East of the M60’s 600th post
Where did the time go? Did I used to have a life before I began blogging? To be honest I still do (how on earth do I manage to write the other 599 posts).
Right, that’s enough of the histrionics, time to go back on track…
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For our 600th post, East of the M60 has devoted this to the 600 bus route. Or rather, Wigan’s 600 route and a cast of nine others. Our 600 routes are as follows:
- Halifax – Ovenden Way – Nursery Lane (Halifax Bus Company);
- Wigan – Ashton-in-Makerfield – Golborne – Leigh (Stagecoach Wigan);
- Erdington and Brookvale Circular (Blue Diamond);
- Carlisle – Wigton – Cockermouth (Stagecoach in Cumbria);
- Thornhill Park and Ride – Churchill Hospital (Thames Travel);
- Two Waters [Bus Garage] – Chaulden (Arriva Shires and Essex);
- Hatfield Business Park – Hatfield Railway Station (Uno);
- Belfast, Europa Buscentre – George Best Belfast City Airport (Translink);
- Bathgate – Blackburn – Whitburn Circular (Passenger Travel);
- Cardigan – Quay West (Cymbdeithas Cludiant Gwledig Presli Rural Transport Association).
Let’s board, tender our exact fare and enjoy the ride.
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1. Halifax – Ovenden Way – Nursery Lane Circular: The Halifax Bus Company is an independent company based in Sowerby Bridge, and they operate our first 600 of this Not So Perfect Ten. It serves the north western part of the town leaving Albion Street at 0807 (or 0903 on Saturdays) and operates – according to Metro West Yorkshire’s timetable – ‘a frequent service’, by which they generally mean every 10 minutes (or that they couldn’t be bothered putting all the times in). There is no Sunday service.
Confusingly, the 600 timetable has two 600 routes: the second one is a shuttle service which links Halifax town centre with the railway station. In other words, Calderdale’s equivalent to TfGM subsidised Metroshuttle services. This operates every 20 minutes throughout the daytime, again without a Sunday service.
2. Wigan – Ashton-in-Makerfield – Golborne – Leigh: Till the 02 December 2012, the 600 was originally First Greater Manchester’s route. Today, it is one of Wigan’s most frequent – though less direct – ways of reaching Leigh, and operated by the newly formed Stagecoach Wigan operation. It has a steady 12 minute daytime frequency on weekdays and Saturdays with a hourly evening service (half hourly when co-worked with 601). There is also a number of part route workings which terminate at Ashton-in-Makerfield and a Night Service in the weekend. The full route is scheduled to take one hour and five minutes.
3. Brookvale Park – Erdington: We go to the West Midlands for Blue Diamond’s 600. The company is a Rotala subsidiary, hitherto known as Central Connect, and their 600 operates once hourly. It operates an off-peak daytime only service via Gravelly Hill and has no Sunday service.
4. Cockermouth – Carlisle: Our fourth 600 takes in more demanding terrain. Operated by Stagecoach in Cumberland, its core route comprises of nine southbound journeys and eleven in the opposite direction, operating roughly every two hours. There are three connecting return journeys to Whitehaven on weekdays, with five return journeys on Saturday (some continue to West Cumberland Hospital). There is also a single return journey on Saturday originating at Asby which connects at Cockermouth, timed to cater for weekend shoppers.
There is no Sunday service, but it is our second 600 service to boast evening journeys. These leave Cockermouth at 1858, 2058 and 2258, and Carlisle at 2000 and 2200 (all right for sampling real ales in Cockermouth but less so in Carlisle). The core route takes an hour, but the addition of Asby (with guaranteed connection at Cockermouth) adds a further hour and seven minutes.
5. Thornhill Park and Ride – Churchill Hospital Circular: Thames Travel’s park and ride service operates solely in peak hours during the weekdays. It links Thornhill’s Park and Ride interchange with the Nuffield Orthopaedic and Churchill Hospitals via Headington. In just under half an hour, it completes the full circuit with ten journeys and two part route workings.
6. Two Waters – Chaulden Circular: we go to Hemel Hempstead for another circular route. This time, our sixth 600 has one journey on weekdays and two on Saturdays. The circuit takes 40 minutes to complete, starting and finishing from Arriva The Shires and Essex’s Two Waters bus garage. Early birds need only apply as the weekday journey leaves at 0535, reaching Hemel Hempstead railway station at 0613. The Saturday services depart at 0600 and 0700 (arriving at the railway station for 0638 and 0738). Given the unearthly time, I wonder how well patronised it is? It seems like a drivers’ shuttle bus which has been made available for public use.
7. Hatfield Station – Frobisher Way Circular: there seems to be a preference towards allocating round numbers (like 600 of course) for circular routes, and Uno’s 600 is no exception. Uno was formerly known as UniversityBus and was set up in 1992 by the University of Hertfordshire. Its original purpose was safe transportation of student (rather like Hulme Hall Coaches does today, though with smarter buses). As Uno, they have cast their net further and became a full fat bus operator serving its locality. They have also began operations in St. Albans and Northampton.
Their 600 route interworks with the 650. Both routes combine to create a 10 minute frequency between Hatfield railway station and its business park. Every 20 minutes, the 600 calls at the Computacenter and DHL offices, whereas the 650 goes via Comet Way. Their 600 operates on a weekday basis during morning and evening peaks. Besides its basic frequency, there are extra journeys during the peak of the peak hours.
8. Belfast – George Best Belfast City Airport: for our eighth 600, we get a taxi from Hatfield to Stansted, and get a flight to Belfast City Airport. From there, we can explore the city of Belfast and catch Translink’s Airport Express service.
Translink’s express route takes 13 minutes to complete its journey, and has a 20 minute daytime frequency. Evening and Sunday services operate every 40 minutes, making this our second 600 route to boast a Sunday service. There are some weekend variations serving the Odyssey Arena and the Titanic Quarter.
9. Bathgate – Whitburn Circular: this time, we return to Belfast City Airport on a flight to Edinburgh [Turnhouse], then a taxi to Bathgate. Bathgate was known in recent times for the British Motor Corporation plant which closed in 1986 (also namechecked along with Linwood, another fallen Scottish car plant, in the Proclaimers’ 1987 hit ‘Letter From America’).
Their 600 route operates once hourly on Monday to Saturday daytimes. Interestingly, our Scottish 600 route also cosies up to another 650 route (as with Hatfield’s). Other places served en route include Blackburn, famously the home of Britain’s Got Talent singing sensation Susan Boyle.
10. Cardigan – Quay West: for our final route, we have a summer only service from Quay West to Cardigan, which skirts the southern end of Cardigan Bay. Its two hour journey takes in a number of remote villages along the way including Patch, Penmorfa and Gilfach. There are two journeys, departing at 0900 and 1400 hours from Cardigan (Finch Square), leaving Quay West at 1110 and 1610 hours. There is no Wednesday service but a Sunday service is available.
Operated by Cymdeithas Cludiant Gwledig Preseli Rural Transport Association, they also offers demand responsive transport and minibus hire for community groups. All drivers are volunteers local to the area.
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Before I go…
Feel free to comment about your experiences aboard the ten 600 routes detailed above. We especially welcome comments from anybody who has experienced Hemel Hempstead’s 600 route, or any of the more esoteric ones.
S.V., 06 February 2013.