Needing to go to shops outside of Barton today I caught the 350 bus to Hull this morning. The service links Hull, Barton and Scunthorpe operating hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes with reduced frequencies in the evening and on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It is operated by Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, East Yorkshire and Veolia/Dunn Line/Alpha Coaches (Sundays only).
The main daytime service uses three buses - two from Stagecoach's Scunthorpe depot and one East Yorkshire bus. Stagecoach use Volvo/Wright full size single deckers while EYMS use a double decker - a Volvo Olympian, Plaxton President or Eclipse Gemini. Catching the 0910 from Scunthorpe in Barton Market Place, the service was operated by an EYMS Olympian. I chose this service on purpose for the better view from a double decker and also to ensure I got a seat. By the time we left Barton we had about 65 passengers on board - and then picked up a few more on the North Bank. Rather glad it wasn't a Stagecoach single decker!!! Good healthy mix as well of families, OAP's and those aged in between.
In Hull the service operated along Boothferry Road and Anlaby Road and is limited stop in certain places. It creates the spectacle of passing bus stops with passengers who let the service go by, and then driving straight past stops with passengers trying to hail the bus down. No doubt the restrictions are to aid time keeping (rather important with train connections to keep at Barton) and to minimise revenue abstraction from other services. But for the sake of a couple of passengers would it be better to remove these restrictions? It would also open up new stops to South Bank passengers such as the KC Stadium - Barton does have a lot of Hull City fans, though not me.
A couple of passengers got off at Hull Royal Infirmary - why isn't this a timing point? More and more hospital patients from the South Bank have to go there, both routine, and emergencies from the Barton area as well (it's the nearest hospital). Potential to attract more passengers if they knew about it.
Anyway getting into Hull we didn't pull up into the allocated stand since the next 350, being operated by an EYMS President was on stand. It didn't look to have many passengers on but it was early for shoppers to be going home (1025). It should be noted that the 350 has a good stand at Hull Bus Station being one of the nearest to the Shops, Travel Centre and Fernesway.
Having got my shopping very quickly I caught the 1125 return operated by Stagecoach and Volvo/Wright single decker. Counting the passengers getting off I think there were only 34 - just over half the service an hour earlier - a surprising big difference. Even more surprising was the 20 or so passengers on the journey back to Barton - I thought there would be far less since it was still early for shoppers to return home.
On leaving Hull the bus goes around via the Prospect Centre - great - apart from the fact it doesn't stop there. To try and improve time keeping for train connections, the Friends of the Barton Line want the service diverted via Park Street but that depends on bridge strengthening. Might as well go this way since the current Prospect Centre route serves no purpose.
Overall the 350 is a popular service with capacity issues at times - I've caught a Stagecoach single decker to Scunthorpe on a Saturday before that had about 10 standees leaving Barton. Double deckers are the answer but when there are strong winds these are banned from the Humber Bridge. EYMS have a large fleet from which to find a single decker instead but the spare buses at Stagecoach's tend to be double deckers.
So the solution is to increase frequency to half hourly with single deckers. This plan was revealed by Stagecoach East Midlands MD in an interview with a trade magazine last year. A higher frequency should hopefully attract new customers - 55 minutes is a long wait if you missed the last bus, 25 minutes less so. Hopefully East Yorkshire would retain double deckers though for tourists wanting a ride over the Humber Bridge.
Finally a note on publicity - there is now a dedicated timetable, and it is available at Hull Interchange. In the past it was just a Nortth Lincolnshire Council timetable or a RoadCar leaflet available on the South Bank only. Stagecoach also mention the service in their Hull Bus Guide though actually showing it on the map would be good too since it is part of the Hull Bus Network and does have North Bank customers.
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