Friday 31 July 2009

Speeding up Barton-Cleethorpes train services

The latest minutes from the Friends of the Barton Line (FoBL) rail user group report a proposal from the Barton-Cleethorpes Community Rail Partnership (BCCRP) to remove stops at Barrow Haven, Thornton Abbey and New Clee from the following Barton to Cleethorpes services: 0958/1158/1358/2158 from Barton and 1100/1300/1500/2100 from Cleethorpes. This would be on Mondays to Fridays for a six month trial period with an aim to increase passenger numbers.

FoBL are opposing this seeing it as the beginning of the end for the three stations. As posted earlier this month, they are three of the least used stations in Yorkshire and the Humber. The number of people affected by the change would be small.

However would the move be worth it? The journey time from Barton to Cleethorpes is about 51 minutes, and 48-49 minutes in the other direction. From Barton to Grimsby just over 40 minutes. You would struggle to travel significantly faster by car, and the bus is a lot longer at over an hour between Barton and Grimsby. So the train is relatively fast as it is.

Then how much time would you save omitting three stations? Currently trains omitting New Clee save one minute. So omitting Barrow Haven and Thornton Abbey as well might save 5 minutes at most. Is it worth inconviencing the few users of the three stations for a small time saving to an already fairly fast train service?

Perhaps a better move would be to try and promote the three stations, especially Thornton Abbey in the summer to serve Abbey that gives the station it's name, and New Clee for the adjacent Ramsdens superstore. If the change happens New Clee will only be served on weekdays by the 0900 from Cleethorpes and 0800 from Barton. Useless.

I can see why the idea would be proposed - it costs nothing. But there are other priorities for the Barton Line - better connections at Habrough, extended Sunday services.

Humber Bridge tolls will not go up

The government has announced it will not sanction the proposed increase of the Humber Bridge tolls, despite the Humber Bridge Board's request being recommended for approval by an inspector at a public inquiry earlier this year. The reason given for rejecting the increase is the current economic climate.

Very welcome news but is this just a one-off? The Bridge Board will propose further tolls increases in the future which will be opposed, and there is also the wish to write off some or all off the Bridge Board's debt to enable a reduction in the tolls. Does todays decision mean anything for these issues?

By using the reason of the economy for the decision to reject the tolls increase now, the government has not set a precedent to always oppose bridge tolls increase. By the time the Bridge Board next want to increase the tolls, the economy will have probably picked up and this reason to reject any increase will have gone.

Then there is the issue of the Humber Bridge Board finances. These will take a big 'hit' by not allowing this toll increase. Rejecting another increase could cause serious financial problems - there is provision for taxpayers locally, mainly in Hull, to make up the shortfall but that would just be a political mess, not one that any government would want to preside over. It would probably be better to sanction an increase in tolls.

As for the Bridge debt, it is very small in terms of the national debt, but that national debt will mean budget cuts in many areas, including front line services. In that context dealing with an issue that affects a tiny part of the country is hardly going to be a priority.

While the economic climate is the reason for the decision, is there politics being played here too? There is a general election due within the next year, and this decision will not do any harm to the chance of Labour being re-elected, especially when there are two fairly marginal seats in the area. The decision is a very good way to show concern over local issues without spending any money.

This could create future problems with the Bridge Board finances as described above, but that would come to a head early in the next parliament probably - the time when tough decisions can be made safe in the knowledge of no imminent election.

Today's decision is welcome. The new Department for Transport team has impressed me, especially in terms of the railways, and here too. I believe it is in part responding to local concerns. But don't get too excited medium to long term - it sounds like a one-off; there is nothing to suggest any future tolls increases would be rejected, and nothing to suggest the government would be open to reducing the debt. Add in any element off playing politics and I feel this is only good news short term.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Hull Bus Forum 3rd June

The minutes of the Hull Bus Forum on 3rd June 2009 are now available. Some of what was discussed on matters mentioned previously on here, but I've selected a few interesting points from the discussions.

The diversion of EYMS buses that route down Spring Bank away from Park Street in Hull was due to discussions with the Institute for the Death, so I presume is a safety issue. Fair enough, though in my experience it was slightly quicker that way versus the current route via Ferensway.

The provision of an early morning bus on EYMS route 1C from Kingswood into Hull has attracted reasonable loadings that covers the cost of operating the journey. Also doing well are Stagecoach's revised evening services, and the numbers using the Megabus Plus service to London are improving. Doing less well are the evening services on route 20 starting at the Guildhall.

The provision of buses along Chanterlands Avenue North was a hot topic, but there is no money from Hull City Council to fund a replacement when service 63 ends this Saturday. Also interesting is that when 63 operated via Beverley Road and Queens Road to Newland Avenue it only attracted three passengers a day.

Monday 20 July 2009

Wroot to Doncaster ... again

You may remember in April the Wilfreda Beehive operated Monday to Saturday service 190 between Wroot and Doncaster ended, following the decision by SYPTE to withdraw it's funding. North Lincolnshire Council funded one return journey three days a week as a replacement for Wroot passengers but a VOSA entry back in May showed this service as ending last week.

From today Wroot passengers will now be served by an extension of First's Doncaster local service 59, which until last week operated between Doncaster, Cantley and Bessacarr Warning Tounge Lane Monday to Friday daytimes. Now two journeys start in Wroot at 0907 and 1407, with one departure from Doncaster Interchange extending to Wroot at 1315. The Wroot journeys also form part of a new limited Saturday service on route 59.

So an improvement on the service Wroot has had to Doncaster since April, with double the number of days there is a bus to Doncaster. Though the frequency is less than the three return journeys operated until April. However the new 59 service does still allow for a shopping trip to Doncaster, or a visit to the Dome leisure centre. Hopefully as a six day a week service, and being attached to a local service in Doncaster (rather than being a 'stand alone' service) the link will become more viable.

As a side note, I presume the extension to Wroot is being funded by North Lincolnshire Council?

Thursday 16 July 2009

Yorkshire and Humber RUS

Network Rail has released the final version of the Yorkshire and Humber RUS. There isn't that much planned for the Humber region beyond work to create extra capacity for freight going to/from Hull and Immingham Docks, including potential doubling of some or all of the single track section of the Brigg Line. The key points are set out in Network Rail's press release.

However the document does have a few interesting statistics and points relating to the region in it.

Out of Yorkshire and the Humber's 13 least used stations detailed in Table 3.1, 11 are in the Humber Region. Network Rail has taken the usage statistics and converted them into trips per day which takes into account the number of days each station has a service; particularly useful in the case off the Brigg Line served only on Saturdays.

Rawcliffe sees 3 trips per day, and Snaith 9. This stations are on the Goole to Leeds line which offers one main function only; commuting into Leeds. Therefore such figures are hardly surprising

Again hardly surprising is to see Kirton Lindsey (3 trips per day) and Brigg (13 trips per day) on the list, which each served three services each way Saturdays only.

Wressle and Eastrington, both served by Hull to York trains see only two and five passenger trips per day respectively, and only have a limited service. Broomfleet, which is on the same line, and also served by occasional Hull to Doncaster trains, sees 7 trips per day. All three stations are in sparsley populated areas. Also in East Yorkshire, Arram sees 7 trips per day; while close to Leconfield it is a fairly remote location and low usage in hardly a surprise.

Finally three stations served by the Barton to Cleethorpes service are on the list; New Clee with one trip per day, Thornton Abbey with two trips per day and Barrow Haven with nine trips per day. New Clee is a unusual situation - it is only served in daylight hours due to lack of lighting, and with such low usage, new lightling cannot be justified. It is also, unusally for this list, in an urban area and is rather handy for Aldi or Ramsdens supermarkets. Thornton Abbey serves ... Thornton Abbey, and not much else (Thornton Curtis village is fairly close however) while Barrow Haven too is a very small village.

Good news for all these stations though is that there are no plans for service cuts or closure as things stand.

Hornsby Service 4 Contract

Hornsby's service 4 is the main bus service between Brigg and Scunthorpe, operating via Broughton, Lakeside Reatil Park and Ashby. The main, roughly hourly, daytime service, Monday to Saturday, is commercially operated, though journeys at other times are subsidised by North Lincolnshire Council. The contract for these services has just been renewed for a further five years, and a North Lincolnshire Council report reveals some interesting details.

Firstly Hornsby Travel was the only bidder for the contract. Perhaps surprisingly Stagecoach do not even appear to have even submitted a bid, but keeping the tendered and commercial journeys with the same operator does avoid the need for passengers to purchase two tickets when travelling one way on a commercial journey and the other way on a subsidised journey.

Weekday early morning and evening subsidised journeys from Brigg extend beyond Scunthorpe Bus Station to Normanby Enterprise Park. However the use off these services have declined by 20% since last summer due to the recession and the cost per passenger is now £3.41, above the North Lincolnshire Council guideline off £3. Hoping the number of jobs increases, and recognising access to jobs is a key priority these services will continue for now, but the extension to the Enterprise Park will remain under review.

Similarly four weekday daytime services to Normanby Enterprise Park, operated under a de minimis basis (council funded, but not tendered) have also seen declining use, and these too remain under review.

It is a similar situation with the limited Saturday evening service between Brigg and Scunthorpe. Usage varies greatly and costs have risen by 29%. They are not regarded as a priority by the council and remain under review.

There is also currently a basic Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service between Brigg and Scunthorpe which costs an 'acceptable' £2.31 per passenger. Hornsby Travel have proposed a more clockface and earlier timetable for these journeys that is better for Sunday shopping. This has been approved by North Lincolnshire Council and should start in September.

Overall cost of this package is £43,095 per year, up from the current £40,122. Per day the cost is:
Weekday: £135
Saturday: £60
Sunday: £110

Saturday 11 July 2009

New Bridlington-Scarborough evening service

Nothing on the EYMS website yet, but I have picked up a service 121 timetable today which shows a new Bridlington to Scarborough evening service on Monday to Saturdays from Monday 27th July. This will be acheived by extending existing Hunmanby to Scarborough evening journeys to start at Bridlington, and is thanks to financial support for East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Departures from Bridlington will be at 2005, 2105, 2205 and 2325 (the last departure is a new service rather than an extension of a Hunmanby-Scarborough service). There is however a large gap between the existing last departure at 1710 and the new 2005 service. In the other direction departures from Scarborough will be at 1945, 2045, 2145 and 2310.

Market Weighton gains more York buses

From Sunday 19th July, EYMS are making changes to their York services. The main change is that many journeys on service 746 between Pocklington and York shall now start back at Market Weighton, also serving Hayton and Shiptonthorpe. Currently service 746 combines with service X46 from Hull to York to give a roughly half hourly Pocklington to York service, albeit with each service following slightly different routes. Now Market Weighton will get this half hourly frequency too. Lets hope this enhancement is well used.

Also EYMS will be making some changes to city centre routes in York, not just for services 746 and X46, but also for less frequent services 744, 747 and X47. See their timetable leaflets for details of the new routes.

Bridlington Town Service changes

EYMS are making some changes to two Bridlington Town Services on Monday 20th July. Service 503 will operate along Cardigan Road instead off South Marine Drive while service 504 to Bempton and Buckton will operate along Trinity Road instead of the Promenade. There shall also be a new departure on this service from Bridlington at 3.15pm, returning from Bempton at 3.38pm on Saturdays and School Holidays only.