New service X4, operated by Hornsby Travel, was added to the North Lincolnshire bus network on Monday 2nd July 2018, operating direct between Scunthorpe and Brigg via Brigg Road and Lakeside Retail Park, before either extending via Wrawby, Barnetby and Humberside Airport to Kirmington, or operating as a service 94 to/from Kirton (more on the 94 in a future post). The X4 operates Monday to Friday only, hourly between Scunthorpe and Brigg and mostly two hourly between Brigg and Kirmington.
The X4 serves a number of purposes. Looking first at the core Scunthorpe to Brigg section it provides a much faster service than the main service 4 between the two towns. Weekday daytime journeys times on the 4 between Scunthorpe and Brigg are 45 minutes, but on the X4 are just 25 minutes. Part of the reasoning for the X4 being started was a North Lincolnshire Council (NLC) desire to provide a "service more attractive for young people, thereby encouraging them to make greater use of the service and improving their opportunity to be both economically and socially active". However for many teenagers at least, the one day of the week when the X4 would be off most use for being 'socially active' during school and college term times is a Saturday, when the X4 doesn't run! For traditional office hour commuting the X4 maybe useful, but the last bus back from Scunthorpe is at 1700; anyone coming home later will need to revert to service 4. I won't be overly critical however as it is a significant improvement for weekday travel between Scunthorpe and Brigg. The 4 and X4 combined offer half hourly departures from both towns. It's also worth noting that the X4 replaces the 95 along Brigg Road in Scunthorpe.
Every two hours, though hourly in the morning peak, the X4 extends to/from Kirmington, incorporating the weekday 68 'Wolds Villager', which had been operated by Hornsby Travel until withdrawal on Friday 29th June.
The 68 had operated from Brigg Town Centre (the leisure centre in the afternoon) via Wrawby (sticking to the A18 in the village), Barnetby, Melton Ross, New Barnetby, Humberside Airport, Kirmington, Croxton and Wootton to Ulceby. There were many part route journeys, and most journeys omitted New Barnetby. In total there were eight Barnetby/Wrawby to Brigg journeys, leaving Barnetby between 0750 and 1630, and six in the return direction leaving Brigg Cary Lane between 0955 and 1615 (one less each way on schooldays). Three journeys were provided from Kirmington into Brigg between 0919 and 1438, with two return journeys from Brigg Cary Lane at 1155 and 1410. Croxton, Wootton and Ulceby had a single journey to/from Brigg on Tuesday and Thursdays only.
Service X4 doesn't run into the Ancholme Leisure Centre car park as the 68 did in the afternoon, but does serve Scawby Road outside the Leisure Centre all day. From Brigg it runs via Tunnel Road in Wrawby, serving more of the village than the 68 did, and along with the new Saturday C4, allowing the removal of the Brigg Town Service from Wrawby. (More on the C4 and Brigg Town Service in a future post). It seems to be no change in Barnetby or Melton Ross, but New Barnetby is no longer served. Then Humberside Airport and Kirmington are served as the 68 did. Croxton, Wootton and Ulceby are unserved; combined with the Saturday 366's withdrawal Croxton is left without a traditional bus service whilst Wootton and Ulceby no longer have a direct link to Brigg. It should be noted however that both New Barnetby and Croxton are very small settlements, and have Call Connect, whilst Wootton and Ulceby still have a through bus to Brigg six days a week on the 450, albeit the 'long way' via Barton.
There are seven services a day from Kirmington, Humberside Airport, Melton Ross, Barnetby and Wrawby into Brigg and Scunthorpe, leaving Kirmington between 0720 and 1720, and to a memorable clockface timetable unlike the 68. In the opposite direction there are two morning X4's that start at Lakeside at 0645 and 0745 and which run direct from Brigg to Kimington omitting Wrawby Tunnel Road, Barnetby and Humberside Airport, followed by five 'normal' services leaving Brigg between 0825 and 1625. This is a substantially improved service for Kirmington, though a slight reduction between Barnetby and Brigg. It also ends the hourly late morning service between Brigg and Barnetby is favour of a more evenly spaced service throughout the day. For Wrawby to Brigg it depends what part of the village you are in, around Tunnel Road it's a very substantial improvement from a limited service three days a week on the Brigg Town Service.
The other substantial positive for Wrawby, Barnetby, Melton Ross and Kirmington is the provision of a regular, and direct, weekday service through to Scunthorpe, even allowing for the loss of a such link on Saturdays after the 366 was withdrawn. (Barnetby of course does have a daily hourly train service to Scunthorpe as well). There is an oddity though in that a morning peak service to Scunthorpe is provided from these villages, but the last return bus from Scunthorpe is at 1600 (and Brigg at 1630). Also the two early morning service from Lakeside are a missed opportunity for Humberside Airport commuters in not serving the airport terminal (unless you travel via Kirmington), and in not starting back at Scunthorpe Bus Station; the 1725 from the airport provides a useful evening commuting service for any '9-5' workers at the airport or neighbouring business park, but the first arrival at the airport from Scunthorpe and Brigg is at 0900.
Those X4 journeys that do not extend beyond Brigg to Kirmington extend to Kirton as service 94, providing a partial replacement for service 95 between Brigg, Scawby and Scunthorpe. This means that all X4's are not just reliant on Scunthorpe to Brigg custom, but can also tap into 'beyond' Brigg custom as well - all the more useful as the X4 will have only a little en-route custom between Scunthorpe and Brigg (along Brigg Road in Scunthorpe and at Lakeside Retail Park).
Overall plenty to be positive about, but some negatives and 'room for improvements'. There are a few more negatives sadly as well when looking at Saturday provision in a future post. NLC have a desire for the X4 to eventually become a fully commercial operation, but I suspect it will need some 'tweaks' between Brigg and Kirmington at least for that to happen.
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