Wednesday 24 June 2009

Is North Lincs rail network adequate?

That is the question being asked by the Scunthorpe Telegraph. Hardly the best time to be doing it with a major line closure underway, when people's views are going to be affected by short term issues. However ignoring these issues, I would say the North Lincolnshire rail network is more than adequate, it is good.

There is an hourly service from Barnetby and Scunthorpe to Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Doncaster, Meadowhall, Sheffield, Manchester and Manchester Airport operated by modern trains and providing access to numerous connecting services along the way. Then there is a second hourly service between Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Sheffield that also gives Althorpe and Crowle an hourly service. In my opinion the service along this line is very good.

On top of that there is the two hourly Barton to Cleethorpes service to serve local needs - certainly adequate, if not good. The big disappointment is the Brigg line service, with just three Saturday only services between Cleethorpes and Sheffield.

Room for improvement - certainly. Year round and more frequent Sunday Barton Line service, hourly Monday to Saturday Barton Line service, weekday and improved Saturday Brigg Line service, services to London. Some of those are more realistic than others - but what there is currently, on the whole, is good.

Though is does not appear that users agree with me. Apparently 100% of respondents do not think North Lincolnshire has an adequate rail network. I would love to reduce that percentage, but sadly I can't find the poll to vote in on the website. Helpfully (not!) no link has been provided to it on the associated article ...

Thursday 18 June 2009

Grimsby and Cleethorpes Rail Services Westminster Hall Debate

Yesterday I posted about very late comments made my Shona McIssac MP (Cleethorpes) about the Scunthorpe-Doncaster rail blockade. The full text of the comments, and response from Chris Mole MP, under-secretary of state for transport, have been published on the Hansard website, Column 133WH onwards. They were made in a Westminster Hall debate. Having read the transcript there are a few points I wish to raise.

Cleethorpes-Scunthorpe rail services

Shona McIssac MP "Also, I have had no explanation of why there will be no train service between Scunthorpe, and Grimsby and Cleethorpes. These are the two biggest urban areas in northern Lincolnshire. I understand that no repair work is going on along that part of the line, so why can some sort of service not continue to link those two areas? Even at this late stage, I hope that that can be considered."
Response to this point from Chris Mole MP "TransPennine Express considered a shuttle service, but unfortunately it is not practical, as the rolling stock would be trapped and unable to return to its Manchester depot for the necessary regular central servicing and safety checks."

As I have posted before I agree there should be a shuttle between Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe, but it is far too late to arrange it now Shona. Just got to accept it will not happen now. But as for it being not practical, I disagree - Northern Rail are 'trapping' their stock for most of the week to operate the Barton Line Service. Cleethorpes has a fuelling point so a weekly or twice weekly empty coaching stock move would be all that would be needed. Not that hard? Or even better rotate it via a limited service along the Brigg line ...

Use of the Brigg Line for a replacement passenger service

Shona McIssac MP "I had hoped that it would be possible to retain a link with the east coast main line, perhaps using the Brigg and Gainsborough line, on to which all the freight traffic is being routed ... I appreciate that it is vital to keep that freight going, but originally I was told that some sort of passenger service may be retained on the line so that people could link in to the east coast main line if they have to go to London. However, I have now been told that there will not be any replacement passenger service on that line."
Response from Chris Mole MP " On the question of alternative routes, there is little opportunity to accommodate additional passenger trains on the alternative route via Brigg, as most of the spare capacity on that route will be taken by freight trains. That option was explored fully by TransPennine, but it was not possible to hire additional drivers from freight operating companies who had knowledge of the alternative route. Also, running via Brigg would take the trains to Sheffield but omit a call at Doncaster, which would affect passengers making journeys on that busy section of the network."

So there is some, limited capacity, on the Brigg Line for passenger services - and surely a little bit more could be created by moving a couple of extra freight services onto the Lincoln route? While driver training is hardly cheap, I don't see why Transpennine Express could not train a small number of their own drivers for the Brigg route - never know when it might come in useful after this summer. And as for the point about Doncaster - I think you have just got to accept it is a bus for Doncaster - but why remove all services, needlessly to Sheffield. Cross Country connection can still be made there, and East Coast Main Line connections en-route at Retford. Bizarre Comment to make.

On the driver issue, Shona McIssac MP replied with the following "On the drivers, my understanding is that TransPennine would not pay the rate, not that drivers were not available". Chris Mole MP said he would investigate. I hope this is not true as would really give the inidication that the replacement services are being done on the cheap.

General Comments

Shona McIssac MP makes some good points, but this all far too late, and even if it took time to secure the Westminster Hall debate, why not go public earlier? (and if you have done you can't have done it very loudly).

Chris Mole MP also made some very good justifcation of the timing of the blockade and hopefully he will be an effective member of the transport team.

Other Comments

Shona McIssac MP made some other points, not related to the summer blockade.
"Moreover, the new trains that have been in use on the trans-Pennine route are about to be withdrawn and replaced with 10-year-old rolling stock, which does not bode well for the future."

This must be refering to the rumours that TransPennine Express will replace Class 185's with Class 170's on some Cleethorpes services. Though to be honest I think the biggest issue with that is capacity between Sheffield and Manchester. For most of the time, east of Doncaster, I think a Class 170 would suffice, and there are demand for the Class 185's elsewhere. Shame if it happens though.

"Turning now to the frequency of the service, the nearest station to the port of Immingham is Habrough, yet that station has a very poor service, with few stopping trains. If we are to develop the port area, it makes more sense to increase the frequency of the trains serving the port of Immingham by having more stopping at Habrough station. I am always told that people should use Barnetby station. However, it is not the most successful station because it involves using bridges; Habrough does not. Therefore, we must consider having more trains stopping at Habrough if we are to serve the port."

Agree totally with that. Barnetby is great for many places, but not ideal for Immingham. And guess what station one of the main routes from Immingham to Barnetby goes past ... Habrough.

"The other service we must consider is the one to Humberside airport. At the moment, the line goes just past the airport—there is no station at the actual airport. If we are to have an integrated transport network serving this growing industrial area, we need to consider having a rail service into the airport."

Rail service into the airport - cloud cuckoo land. And yes I do run the Air Humberside website. But the airport could never support a dedicated rail station. A dedicated mini bus link to Barnetby is far more realistic.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

"Thoughtless" timing for rail blockade?

As has been well reported here, there is a blockade on the rail line between Scunthorpe and Thorne this summer. Not the best time for the tourist traffic to Cleethorpes, though so far there hasn't been any really vocal complaints about this - until this week - less than a week before the blockade. Shona McIssac, the MP for Cleethorpes has called the planning "thoughtless" and questioned why the work could not happen at another time of the year.

No, it is not ideal for Cleethorpes, but the line is more than just a passenger line - it's a key freight route, and this is the quietest time for such traffic. The timing is not thoughtless, it has been timed on purpose. A decision has been made that the freight traffic is more important than the rail-transported Cleethorpes tourist traffic. And considering the lack of really vocal complaints or campaign from Cleethorpes businesses, I would tend to agree that the timing is the best possible. Obviously there can't be that many vistors coming in by rail, otherwise there would have been more complaints. No time is ideal, but the work is essential and needs doing at some point, and urgently.

As a follow up to last weeks post on the blockade and TransPennine Express's replacement bus services, Northern Rail have their bus replacement timetable online. Roughly hourly Scunthorpe to Hatfield and Stainforth as expected. Will serve the station car parks in Scunthorpe and Hatfield and Stainforth, the main road outside Althorpe Station, Wharf Road in Crowle and the Miller Lane/Ellison Street junction in Thorne.

Not the end for Megabus Plus?

Again the comment feature on this blog has provided some new information, this time on Megabus Plus. Last week the Doncaster Star reported the service would no longer serve Doncaster, and doing a quick check on the Megabus Plus website, I couldn't find availability from Hull on a random date. This led me to conclude that the Hull-Scunthorpe-Doncaster Megabus Plus service could be withdrawn.

Now an anonymous poster says the reason for the withdrawal of the Doncaster service is the unsuitability of the stop at the Lakeside Retail Park, and that an alternative Doncaster stop is being looked for. Following on from this I have checked the Megabus Plus website for a random date in July, and this time I have found availability for Hull. So it looks like the service is staying.

Monday 15 June 2009

X62 History

When I posted about the forthcoming proposed X62 (Hull-Leeds) changes in July I attempted to produce a brief recent history of the service; now a comment has been added to the post from an anonymous reader who appears to know a bit more about it than me, and the reasons why EYMS withdrew their journey's on the route. So thank you very much for your insight and if anyone else has more to add, please do so.

Don't forget you are always welcome to write a comment on any post, and I will attempt to moderate them as soon as possible. The only reason for moderation is to avoid any spam or offensive comments being made.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Major Stagecoach changes in Greatfield and Bilton Grange

From 27th July Stagecoach are proposing to make major changes to their Greatfield and Bilton Grange services, as explained in great depth on their website, something which I commend them for.

In summary the changes are as follows:

The 43 to Greatfield and 54 to Bilton Grange will link up. The 54 will have a new route. It will continue to serve Holderness Road, but only as far as Portobello Street. It will then follow the current service 42 route down Portobello Street before returning to the current service 54 route along Staveley Road, Barham Road and Amethyst Road. Finally it will then continue to Grange Road and change to service number 43 to return into Hull via Preston Road, The current service 43 route shall be unchanged.

The frequency on both services shall be every 10 minutes on weekdays, every 15 minutes on Saturdays and every 30 minutes on Sundays. Both routes shall become frequento services, and be operated by low floor buses - currently only service 54 has such a status.

Service 40 which largely duplicates the 43, apart from a diversion down Newbridge Road, shall be withdrawn. Newbridge Road is also served by EYMS service 41, which is unchanged.

The 40 also served Falkland Road in Greatfield, which shall in future be served solely by service 42. This service shall also see a new route; instead of operating via Portobello Street it shall operate along Southcoates Lane, Preston Road, Marfleet Lane and Staveley Road before picking up the current route at Wingfield Road. The frequency shall be every 10 minutes weekday peaks, very 12 minutes weekday daytime, every 15 minutes Saturdays, every half hour Sunday and every hour in the evenings daily.

Stagecoach say the changes are an attempt to combat falling usage and are an attempt to simplify the network, as well as improving reliability. Lets hope it works.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Bricknell Avenue Estate Changes

Last Saturday I posted some VOSA entries indicating the cancellation by Stagecoach Hull of the 63, and the registration of new service 110 from 27th July. Stagecoach have now released full details of their proposed changes.

The 63 operating from Hull Interchange to Castle Hill Hospital via Newland Avenue, the University, Chanterlands Avenue North, Bricknell Avenue Estate and Cottingham is indeed axed. It currently operates half hourly on weekdays and hourly on Saturdays. And there is a new hourly service 110 from Hull Interchange to Castle Hill operating via Spring Bank, Chanterlands Avenue, Bricknell Avenue Estate and Cottingham.

However what the VOSA entries didn't indicate is the diversion of service 10 (the Circular) via Bricknell Avenue Estate to maintain a half hourly weekday service into Central Hull (combined with the 110), and to restore the half hourly Saturday frequency.

These changes will give the Bricknell Avenue Estate a more direct route into Hull, and new links to areas such as Kingswood via service 10. Hopefully this will increase usage of bus services on the estate, which is currently declining according to Stagecoach.

However there are some downsides; the link to Cottingham is reduced to hourly - probably not a huge issue since Stagcoach will have struggled to attract much Cottingham-Hull traffic with the old 63 route, and the 110 should suffice for local needs. And the Bricknell Avenue Estate looses it's link to Newland Avenue. But perhaps most significantly Chanterlands Avenue North will be left without a bus service - last Autumn it had four buses an hour on the 10/11/63. It's not the most densley populated road and is near to other frequent bus routes, but it is a big change in the space of a year.

X62 Hull-Leeds Changes

Once upon a time EYMS and Stagecoach Hull ran a joint service between Hull and Leeds via Brough, Goole and Freeport Castleford (the X62). Then EYMS gave up their share (6 years ago or so I think) and Stagecoach introduced a revised timetable. Out went the morning peak service and in came a timetable designed for shoppers going to Leeds and Freeport Castleford. One that has seen some minor improvements over time and a Sunday/Bank Holiday service introduced.

Well from 27th July, Stagecoach are proposing to go back to how it was to a certain extent. A morning peak time journey will be reintroduced, and the timetable will be more evenly spread throughout the day, approxiamtely every two hours. An extra weekday journey will be operated. Below is a comparison of the current and proposed new times.

Monday to Friday

Current Hull departures: 0930 1030 1330 1630
Proposed new Hull departures: 0640 0940 1140 1340 1640

Current Leeds departures: 1120 1220 1520 1820
Proposed new Leeds departures: 0830 1130 1330 1530 1830


Current Hull departures: 0830 0930 1030 1330 1430 1630
Proposed new Hull departures: 0640 0940 1140 1340 1540 1740

Current Leeds departures: 1020 1120 1220 1520 1620 1820
Proposed new Leeds departures: 0830 1130 1330 1530 1730 1930

There are no changes proposed to Sunday/Bank Holiday times.

Will this new timetable be a success? One of the reasons EYMS dropped their share of the route was apparently because they had the peak time journeys as part of their share, and these weren't performing particularly well. So can Stagecoach make a success of them? The evening return time of 1830 from Leeds on weekdays is a bit late for commuters. We shall see what happens. Also of note is a new late Saturday departure from Leeds at 1930.

Finally the service shall be operated by coaches instead off the current ex-RoadCar Volvo double deckers.

End of Megabus Plus?

The Doncaster Star newspaper is reporting that the MegabusPlus service from Doncaster will be axed around the end of the month. The Doncaster service is provided as a stop in the Hull-Scunthorpe-Doncaster-East Midlands Parkway route, and checking dates in July on the megabus website brought up no availability from travel from Hull. So while no officially confirmed, it looks as if the Hull-East Midlands Parkway MegabusPlus route will be axed.

MegabusPlus was started in March to connect various towns and cities in Yorkshire, plus Scunthorpe, to London via East Midlands Parkway. There are three routes - one each from Hull, Harrogate and Huddersfield, that connect to East Midlands Trains services to London St Pancras. Both MegabusPlus and East Midlands Trains are operated by Stagecoach, and Stagecoach's Hull depot operates the Megabus Plus service.

If the Hull/Scunthorpe/Doncaster service is axed, then it's a shame but with competition from First Hull Trains, National Express East Coast and National Express's coach service then it was always going to be hard to make it work. Nice to see it was tried though.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Scunthorpe-Doncaster Rail Blockade Update

Later this month the Scunthorpe to Doncaster rail line is closed for major engineering works, affecting the Cleethorpes-Manchester Airport Transpennine Express service and the Scunthorpe-Sheffield Northern Rail local service.

Transpennine Express have released the timetable (on their website) for the replacement bus services. Oddly enough the all stations replacement bus service will always serve Habrough, despite some trains not calling there. Otherwise it is as expected with a replacement bus serving Scunthorpe, Barnetby, Habrough and Grimsby Town with another just calling at Grimsby Town en-route from Doncaster to Cleethorpes. Waiting times from bus to train are about 15-20 minutes which seems reasonable.

Generally the replacement bus services will call at the station forecourt or car park, though in Habrough eastbound the bus stop will be outside 'The Station' public house while in Barnetby buses will stop on Kings Road. Stands C5 and C6 will be used in Doncaster Interchange, next to the railway station.

No timetable that I can find for Northern's replacement bus services between Scunthorpe and Hatfield and Stainforth yet. Though it is expected just to be an hourly service calling at Althorpe, Crowle and Thorne South en-route.

As you may remember I had concerns that the first service of the day between Barton and Cleethorpes would be cancelled during the blockade due to no train being available to operate it. Well posts on the Northern Railways Forum indicate the Northern Rail will keep two Class 153 units at Cleethorpes during the blockade - one to operate the main all day service and the other to operate the early morning service and then act as a spare. If this does happen then it is great the Barton Line will not have to suffer but it does seem an ineffcient use of a train to have it left idle at Cleethorpes from 8am onwards.

The way to avoid the above situation would have been to operate a Cleethorpes to Scunthorpe shuttle service, as previosuly discussed, and a train from that service could also operate the early morning Barton Line service. Now Network Rail have given a reason why such a shuttle service will not be possible - operating restrictions. Make of that what you will.

Network Rail's press release also mentions that at the end of the blockade (29th August to 6th September), Goole to Doncaster services will also be replaced by buses. This shall impact on Hull to South Yorkshire services. Will they be diverted via Selby or replaced by buses?

Saturday 6 June 2009

Bye Bye 63, Hello 110

From entries on the VOSA website this week it looks like Stagecoach are withdrawing the 63 service and replacing it with a new service 110 route.

Cancellation Accepted: Operating between Hull Interchange and Cottingham Castle Hill given service number 63 effective from 27-Jul-2009.

Registration Accepted
Starting Point: Hull Interchange
Finish Point: Cottingham Castle Hill
Service Number: 110
Service Type: Normal Stopping
Effective Date: 27-JUL-2009
Other Details: Monday to Saturday hourly direct via Chanterlands Avenue

The 63 currently operates half hourly on weekdays and hourly on Saturdays from Hull Interchange via Princes Avenue, Newland Avenue, Hull University, Chanterlands Avenue North and Bricknell Avenue to Cottingham. It is the only bus service to serve the Bricknell Avenue Estate and Chanterlands Avenue North.

The new 110 appears to indicate a weekday frequency cut, and route change. The new number 110, fits in between the two main Hull to Cottingham bus services, the 105 and 115.

Changes will also affect Greatfield services, Service 10 (Circular) and the X62 Hull-Leeds service.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Less buses for Ellerker

From Sunday 14th June 2009, EYMS will reduce services to Ellerker, which is served by the 155 route from Hull to Gilberdyke. All Sunday services will be withdrawn, and the Monday to Saturday service will be reduced to a two hourly daytime only service. EYMS say this is due to congestion and comments from residents.