Now the details of Stagecoach's recent changes have been reviewed, I want to take a more general look at Stagecoach's operations in the region, starting with Scunthorpe. Scunthorpe wasn't too badly affected in April's changes. By my calculations the PVR (peak vehicle requirement) was only reduced by 2, and half of this was a tender loss.
However it could have been worse - Stagecoach had cancelled the 90 (PVR 2) but North Lincolnshire Council stepped in to save it on an emergency tender pending a longer term solution being found. No one can say Stagecoach haven't tried with their Brigg and later Crowle services, the 909, 909/910 then the 90; increased frequencies, and for Brigg a far quicker route. However it clearly hasn't worked.
Why? In part this may be down to competition. Between Brigg and Scunthorpe the main service is Hornsby's established route 4 (and there is also tendered service 95). Stagecoach and RoadCar have no recent history of being the main provider of services between the two towns. The 365 which existed before the 909 returned was only every 2 hours, and it's been a while since the 'original' 909 operated. And between Scunthorpe and Crowle there is competition to a more limited extent from Sweyne Coaches, and tendered Saturday service 357 (operated ironically by Stagecoach). That competition has already seen Stagecoach withdraw from commercial services in Garthorpe, Luddington and Eastoft.
It's not just the 90 that faces competition. Within Scunthorpe Hornsby Travel have a significant presence on town services. Some are co-ordinated with Stagecoach (the 6), some have found gaps from routes given up by Stagecoach (the 22) while other duplicate parts of Stagecoach services (the 12 - and this has seen a boost from Stagecoach reducing services 33/34 to hourly). There is also competition for tendered services; Hornsby have the contract for services 16/35/60/94-95, all of which have been operated by Stagecoach/Road Car in the fairly recent past (the 35 in it's old 357? form).
Competition means a fragmented market. As well as Hornsby and Sweyne, Isle Coaches, Holloways Coaches and EYMS (the latter in co-operation with Stagecoach) also operate 'public' bus services in Scunthorpe.
All this means that Stagecoach don't have the dominance and scale they have in other places. This need not be a problem by itself, but a look at the fleet reveals a major lack of investment by Stagecoach since they took over Road Car in late 2005. Using the fleet list in the January/February edition of the Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire Transport Review, correct as off 15th January, Scunthorpe has a fleet off 33 vehicles. Only six of these where delivered new under Stagecoach (the 6 MAN/Enviro's for the 350 Humber Fastcat) of which two are outbased at Hull. Other than 3 recently cascaded 2005 Volvo B7RLE's (for the 103 to Lincoln) the rest of the fleet dates from before 2004 or before, i.e. at least 8 years old - thats 25 out of the 33 based vehicles, 75% of the allocation. I should note here the Interconnect 100 which serves Scunthorpe has newer vehicles, but is not operated by Scunthorpe depot.
Since January changes to the fleet have taken place with some 'newer' low floor double deckers arriving to replace Volvo Olympians, but I don't think the proportion of vehicles under 8 years of age has significantly changed. What this shows is a lack of investment by Stagecoach in the fleet in Scunthorpe and where the investment has occured it has been for 'out of town' routes - the 350 is just as much a part of the Hull network as it is the Scunthorpe network for example.
Which leads me nicely onto the town network, no investment in vehicles in over 6 years, and cutbacks which started under Road Car and continued over Stagecoach. For example, back in March 2003 High Leys Road had 5 buses per hour into Scunthorpe, now 2 per hour. The 15 minute frequency for Bolsover Road tried in 2005, now every 20 minutes. Dewsbury Avenue down from every half hour in 2005 to hourly now.
So competition, a declining network and lack of investment in the fleet. I don't know the finances of Scunthorpe depot but what I have described doesn't paint an encouraging picture. I hope I'm mis-interpreting all of the above and things aren't as bad as I'm describing. However it doesn't look good.
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