At one stage in Carlisle's history, trams plied the city streets. The last one ran as long ago as the early 1930s, replaced by buses which could extend into the city's growing suburbs without the construction costs of extending the tram system.
Carlisle's city buses
Today, most of Carlisle's bus services are provided by Stagecoach.
A network of six cross-city services operates within Carlisle. The routes are colour-coded, both on publicity and on the buses themselves. Well, some of the buses to be more precise.
Buses branded for routes 61 and 61A carry a pink flash on their Stagecoach livery.
Routes 61 and 61A between them operate at high frequency, with a bus every 8-10 minutes over most of the route.
Routes 67 and 68, branded green, also run every 8-10 minutes where they share sections of route.
Route 62 is branded purple. The 62 operates every 15 minutes over much of its route, although a less frequent service is provided at the northern end of the route.
In the early mornings, part of the service operates as route 62A. The 62A diverts via industrial estates which are otherwise not served by buses.
As in most of the United Kingdom, the buses have just one set of doors. Passengers wanting to board must wait for people to get off.
Route 76, with orange branding, also operates every 15 minutes.
Carlisle's civic centre and council offices form the backdrop to the image below.
Route 60 is branded blue.
The service operates every 20 minutes.
All five of these cross-city routes operate seven days a week, running until late evening. Lower frequencies are provided through the evenings and on Sundays. Part of route 62 receives only a limited service at these times, while route 60A covers most (but not all) of route 60.
The sixth service is the odd one out.
Route 69 is operated by smaller vehicles than those used on other Carlisle city services.
The service is more limited, with an hourly service operating between 09:00 and 15:00 only. There is no service in the evenings, nor on Sundays.
On Stagecoach publicity material, the service is colour coded red.
However, the buses I saw on route 69 did not carry red branding. This is not surprising. It appears more than likely that the buses are used on other services at times when the 69 is not operating.
Route 69 is not alone in having buses which are not colour coded.
On the other five cross-city services, I found buses with a generic "Carlisle" branding in use alongside the branded buses.
This does provide some flexibility to the operator, with a number of vehicles which can be deployed on any of the routes.
However, if colour coding is intended to help passengers to identify an individual service, it becomes less effective when not all buses on the service are colour coded.
And then there's this one.
In some of the places I have visited, buses in commercial advertising liveries are commonplace. Not so in Carlisle, where I found only one Stagecoach bus which was not in its operator's colours.
This vehicle is branded for a community organisation which is supported by Stagecoach.
Note that the bus has a pink-coloured flash, suggesting that belongs on routes 61 and 61A.
Although I found single-deck buses operating the city services, I did notice a double-decker operating a schools service.
This vehicle is not accessible to people using wheelchairs, nor is it designed for parents with buggies. I would not therefore expect to see it out on "mainstream" services.
There is a seventh city service operating within Carlisle. However, as Stagecoach don't run it, their publicity makes no mention of it.
The 64A is operated by Reay's with small single-deck buses branded as "cityhopper". The service runs hourly from around 08:00 to 17:00. The route does not operate during the evenings or on Sundays.
Fares within the city
On Stagecoach buses, single fares currently range from £1 to £2.20 depending on how far you travel. Tickets do not allow interchange between buses so, if your journey requires you to change buses, you will end up paying more. However, an all-day ticket is available for £3, valid on all Stagecoach buses within Carlisle city. Weekly and monthly tickets are also available
Reay's website gives no information at all about their fares. It would seem a fair bet that the Stagecoach all day ticket would not be accepted on route 64A, nor would Reay's tickets be accepted on Stagecoach services.
Carlisle's out-of-town buses
A number of bus services link Carlisle with surrounding towns.
Most services heading out of town start from a small bus station. The city services don't call at the bus station, although they do stop nearby.
Some (but not all) of the out of town services are provided by Stagecoach.
Route 300, heading south west towards the coastal town of Whitehaven, is operated with double-deck buses. These carry the Stagecoach Gold brand.
The Stagecoach Gold brand offers buses with high-specification interiors including leather seating, and free wi-fi. Normal fares are charged.
During the evening and on Sundays, this service operates as route 301.
Although the buses run to Whitehaven, they display "Maryport for Whitehaven" when leaving Carlisle. This is purely a technicality.
From end to end, the route is more than 50 kilometres long, meaning it would have to comply with European drivers' hours regulations. Advertising the route as running in two sections, both of which are shorter than 50km, may enable Stagecoach to take advantage of less stringent rules.
A similar arrangement applies to route 554, which operates four times a day to Keswick in the Lake District. Buses leave Carlisle displaying "Wigton for Keswick". They change display at Wigton then continue the journey to Keswick.
The regular double-decker allocated to route 554 carries special "Lakes" branding for the service.
There is a second, more limited service linking Carlisle with Keswick. Route 73 operates once a day (twice on Saturdays), from late March until early November. There is no service during the winter period. Buses leave Carlisle in morning, returning from Keswick in the evening. I found a midibus in use on the 73, but didn't get a photograph.
On other routes heading out of Carlisle, I generally found single-deck buses operating.
I did, however, find one of the step-floor double-deckers operating alongside single-deckers on route 104, which heads south from Carlisle to Penrith.
As this vehicle is not suitable for people using wheelchairs or parents with buggies, I was quite surprised to see it being used in all-day service.
Stagecoach operate two services from Carlisle into southern Scotland.
Routes 79 and 179 provide a half-hourly service to Gretna and Annan. Route 79 continues to Dumfries once an hour.
A less frequent cross-border service from Carlisle, to Gretna Green and Lockerbie, is provided by route 382.
Route 685 is a lengthy route across the North of England to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Some journeys on route 685 are operated by Stagecoach, while others are provided by Arriva.
Between them, the two operators provide an hourly service.
Once again, this lengthy route is advertised in sections, presumably enabling the operators to take advantage of less strict legal rules applying to drivers' hours.
Arriva's buses leave Carlisle bus station displaying "Haydon Bridge for Newcastle". At Haydon Bridge, the buses change route number to 85 for the onward journey to Newcastle.
Stagecoach buses use route number 685 for the entire journey. Leaving Carlisle they display "Brampton" rather than "Haydon Bridge". On route 685, both operators accept each other's tickets. The one exception is Arriva's mobile phone tickets, which can not be used on journeys operated by Stagecoach.
Longer still is route X95 to Edinburgh, well over 100 kilometres north of Carlisle. This service, branded as "The Ridings", is provided by First.
Buses run hourly from Carlisle.
Unlike most of the out-of-town services, the X95 doesn't serve Carlisle Bus Station. It picks up instead close to the city's railway station.
The X95 is another service advertised in sections, presumably to take advantage of drivers' hours regulations. Buses leave Carlisle displaying "Langholm, for Kelso, Galashiels, Newtongrange, Edinburgh". They will change display more than once on the 3½ hour journey to the Scottish capital.
Telford's Coaches also operate a cross-border service from Carlisle into Scotland.
Like First's X95, Telford's 127A does not serve Carlisle Bus Station. This service is less frequent, with 5 journeys per day.
I also found a high-floor minibus operated by Telford's. This was on route 185, which operates twice a day into Carlisle from the east.
As far as I can tell, the bus does not provide wheelchair accessibility.
Although most of the buses I saw in Carlisle were conventional diesel-powered vehicles, Reay's were using hybrid-powered buses on their 75 service which operates through Carlisle. Route 75 operates hourly.
The buses carry "ecohopper" branding.
Route 75 calls in at Carlisle's bus station as it passes through the city.
Reay's also operate a couple of other, infrequent services into Carlisle.
Not all of the out-of-town services run during the evening or at weekends. Those that do generally operate less frequently at those times.
In addition to those illustrated in this post, two further operators reach Carlisle infrequently.
Fellrunner is a community minibus operator serving small villages in the area south of Carlisle. These villages are generally not served by conventional public transport. The services rely on volunteer drivers. Twice a week the minibus operates into Carlisle.
Finally, Irving's Coaches provides services to and from a bingo hall a short distance outside Carlisle's city centre. Although these are operated under contract to the bingo hall, at least one of them operates as a public service.
Fares on out-of-town services
Each operator sets its own fares. Tickets are generally not interchangeable between operators, except on route 685 as noted above, nor do single tickets permit transfer onto another bus.
As well as an all-day ticket valid within Carlisle itself, Stagecoach also offer a "Day Rider Plus" ticket which is valid into the area surrounding the city. Also available is an "Explorer" day ticket, allowing travel as far as Dumfries and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as well as throughout the Lake District. At the time of writing, the Day Rider Plus is priced at £6.70, with the Explorer costing £10.80. Stagecoach offer weekly and monthly versions of these tickets.
Of the other operators, fares information is available on the websites of First and Arriva. The bingo hall services charge a return fare of £1. I have been unable to find any information about fares or tickets offered by Reay's, Telford's or Fellrunner.
As well as the information provided on the operators' own websites, Cumbria County Council's website contains maps and timetables for bus services in Carlisle and throughout Cumbria.