Happy New Year ... or maybe not so happy as the issue of concessionary travel hits the news again, with four Stagecoach operated services in North Lincolnshire under threat from 29th March after plans from North Lincolnshire Council to cut reimbursement rates for operators. The four services are operated under contract to North Lincolnshire Council and Stagecoach claims they will loose £75,000 compared to last year if it continued operation with the proposed new reimbursement rates.
The services affected are the:
10: Scunthorpe local service, hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes
150: East Halton-North Killingholme-Immingham-Grimsby, two return journeys Wednesday and Friday, plus a one-way service from East Halton 5 days a week
327: Scunthorpe to Dragonby, Fridays only
450: Barton to Brigg, 5 weekday services and 3 on Saturdays
North Lincolnshire Council will either have to increase it's proposed reimbursement rate or retender the services. However any retender would likely result in a higher cost than at present considering the new reimbursement rate. Therefore unless any extra funding is found, some cutbacks have to be considered.
Cutbacks will mean hard decisions, particularly as these are the only bus services for various villages and some parts of Scunthorpe. The 10 uniquely serves Lilac Avenue, Sandhouse Crescent, Harley Road, Bellingham Road Dudley Road and Fulbeck Road in Frodingham and Ashby. Some of these areas have other services nearby, but some do not. One option could be a reduced frequency and an attempted interworking with other low frequency services in Scunthorpe such as the 11, 16 or 17, but without knowing the current diagrams it's impossible to say how practical this idea would be.
The 150 is the only fixed bus service for North Killingholme; East Halton also has a Thursday service to Barton (253). The 150 also serves South Killingholme and Habrough but both of these benefited from the service 45 changes last year. Maybe a reduction in operating days to one day a week, and/or reduction to a single return journey could be an option to reduce costs. Habrough could possibly be omitted now it has the hourly 45H, and maybe a diversion via bus-less Stallingborough Village introduced?
The 327 is also the only bus service for the village it serves; Dragonby. Residents can walk to the A1077 and catch the 350 Humber Fastcat as an alternative, but for OAP's this maybe easier said than done.
The 450 is potentially the biggest issue here; it carries a large number of school students, mainly from Barton, to school and sixth form in Brigg - there is a reason why a double decker is used on the service. However the rest of the day, and on Saturdays and School Holidays, it is rather empty. The 450 is also the only bus service for the 'low villages' of Horkstow, Saxby, Bonby and Worlaby (except for the 640 to Scunthorpe Colleges and a Tesco free bus).
Personally I would question the need for a six day a week service considering the low usage. So maybe a potential cutback possible here. Would it be cheaper to split the schools service from the rest of the service, which could then possibly be reduced to provide a shopping link to Brigg say 2 or 3 days a week, and a similar link to Barton 1 or 2 days a week? It's been over 18 months since I regularly used this service, but based on usage at the time, such a proposal would be better suited to demand.
The schools element is one of the most concerning here since it could force some students to have to change schools. However Barton, Barrow, Goxhill and South Ferriby are out of catchment for the Brigg schools and North Lincolnshire Council have no obligation to provide transport. Hopefully if the council withdrew the schools service, another operator would consider providing a commercial service.
I've posted some ideas of how costs could be cut without totally cancelling services, but it will be for North Lincolnshire Council to take some big and hard decisions in the coming weeks.
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