Friday, 23 January 2015

THROUGH DALE & OVER THE HIGH PEAK



It was back in 2012 that we focussed our attention on and published a feature about one of Britain’s scenic routes. The TransPeak service across the Derbyshire Peak District has operated for several decades now in a variety of guises, and the latest has brand new 64-plate buses assigned to the route. However it has not always been operated with buses as for many of those years the route has been run with a variety of coaches. 
So perhaps now is an opportune time to remind us how diverse the vehicles have been that served the route from 1984 to the present day. Back in 1984 the service numbered 252 and operated by the Trent company, ran from Nottingham via Derby, Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton to Stockport and Manchester taking three hours and twenty-five minutes to complete the journey. Monday to Saturday the route ran at two hourly intervals, Sundays with three journeys over the whole route and three run short between Nottingham and Buxton. It then became the R1 and subsequently was re-numbered TP for TransPeak and continues to be marketed as such to this day. 
Until 2012 the route was generally operated with coaches. However, a major change occurred on the 1st of April that year, when the operation of the route was placed into the hands of the High Peak Bus Company. This new company was created in a joint venture by Centrebus and the Wellglade Group, using the staff and vehicle fleet of Bowers Coaches of Chapel-en-le-Frith and the TrentBarton operations based at Buxton. Indeed the company operates out of the Dove Holes Garage to the north of Buxton with around 50 vehicles and 100 staff. As a consequence the headway and a terminal point have changed, cutback from Nottingham to start at Derby and runs hourly to Buxton with four journeys onwards to Manchester. Despite the shortened route, the timetabled journey between Derby and Manchester is still three hours and twenty-five minutes.



This Duple bodied Leyland Tiger was one of five delivered to the Trent company in 1984 and assigned fleet number 109. As it was seen in this white livery perhaps it was used on express services elsewhere and as a stand-in for other vehicles, although the application of minimal route detail suggests it was a semi-permanent issue. Here though it circumnavigates the roundabout in the centre of Bakewell on the 252 route bound for Nottingham.





August 1985 and Trent’s fleet number 141 pauses at the bus stop by the old post office at Ashford-in-the-Water whilst on the way to Nottingham. This 1979 Plaxton bodied Leyland and a few others like it, sports this really pleasant all-over branding for the service, which certainly catches the eye.





Further along the route and the opportunity arises to photograph the rear aspect as it pauses to take on passengers at Bakewell.



Travelling the other way and the nearside aspect of sister vehicle 140 is captured as it approaches the entrance to the bus station in Matlock, destined for Buxton and Manchester. The headway of every 2-hours remained in place for many years. All of the main centres of population are advertised on the vehicle at the top of the windows on either side. Green of the landscape and blue skies above appear on the side, front and rear panels.



An encounter with the service during April 1994 was quite different as by then the pleasant livery on the Leylands had been replaced by former Barton red-base liveried DAFs. These Plaxton Paramount bodied coaches had previously been operated on various long distance services before the company was merged with the Trent company. Depositing walkers in the centre of Bakewell this particular vehicle which dated from 1983, had originally been delivered to the Barton company with the registration ARB 613Y.



By now the route had been renumbered from 252 to the R1 as shown here on similar vehicle 1624, previously 624 in the Barton fleet. Here the vehicle has come off of the main A6 trunk road and begun to negotiate the narrower lanes to and through the village of Taddington. The route renumbering was all part of the great plan devised by Trent for their so-called ‘Rainbow’ and letter-prefixed services.




The following month of May and the local tradition of well-dressing had begun along with the usual round of flower festivals throughout the area. Ashford-in-the-Water again but this time with a Plaxton Supreme bodied Leyland Leopard, one of five purchased in 1978. Fleet number 1132 in a silver and red coaching livery passes through the busy village on way to Manchester.




Double-deckers in the main Trent fleet at present are very much a thing of the past, with virtually all mainstream services operated by saloons. However, a very rare event occurred back in June 1994, when this Eastern Coachworks bodied Leyland Olympian number 700, was captured on film on the service. Here it is illustrated as it pulls out of the bus station in Matlock when on way to Manchester. The views across the Peak must have been magnificent on this beautiful sunny summer’s day.




The R1 route number continued to be displayed through the early-1990s, but in time was changed to TP.  In 1994 five Alexander Q bodied Volvo B10B dual-purpose seated buses were placed into service and assigned fleet numbers 51-55. Here number 54 enters Stockport bus station with all the main centres of population described on rather less than bold branding above the window line. A revised logo was also applied to the side panels and featured a peaked and split word “TRANSPEAK” over a green surrounded hill-like triangular shape.



During December 1994 a batch of ten Volvo B10B buses with Northern Counties bodywork was acquired. Once in a while these buses deputised on the service when one of the dedicated vehicles was unavailable. 138 appears here as it enters Ashford-in-the-Water in September 1998.




1998 saw another major change when the vehicles began to appear in service after a complete external makeover. Gone was the standard red and cream livery, replaced in favour of various shades of green with white in between. Bold place names were back on the tops of the side windows and just the split peaked “TRANSPEAK” name adorned the panels over a representation of hills. Here number 51 passes by the small Trent operated Matlock Garage out of which one or two of the buses operated.



A nearside of the same vehicle as it passes through the Market Place at Buxton on a gloomy and overcast day in February 2000. Note the plate in the nearside windscreen that stated “SELECTED STOPS”, not limited stop which is perhaps what one would expect.



In 1997 a fleet of five Volvo B10M coaches with Plaxton Premiere Interurban bodywork were acquired and placed into service on the then new Red Arrow service between Nottingham and Chesterfield via Derby. Several years later these were replaced and became available for alternative service. During the early 2000s they were repainted into another version of the TransPeak livery as shown here by number 60 as it passes through Matlock in December 2004. The upper case lettering for the service has given way to a more modern lower case version as had the ‘peak’ motif on the panels.



Due to the popularity of the route by now the headway had been increased to hourly as far as Buxton and additional vehicles were required.  Existing fleet low floor Optare Excels began to make appearances such as 233 shown as it rejoins the main A6 having passed through Ashford-in-the-Water in November 2007. Apart from the ‘TP’ route number, a board in the windscreen helped to identify the bus is on the TransPeak route.




Optare Excel 157 became one of the first of the type to re-appear in the revised green livery.   However, the body design made it nigh on impossible to include the round-shaped pictures in the area of the rear wheels. Here the bus climbs away from near to Chelmorton on a cloudless but crisp afternoon in February 2008.



Yet another revision to the livery manifested itself by 2009 as illustrated here on Volvo coach number 59 as it heads east out of Bakewell on a bright spring day. A much more pleasing green was the base colour, which probably blends into the surrounding countryside better than the earlier version. The livery features a large circular image over the rear wheels and individual coaches feature several different locations along the route. On 59 the picture is of Derby Cathedral.



Headed the other way on a full run to Manchester, number 56 on the eastern approach into the village of Taddington just off of the old A6 trunk road. A slight difference is in the destination equipment, number 56 uses a dot-matrix as opposed to roller blind. This vehicle features a picture of Matlock Bath over the rear wheels. 



The rear end of number 56 is also shown here as it passes out of Taddington bound for Nottingham. The bold picture here depicts Haddon Hall. The company makes good use of the rear panel with an encouraging message to lure people out of their cars and onto the service. Softer lower case lettering is used instead of the ‘shouty’ capital upper case style.



February 2011 and Optare Excel 158 at Buxton as it starts out on a return journey to Nottingham, once again in good crisp late winter Derbyshire weather. By now the Excel appears to have become the normal type of vehicle on the service. The town is surrounded by 500 square miles of National Parkland and is one of Derbyshire’s principal resorts.


THE HIGH PEAK BUS COMPANY

The 1st April 2012 saw major change when the route was taken over by the new High Peak Bus Company, a joint 50/50 operation between Centrebus and Trent. Gradually over time the Volvo coaches began to disappear from service, their place taken by an assortment of other vehicles. One of the most innovative though was the minimal introduction of double-deck operation. This came in the shape of a Scania N230UD with an East Lancs body in the blue, orange and white livery of Centrebus. Transferred down from their Huddersfield operation it had originally been one of nine initially operated by the London United company on their intense route 148 through the Capital.




It operated predominantly on the 0910 ex.Nottingham and 1315 ex.Manchester departures. However, owing to the route running mostly north west in the morning and south east in the afternoon, it proved rather difficult to illustrate the nearside on a sunny day. However, as luck would have it the approach into Buxton from Manchester on the afternoon run combined with a lack of traffic, the sun high in the sky and a following wind (!), the nearside aspect was captured, mainly in order to illustrate the conversion from dual to single-door configuration. However, on closer inspection the viewer will note the vehicle had bus seating, thus 907 was replaced by similar bus 904 that had dual-purpose seats




The offside of 904 bus is shown here as it passes through Buxton town centre towards the Market Place when bound for Nottingham in September. It also bears the new bus company’s name and a slightly revised curved livery.



With the wide open spaces of the High Peak as a backdrop, 904 powers its way up an incline on the B5270 between the A6 and A515 to the south of Buxton. With seats on the top deck at a premium passengers are afforded magnificent views across the Derbyshire Peak District. The white building in the background though is at the mining area of Peak Forest.



During the winter 2013/14 the bus received an exterior makeover and reappeared at the beginning of the 2014 season in a full two-tone green livery complete with TransPeak names and motifs. The revised livery is illustrated here as 904 pauses at the bus stop outside of Masson Mills between Cromford and Matlock Bath. Bold route branding between the decks also show that by now the route had been cut back from Nottingham to commence daily service from Derby.



The fully intact nearside aspect is shown here as the bus pulls away from the railway station interchange facility at Matlock town. Almost fully laden the bus has just over another two hours before it reaches its destination of Manchester.

A REGRETTABLE INCIDENT

Some weeks later the bus was involved in an incident in Manchester, when sent on a diversion  and was de-roofed beneath a railway bridge. Several passengers were injured. Regrettably although re-roofed and fully repainted into the two-tone green livery, the bus never returned to the TransPeak service. It was sent from High Peak to the ‘low peaks’ of Lincolnshire, and the Centrebus operations at Grantham. The bus certainly provided enthusiasts and ‘Joe Public’ passengers with an interesting interlude for a while.



However, green liveried Scanias continue to operate the route in a variety of guises. First up is fleet number 704 a Wrightbus bodied K230UB version here as it passes southbound through Taddington in January 2015. The livery is relatively unobtrusive as it passes through this area of outstanding natural beauty.



Another Scania is this N94UB type with Scania bodywork acquired second-hand and was originally a demonstrator. Here 788 is driven with enthusiasm along the open roads of the High Peak bound for Manchester, again in January 2015.



The Scanias have now been joined by a fleet of four brand new Alexander Dennis E20D Enviro200 single-deck buses with dual-purpose seating. They were delivered in December 2014 and are in full Centrebus livery as opposed to the green hues of the route-branding. Assigned fleet numbers 591-594 they soon entered service unadorned, as illustrated here by number 593 out on the High Peak near to Chelmorton on a cold but very clear January day. Contrails from aircraft bound for Manchester airport show just how cold it is.



This feature is all brought to a completion with the current version of TransPeak branding. Fleet number 591 is driven again with enthusiasm along the A515 at Brierlow Bar, bound for Derby. The hills behind are covered in a light dusting of snow and the outside temperature is O-Centigrade, but the passengers appear warm and cosy inside. The high backed seating can also be observed and we are reliably informed that these buses have a fair turn of speed on the open road, of which there are many such miles on the route.

Other operators have run the Transpeak but not as fulsome as by Trent. In the early 1980s there were two round trips operated by Ribble and the East Midland Motor Services ran one seasonal Sunday journey each way between Manchester and Crich. GM Buses also ran once in the late 1980s, when Trent decided not to run all the service between Christmas and the New Year. 

And finally.........



On the 24th January 591 is seen here in the Belper bus garage cum station when on an afternoon journey northwards from Derby. 




It was not so much the bus but the infrastructure that caught the photographer's eye, and reminded him of images captured some twelve years earlier in July 2003. The roof structure is barely changed, but the buses certainly are and provide something of a contrast. Both are preservation projects, well they were back in 2003. The single-deck was fleet number 417, a 1940 BMMO built SON type with Willowbrook bodywork, the other a Leyland Titan again with bodywork from Willowbrook but built in 1958 and numbered 1054. 

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