From Sunday 3rd September for EYMS journeys, and Monday 4th September for Stagecoach journeys, the 350 Humber Fastcat between Hull, Barton and Scunthorpe is changing - as is Stagecoach's Humber Flyer between Hull, Barton, Humberside Airport, Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Sadly the 'headline' change to the Humber Fastcat isn't positive, although no journeys are withdrawn. Monday to Saturday journeys departing Hull's Paragon Interchange between 0840 and 1610 will no longer serve the City Centre Loop, instead departing the Interchange for Anlaby Road via Park Street. This means during these times the only City Centre stop will be the Interchange - the useful Carr Lane stop as well as the stop opposite the station on Anlaby Road will no longer be served. For anyone visiting or working in the Old Town area of Hull City Centre, or Princes Quay, it will mean a long walk (or catch another bus) to the Interchange. The Carr Lane stop can also be useful when connecting off another service that operates inbound via Carr Lane before the Interchange - when at university changing at Carr Lane often got me home half an hour earlier.
EYMS put this change down to congestion. It is perhaps worth explaining the operation of the 350. The route works Monday to Saturday daytimes on the basis of 6 vehicles, able to complete a round trip within 3 hours. The April timetable change to improve punctuality 'used up' all the 'slack' in the timetable, and if that hasn't worked either the route needs shortening or extra 'resource' added to the route. Aside from the costs involved with extra 'resource', the 350 is split between 2 operators, one of which, EYMS, only runs every 3 hours, and 3 different depots as Stagecoach split their workings between Hull and Scunthorpe to reduce dead mileage at the start/end of the day. Adding an extra vehicle into a joint service to give a 3 and a half hour round trip per vehicle could mean EYMS no longer operate popular journeys, whilst interworking with other routes that may have 'excess layover time' (if any exist) would be hard to organise under these circumstances - plus the vehicles are in a dedicated livery.
So extra 'resource' isn't practical, which leaves shortening the route. The loop around Barton is needed to serve the eastern part of the town. Winteringham could maybe be omitted on alternate journeys, but I don't know the specifics of usage there. Frodingham Road in Scunthorpe could also maybe omitted on alternate journeys, running to Scunthorpe Bus Station direct via Brigg Road, but Frodingham Road is a busy residential area and the route also serves the far end of Scunthorpe Town Centre. The Hull City Centre loop is the easiest way to shorten the route sadly. I don't like this change, but I can understand it.
Anlaby Road in Hull does have bus lanes, but at peak times only. The Humber Fastcat seems to be most affected by congestion off-peak, or at least that is when it is hardest to 'work around' it, and I did have a rather long trip on a Park and Ride bus down Anlaby Road one Friday lunchtime. Could there be a case for bus lanes being in operation Monday to Saturday daytimes as well?
Early morning, peak time, evening and Sunday journeys continue to use the City Centre loop in Hull - these are times when either the standard half hourly timetable isn't followed, or when traffic is lighter. The loop also gains an additional stop on Bond Street, which is handy for the Hull New Theatre - services had previously run via Albion Street/Bond Street without stopping, unlike all other Anlaby Road services using the City Centre loop, so this anomaly is now 'corrected'.
When EYMS first announced the changes, they said their evening journeys Monday to Saturday at 1925 from Hull and 2110 from Scunthorpe would be withdrawn due to funding changes by North Lincolnshire Council. East Riding of Yorkshire Council withdrew their financial contribution at the start of April. This would have left a near two hour gap in departures from Hull between 1825 and 2020 (the Humber Flyer does run to Barton at 1910), while the last departure from Scunthorpe would have been one hour earlier at 2010 (Barton to Hull does have a later service). "Following a last minute change of heart by North Lincolnshire Council" however the evening journeys are retained, with the 1925 from Hull retimed to 1935 as the inbound service from Scunthorpe now arrives later. This is welcome news, and there can't be many places in the country these days which are getting council funded evening services to fill gaps in commercially provided evening timetables that do provide alternative travel options an hour earlier (or later in some cases).
Many journeys, particularly departing Hull, have minor timing changes. Train connections from Hull to Barton throughout much of the day are improved, with the daytime :10 past from Hull now connecting with trains, rather than having to use the Humber Flyer 20 minutes earlier (the Humber Flyer is still the best connection for a couple of trains). Sunday departures from Ashby are standardised at :55 minutes past the hour, with standardised intermediate timings reintroduced across EYMS and Stagecoach journeys in this direction only.
Finally on the Humber Fastcat, I will copy and paste what Stagecoach have put on their online announcement of the changes: "Don't forget your later journeys home from Hull to Barton Monday to Saturday evenings leaving Hull Interchange at 2220 and 2330." (It would be a shame if these were withdrawn).
Turning to the Humber Flyer, it too will depart Hull's Paragon Interchange for Anlaby Road via Park Street, but on all journeys - this seems to be to allow for extended running times as far as Barton, with consequential retimings over the rest of the route. The Humber Flyer has been departing Paragon Interchange via Ferensway, Spencer Street, Brook Street and Ferensway again onto Anlaby Road and in that time only served one stop on Anlaby Road opposite the station. The re-routing removes one service an hour from congested Ferensway and 'busy with pedestrians' Brook Street, so the loss of a stop very close to the Interchange on Anlaby Road seems an acceptable trade off. The increase in running times to Barton could also not have been realistically accommodated without shortening the route.
It's not being advertised but one benefit of the Humber Fastcat/Flyer re-routing is that there are now 3 direct buses an hour from Paragon Interchange to Hull Royal Infirmary, not using the City Centre loop.
Blog post on April 350 Humber Fastcat Changes
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