Stagecoach have now released the new timetable for service 12 in North East Lincolnshire, from 3rd September. The 12, which links Bradley Park, Grange Estate and Grimsby to Cleethorpes and New Waltham, has seen fairly regular changes in recent years, and for a time was the X1, extending to Laceby, Humberside Airport and Hull. In April the service was proposed with withdrawal entirely. The current timetable provides a roughly hourly service Monday to Saturday, with a large mid-afternoon gap on weekdays.
From September the 12 sees significant cutbacks on weekdays. Stagecoach have placed a lengthy explanation online. The blame is attributed to North East Lincolnshire Council's e-auction system, used to tender school transport, which Stagecoach has unspecified concerns about, so does not participate in. As a result they have lost two contracts for services to Healing School.
The 12 had been interworked with those Healing School contracts, the financial return from which covered the maintenance, tax and insurance costs of the buses involved, according to Stagecoach. Therefore the company says they are unable to continue operating the current service 12 timetable. Clearly the service can only cover it's variable costs, with the remaining journeys to be operated by fitting the journeys into existing schedules.
The main market served by the 12 is the elderly, and those with mobility difficulties, who can't easily access more frequent services on main roads. Therefore it is hardly a surprise the service is marginal, with regular changes, often cuts - but very important to those who use it.
So what is the new weekday timetable? 5 journeys from Bradley Park to New Waltham at 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300 and 1400. And 5 journeys in the other directon; 1040 from Grimsby to Bradley Park, 1100, 1200 and 1300 from New Waltham to Bradley Park, and 1400 from New Waltham to Grimsby. Basic.
What to make of this? I don't know what Stagecoach's issues are with e-auctions, and how valid they are. If they are justified, then Stagecoach deserve credit for trying to find a way to keep some form of basic weekday service, on I presume a commercial basis.
The new timetable also contains a very big oddity. An unchanged Saturday timetable, including peak journeys extending from/to Waltham. On Saturdays there are some spare buses that can be used to provide an enhanced service, so an 'all-day' 'stand alone' service can easily be provided, with the fixed costs covered by weekday operations. However it seems very odd that the peak journeys remain. Who would travel on the 0715 from Waltham on Saturdays only for example? Unless they are tendered, retaining the Saturday peak service is very odd ball. At a time when councils and commercial operators alike face significant financial pressures, I'm surprised they remain.
Finally these changes once again put into focus whether the 12 is actually needed. Earlier this year I came up with some suggestions on how the 12 could be replaced between Bradley Park and Cleethorpes, with just the need for a remaining 1 vehicle Cleethorpes-New Waltham service. Any comments welcome on whether it's maybe time to put the 12 'to bed' and cover it in other ways.
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