At the start of the year, Barton had hourly services to Hull and Scunthorpe, and a roughly 2 Hourly service to Grimsby (plus others to Brigg, Goxhill and East Halton). The only time a low floor bus was guaranteed to visit the town was three days a week when the town service runs (though EYMS usually sent a Gemini on some 350 journeys).
By the end of 2009 Barton's bus service has been transformed. The 350 to Hull and Scunthorpe has doubled in frequency to half hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes, while the service to Grimsby is now hourly as the 45B. The 350 is fully low floor operated, and the 45B often is too.
Back in March, Stagecoach and EYMS relaunched the 350 as the Humber Fastcat with a very distinctive orange livery. Stagecoach invested in six new MAN/Enviro 300 buses for the relaunch, and their Hull depot took on two diagrams for the first time. The route was also altered, diverting down Frodingham Road in Scunthorpe and also using the Hull City Centre Loop outbound. This latter diversion has been very much appreciated by me!
A welcome new weekly ticket was also launched, though the normal fares are rather high in my opinion, and EYMS increased their Barton to Hull return fares by over 20% at the time of the relaunch.
The relaunch seems to have been a success, at least short term; passenger figures are up 30% and it was shortlisted for a UK Bus Award. Hopefully stronger passenger growth will occur in 2010, considering the increase in number of services is far more than 30%, but it's a good start. Finally, while I don't want to be too downbeat, I hope the problems affecting the Humber Flyer don't spread to the Humber Fastcat.
The second major improvement to the bus services in Barton occurred in September when the Grimsby service 250 was replaced by the 45B. A far better timetable with earlier and later journeys plus an increased hourly frequency. For South Killingholme the increase was even better, gaining a new half hourly frequency. Meanwhile Habrough gained an hourly bus service six days a week, the first time it has had a 6 day a week daytime service for a number of years.
But unlike the Humber Fastcat, this change had losers as well as winners. Immingham, Stallingborough and Healing went from 3-4 buses an hour to just 2 as the 45 was reduced from every 20 minutes to half hourly and the 250 withdrawn. The link to Victoria Street Tesco was also axed, and the historic service to Immingham Docks withdrawn and replaced by services to the MIC Plant instead. Just to add to the bad news the 'new' 45 is no longer officially low floor, though in recent weeks my observations of the 45B at least indicate most service are now low floor operated.
Winners and losers - that happens a lot with service changes. As a Bartonian I've been lucky but for Immingham the cut seems savage. Hopefully in the future Stagecoach may reconsider the level of service they provide the town.
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