player throughout the area and, presumably, they have no desire to take on services which might abstract from their pre C-day network.

Nevertheless, irrespective of the secret machinations of Halton Council, Arriva have to be congratulated on having these replacements up and running from Monday 27th - and, even more impressive, operation of some journeys from Saturday 25th. But obviously the Council had been giving and nod and a wink to Arriva well before the official announcement was made!

Warrington's buses, recently rebranded ...
... also entered the fray. They began by effusively welcoming ex Halton staff on social media ...
... but their detailed contribution was harder for an old codger based in sunny Seaton to discern.

In the end they are operating the Widnes to Warrington part of the 62 not covered by Arriva ...
... together with some tendered bits and pieces in Runcorn itself, e.g. 3D.
This leaves Halton's two Widnes local services:-

26/26A - Widnes Cronton circulars
27/27A - West Bank, Widnes, Shell Green

These seem too have vanished without trace at the moment, with no mention on the Council web site.

The Council is working hard with other transport providers to ensure, as  far as possible, that essential services are maintained. However, there will inevitably be disruption. The advice is that if you rely on a Halton Transport bus you should make alternative arrangements. The Council will make announcements on its website, social media and through media outlets in relation to alternative services as they are put in place and become operational.

The Board of Halton Transport and the Council would like to apologise to bus users for any inconvenience caused.

Arriva: updated timetable information
Warrington’s Own Buses: updated timetable information​​​​

Traveline, as ever, still thinks Halton Transport exists ...
... with 26 and 27 operating as before. Such is the delight and the speed of modern technology.

All together ...

 It's All On-Line - And Wrong!! 

As an outsider looking in from afar, fbb assumes that these links have not been replaced.

It should be remembered, however, that the urban areas of the North west have a complex and often unfathomable network of services so there will be other links to many of the "missing areas" - but  maybe not to the delightful (?) West Bank?

Bad News for Bath to Bowerhill
First's "Discover" branded routes were a big step forward in promoting inter-urban travel from Bath.
But now comes the news that First has de-registered the D3 from Melksham.
James Freeman explains all in his staff newsletter this week.
Doubtless someone will be found to run a poorer replacement service with a bit of Local Authority money, but it probably will be a reduction on what First have operated.

Once again, the "commercial" model fails to deliver; and passengers are now at the whim of cash-strapped councils.

It should not be like this if we are serious about the environment, global warming, pollution and the wellbeing of rural resdidents. Agencies SAY they are serious but ...

 Next Livery Delivery blog : Saturday 1st February 

Thursday 30 January 2020

Happier Happenings in Halton (2)

In 1909 Widnes started its own corporation bus service and purchased four Commer covered top double deck buses from Commercial Cars Ltd based in Luton.
These were the first covered top double deck buses in England "probably the world". They had to be covered top due to the corrosive atmosphere and acid rain in Widnes associated with the chemical factories. The name "Widnes Corporation" ...
... was displayed on the side of all the buses until April 1974 ...
... it was then that the name was changed to the present day name of  Halton Transport.
A lot has changed since those early days, but parts of the 1900s town can still be seen today. Here is Victoria Road ...
... looking towards Widnes Library and St Pauls Church. Most buildings can still be spotted ...
... but a large roundabout has appeared!
As Widnes Corporation, most routes were fairly local, but following Haltonisation, privatisation and deregulation (and possibly some other "ations") the arms length company expanded its operation (yep, there's another one) into more distant communities. Would that be after due commercial consideration, an expansive revelation and accompanied by some competitive consternation?

By C-day (C for Collapse), its main routes were as follows:-
Service 14A Liverpool to Hough Green and Runcorn
Service 14C Hough Green to Widnes
(via B5178)

Service 17 Widnes to St Helens
(Joint with Arriva)

Service 26/26A Widnes to Cronton Circular

Service 27/27A West Bank to Widnes and Shell Green
(27 ONLY on Saturdays)
South (West Bank) ...
... to North (Weates Close = Shell Green) local service

Service 61 Runcorn to Prescot and Liverpool

Service 62 Widnes to Runcorn and Warrington
(click on this TT to enlarge it)

There were a few other bits and pieces including some evening tendered work but notable there were 16 one-bus school services which must have been a huge challenge to the business.

And if you wonder why there is no longer any evidence of double deck vehicles, please remember that the Runcorn Busway is only suitable for single storey passenger carrying vehicles.
So it was that all of the above vanished with little warning at the end of last week.

Tomorrow's blog will explore how these services have been covered (or not?) by other operators since C-day.

 Next Happier Halton blog : Friday 31st January 

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Happier Happenings in Halton (1)

Halton Borough has some tenuous affinity with Milton Keynes. Both substantial communities take their names from villages which they have overwhelmed almost completely. The original Halton has rows of dainty cottages ...
... the remains of a red sandstone castle ...
... a church ...
... a pub ...
... and a shop. The village is quite sweet; but walk down the little road beside the shop ...
... and that side road (Holt Lane) suddenly becomes East Lane. Here are bridges ...
... and more bridges. You are on the eastern edge of the main Runcorn Shopping Centre.
The red bridges are for pedestrians; the concrete overpasses are part of the Runcorn busway ...
... a set of roads, some elevated, which carry ordinary (not guided) buses around the main parts of the original new town (shown in yellow on the map below).
The green roads are those also served by bus but not actually on the busway. These include the 52 which serves the High Street in Halton village.
The shop is centre left. The village (as was) is served by a local route 52, operated by Ashcroft Travel ...
... and calling every two hours.
But, of course, there is a much wider selection of services available at Halton Lea Gate, the somewhat posher sounding name for the shopping centre.

Originally Runc0rn and its busway was in the hands of Crosville ...
... later Arriva.

It was a boundary re-jig that, in 1974, merged Widnes Corporation with the developing new town at Runcorn into one "Unitary" authority and gave it the name Halton.
It always was a strange construct, with the two communities separated by the River Mersey. The original bridge (opened in 1961) ...
... used to be free whilst the new bridge ...
... charges a toll. When the old bridge is refurbished (work in progress) it, too, will charge a toll so the two halves of Halton will have to pay to visit one another! Seems a poor way to create a community! It was a transporter bridge that linked the communities until 1961 or, if you enjoyed a walk, the imposing railway bridge ...
... included a footpath.
It also charged a fee and was closed in 1965 ...
... and the ramp up from the pay box has been removed, but the final flight of stems still remains viewed from nearby Edith Street.
In 1909 Widnes Corporation started running buses and the company became Halton Transport and eventually an "arms length" operation which lasted, as we know, until last Friday.

Tomorrow we review the former Halton Transport bus network and see how the collapsed company's services have subsequently been covered.

The name of the railway viaduct is disputed. It is either The Queen Ethefleda Viaduct OR The Britannia Bridge!
The Transporter Bridge opened in 1905 and closed in 1961 when the first road bridge opened.

 More Halton Happenings blog : Thursday 30th January