Monday 28 July 2008

A Bus Ride to Hull

Needing to go to shops outside of Barton today I caught the 350 bus to Hull this morning. The service links Hull, Barton and Scunthorpe operating hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes with reduced frequencies in the evening and on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It is operated by Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, East Yorkshire and Veolia/Dunn Line/Alpha Coaches (Sundays only).

The main daytime service uses three buses - two from Stagecoach's Scunthorpe depot and one East Yorkshire bus. Stagecoach use Volvo/Wright full size single deckers while EYMS use a double decker - a Volvo Olympian, Plaxton President or Eclipse Gemini. Catching the 0910 from Scunthorpe in Barton Market Place, the service was operated by an EYMS Olympian. I chose this service on purpose for the better view from a double decker and also to ensure I got a seat. By the time we left Barton we had about 65 passengers on board - and then picked up a few more on the North Bank. Rather glad it wasn't a Stagecoach single decker!!! Good healthy mix as well of families, OAP's and those aged in between.

In Hull the service operated along Boothferry Road and Anlaby Road and is limited stop in certain places. It creates the spectacle of passing bus stops with passengers who let the service go by, and then driving straight past stops with passengers trying to hail the bus down. No doubt the restrictions are to aid time keeping (rather important with train connections to keep at Barton) and to minimise revenue abstraction from other services. But for the sake of a couple of passengers would it be better to remove these restrictions? It would also open up new stops to South Bank passengers such as the KC Stadium - Barton does have a lot of Hull City fans, though not me.

A couple of passengers got off at Hull Royal Infirmary - why isn't this a timing point? More and more hospital patients from the South Bank have to go there, both routine, and emergencies from the Barton area as well (it's the nearest hospital). Potential to attract more passengers if they knew about it.

Anyway getting into Hull we didn't pull up into the allocated stand since the next 350, being operated by an EYMS President was on stand. It didn't look to have many passengers on but it was early for shoppers to be going home (1025). It should be noted that the 350 has a good stand at Hull Bus Station being one of the nearest to the Shops, Travel Centre and Fernesway.

Having got my shopping very quickly I caught the 1125 return operated by Stagecoach and Volvo/Wright single decker. Counting the passengers getting off I think there were only 34 - just over half the service an hour earlier - a surprising big difference. Even more surprising was the 20 or so passengers on the journey back to Barton - I thought there would be far less since it was still early for shoppers to return home.

On leaving Hull the bus goes around via the Prospect Centre - great - apart from the fact it doesn't stop there. To try and improve time keeping for train connections, the Friends of the Barton Line want the service diverted via Park Street but that depends on bridge strengthening. Might as well go this way since the current Prospect Centre route serves no purpose.

Overall the 350 is a popular service with capacity issues at times - I've caught a Stagecoach single decker to Scunthorpe on a Saturday before that had about 10 standees leaving Barton. Double deckers are the answer but when there are strong winds these are banned from the Humber Bridge. EYMS have a large fleet from which to find a single decker instead but the spare buses at Stagecoach's tend to be double deckers.

So the solution is to increase frequency to half hourly with single deckers. This plan was revealed by Stagecoach East Midlands MD in an interview with a trade magazine last year. A higher frequency should hopefully attract new customers - 55 minutes is a long wait if you missed the last bus, 25 minutes less so. Hopefully East Yorkshire would retain double deckers though for tourists wanting a ride over the Humber Bridge.

Finally a note on publicity - there is now a dedicated timetable, and it is available at Hull Interchange. In the past it was just a Nortth Lincolnshire Council timetable or a RoadCar leaflet available on the South Bank only. Stagecoach also mention the service in their Hull Bus Guide though actually showing it on the map would be good too since it is part of the Hull Bus Network and does have North Bank customers.

Monday 14 July 2008

More cutbacks in Hull - now Stagecoach

More cutbacks in Hull to report I'm afraid - now it's Stagecoach's turn to hand back two contracts - the 9 and 49 routes, operated for Hull City Council. There will be changes to others too. Fuel prices being blamed. Now before I continue, this information is based off a press article since there appears to be no details on the Stagecoach Hull website yet (could be my computer playing up though).

Details of EYMS's cutbacks -

The first 'contract handed back' (I say that beacuse Hull City Council could retender the service) is the 9 which links Hull City Centre and Hull Royal Infirmary with Boulevard, Hawthorn Avenue, Asda on Hessle Road and The Junction retail park. It operates every 70 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes. Most of the route is duplicated by the 23/24 City Circle but routes but not for much longer, which I will come to later. So this area goes from 2 to no buses per hour.

The other contract handed back is the 49 between Hull City Centre, Victoria Dock, the Preston Road Estate and Bilton Grange. It operates every 40 minutes or so Monday to Saturday daytimes. Much of the route in Bilton Grange and the Preston Road Estate is not served by other buses. Victoria Dock is ... but maybe not for much longer. EYMS have hande the route 90 contract back, and the city circle is being withdrawn from the area (see later) leaving just a few infrequent buses to Hedon on EYMS - and these don't serve The Deep.

Now for the city circle changes. It will no longer serve Hessle Road, Askew Avenue or Spring Bank West in West Hull, nor Marfleet and Victoria Dock in East Hull. The Sunday service will be withdrawn and the service shall be renumbered from 23/24 to 10/11. From this it can be guessed the new route will take buses from Hull up Spring Bank to join the current route in the West of the City, and the service will operate via Preston Road instead of via Marfleet and Victoria Dock.

The implications for Victoria Dock and Boulevard have already been discussed. However Askew Avenue is already seeing 1 bus an hour being withdrawn (EYMS's 1A). With this move it will go from 3 to 1 bus an hour, the 1C operated by EYMS. Meanwhile with EYMS serice 50 under threat, Marfleet could be left with just Hedon and Withernsea services operating on the main Hedon Road.

Since the city circle is a subsidised service it is assumed these changes will reduce operating costs to a level that Stagecoach can sustain on their current subsidy. Maybe a reduction in the number of buses required?

Other changes include withdrawing two journeys on the 63 service between Hull and Cottingham plus unspecified changes to the 13, 14, 15, 28, 30, 32, 38, 40, 42, 42C, 43, 51 and 52A.

Sadly it seems to be same few areas seeing most of the cuts. Hull City Council could retender all services how they are now, but that would require a huge increase in their bus budget. More likely they will have to make difficult decisons on what services to keep subsidising and which to drop altogether. These services may see low usage, but local uproar at cuts may not be a good thing politically. Glad I'm not a councillor right now ...

New Air Humberside Forum

The Air Humberside Forum has moved to I'm afraid previous members will have to re-register. The old forum can still be visited to see past posts.

Saturday 12 July 2008

EYMS cuts

East Yorkshire Motor Services has announced a series of cutbacks to it's network, and one improvement, in response to it's announcement last week that fuel prices threaten marginal services. Concessionary Fares are also a factor in these cutbacks.

However there seems to be un-informed over dramtisation of the situation in some places since most of the affected services are tendered or part supported by Hull City Council or East Riding of Yorkshire Council. EYMS are handing contracts back in because the subsidy they are paid no longer covers the costs - it is entirely possible they will win the contract back at a higher subsidy. The problem comes that to keep alll axed services going more subsidy will be needed that at current. Without an increase in the council budget for bus services some cuts are likely but most of the cuts wil hopefully be salvageable.

The cuts are proposed from 31st August, and are outlined below, with some thoughts on them.

The 90 between Hull, The Deep and Victoria Dock estate will be axed. It operates every 30-60 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes. However most of the route is also served by Stagecoach service 49 which operates every 30-40 minutes between Hull and Bilton Grange. Victoria Dock is also served by EYMS's own 78/79/80 group of services to Hedon that operate every 30-90 minutes and the hourly 23/24 city circle bus operated by Stagecoach. Hull City Council will have to decide if remaining services provide adequate provision, if these services need increasing or if the 90 needs retaining.

Next on the cuts list is the 50 between Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, James Reckitt Avenue, a Morrisons Supermarket and Marfleet. There are 5 journeys Monday to Saturday daytimes and for large parts of the route it is the only bus service. This would indicate low demand, but withdrawing it would remove easy access to the bus network for many people. Hull City Council will have to weigh up these factors in deciding if to issue a new tender for it.

Now for a route that while technically chopped, in reality is a frequency reduction. The 1C is operated hourly by EYMS between Kingswood, Hull, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hessle Road, Anlaby Park and Sibelius Road. This is unaffected but the 1A will be withdrawn - with the exception of a route variation within Hull City Centre this is the same route as the 1A between Hull and Sibelius Road and provides a half hourly frequency on this section. With it gone frequency will be down to hourly. The 1A/1C is partly funded by Hull City Council but if this support is for the whole route or part of it is not known.

The question for Hull City Council is, is an hourly service enough? Parts of the route also see other services, with the 1A/1C being exclusive only to parts of Pickering Road and Sibelius Road.

Next up is the 602 - a link between Hull and British Aerospace in Brough, and the second British Aerospace bus to be axed this year.
Just one British Aerospace bus now remains from a once extensive network.

The final axed route is the 135, a service is rural East Yorkshire linking Driffield with villages including Sledmere and Wetwang. Since Im unsure if East Riding of Yorkshire Council have any demand responsive bus schemes in the area I won't comment on the likelyhood of the service continuing.

However those cuts are not everything. The Saturday journeys on the 173/174/175 group of services between Hull, Burton Pidsea and Withernsea are axed. They provided peak time and shopping links into Hull. This leaves just weekday peak time journeys. These services are comercially operated. Some of the affected villages are also served by the 220/221 Hull-Hornsea services, and Pearsons Coaches service 76C from Preston and Humbleton to Withernsea. East Riding of Yorkshire Council has to decide if this is enough provision for the area.

The final cutback affects every 15 minute service 41 between Hull Royal Informary, Hull, Greatfield and Bilton. It will reduce to every 20 minutes and no longer serve Hull Royal Infirmary - a recent innovative way to attract extra customers and a useful link sadly lost. It appears Greatfield isn't great bus teritory but it's a shame EYMS can't afford to be innovative like Stagecoach to tackle the problem

That is it ... for now. At the end of the EYMS press release Peter Shipp warns if the situation does not improve further cutbacks will come

One bit of good news though, the 154 between Hull, Willerby and Cottingham serving both the Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital will increase from half hourly to every 20 minutes.

AND after writing all that some quotes from the Hull Daily Mail which do show that there has been some over dramatisation:
Hull City Council is conducting surveys to determine whether to put the contract
to run the services in its area out to tender.
East Riding Council has
revealed the contract to run services in its area will go out to tender.

In some ways the over dramatisation creates headlines and draws attention to the plight of bus operators - but it does create potentially unnecessary worry. It's a shame - with fuel prices it rising it should be a chance to attract people to the bus, not withdraw or reduce their local service.

Friday 4 July 2008

Fuel Costs put marginal bus services under threat

Peter Shipp, the owner, Chairman and Chief Executive of EYMS, the main bus operator in East Yorkshire has called on the government to remove the requirement for bus operators to pay fuel duty - the current rebate does not cover all the duty charged on fuel. If not marginal routes are at risk along with more fare rises. From the EYMS press release:

“To restore the 9p shortfall would go some way towards helping
operators with the horrendous rises in fuel costs we are all suffering at the
moment and which risk more fare rises and service cuts. We have already
had to increase fares by about 5% in May, but we are now paying about £55,000
more for diesel each week than in January 2007, and at best the fares increase
can bring in only about one-third of that weekly amount.”

“We are also having to look very carefully at some marginal and
loss-making bus routes, and we shall be making an announcement shortly.
Such routes have in the past been supported by the profits we make on other
routes, but those profits are now being slashed and our ability to subsidise the
poor routes is greatly reduced.”

This blog agrees with Peter Shipp - the government want more people using public transport - scarpping the rebate will help to maintain services and therefore public transport passengers.

Stagecoach have also been forced to increase fares on the X62 Hull to Leeds service due to the rising fuel prices.

Barton Town Service Changes

From next week (7th July) changes will be made to the Barton Town Service (route 254). It will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays instead of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and should be upgraded to a low floor bus. There will be changes to the times and the Bowmandale service shall now operate via Horkstow Road instead of Millfields. The service is operated by Hornsby Travel of Ashby under contract to North Lincolnshire Council with further financial support from Barton Town Council.

While on the subject of town bus services in Barton, it would be nice if the Caistor Road Estate in Barton could have a 6 day a week service again. For a short period the X21 (remember that - it ran between Hull and Cleethorpes) operated via the estate. Considering it is a 2 minute detour surely it can't be that hard to do and wouldn't affect journey times too much. The ideal to service to divert would be the weekday Villager service between Barton and Goxhill but that is timetabled with no slack at all so would require the hourly pattern to be abandoned.

Therefore Stagecoach's 250 Barton to Grimsby service may be a better option. It's only every two hours, not low floor, and doesn't serve Tesco (but does serve the nearby railway station and could easily be extended) but would provide a 6 day a week service. It could also be easily timetabled to leaving Grimsby a couple of minutes earlier and getting back a couple of minutes later.

This would also allow the town service to be increased to other parts of the town, and it could also provide extra journeys to the Caistor Road Estate to supplement the 250, and maybe serve parts of the estate not currently served. Furthermore the town service could extend to Victoria House allowing a Friday variation to the Villager service to be withdrawn.

Just an idea of how bus services in my home town could be improved with no extra resources.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Beverley Town Bus Route Restored

Last month I reported that East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) were withdrawing commercially operated Monday to Saturday services on Beverley Town Service route 522.

Now reports on the East Yorkshire Buses Yahoo Group say a replacement service is being offered by Acklams Coaches on a subsidised basis. However there is reportedly an issue with the tendering process and if it was carried out properly.