Thursday 31 December 2009

Review 2009: A Great year for Barton (not so for Immingham)

At the start of the year, Barton had hourly services to Hull and Scunthorpe, and a roughly 2 Hourly service to Grimsby (plus others to Brigg, Goxhill and East Halton). The only time a low floor bus was guaranteed to visit the town was three days a week when the town service runs (though EYMS usually sent a Gemini on some 350 journeys).

By the end of 2009 Barton's bus service has been transformed. The 350 to Hull and Scunthorpe has doubled in frequency to half hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes, while the service to Grimsby is now hourly as the 45B. The 350 is fully low floor operated, and the 45B often is too.

Back in March, Stagecoach and EYMS relaunched the 350 as the Humber Fastcat with a very distinctive orange livery. Stagecoach invested in six new MAN/Enviro 300 buses for the relaunch, and their Hull depot took on two diagrams for the first time. The route was also altered, diverting down Frodingham Road in Scunthorpe and also using the Hull City Centre Loop outbound. This latter diversion has been very much appreciated by me!

A welcome new weekly ticket was also launched, though the normal fares are rather high in my opinion, and EYMS increased their Barton to Hull return fares by over 20% at the time of the relaunch.

The relaunch seems to have been a success, at least short term; passenger figures are up 30% and it was shortlisted for a UK Bus Award. Hopefully stronger passenger growth will occur in 2010, considering the increase in number of services is far more than 30%, but it's a good start. Finally, while I don't want to be too downbeat, I hope the problems affecting the Humber Flyer don't spread to the Humber Fastcat.

The second major improvement to the bus services in Barton occurred in September when the Grimsby service 250 was replaced by the 45B. A far better timetable with earlier and later journeys plus an increased hourly frequency. For South Killingholme the increase was even better, gaining a new half hourly frequency. Meanwhile Habrough gained an hourly bus service six days a week, the first time it has had a 6 day a week daytime service for a number of years.

But unlike the Humber Fastcat, this change had losers as well as winners. Immingham, Stallingborough and Healing went from 3-4 buses an hour to just 2 as the 45 was reduced from every 20 minutes to half hourly and the 250 withdrawn. The link to Victoria Street Tesco was also axed, and the historic service to Immingham Docks withdrawn and replaced by services to the MIC Plant instead. Just to add to the bad news the 'new' 45 is no longer officially low floor, though in recent weeks my observations of the 45B at least indicate most service are now low floor operated.

Winners and losers - that happens a lot with service changes. As a Bartonian I've been lucky but for Immingham the cut seems savage. Hopefully in the future Stagecoach may reconsider the level of service they provide the town.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Review 2009: Scunthorpe-Doncaster Rail Blockade

Arguably the biggest rail story in the region in the past year was the summer blockade of the railway line between Scunthorpe and Doncaster (well Thorne Junction to be exact). This led to bus replacements being required while essential engineering work was carried out. However the timing and replacement services did raise some questions.

Firstly the timing, between June and September - the peak time for tourists going to Cleethorpes. This did attract some criticism in Cleethorpes, though bluntly the freight traffic on the South Humber Main Line is more important, and from a freight perspective summer was the best time for the blockade.

From my perspective the replacement services raised the biggest questions. Firstly the line between Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe was open, yet no rail service was provided. Secondly no use was made of Brigg Line to provide an alternative through service between North East Lincolnshire and Cleethorpes. The replacement services seemed to have cost and convenience for the rail industry as the priority ahead off what was best for the customer.

The work is done now, and the blockade is in the past. But hopefully more consideration will be given to trying to provide at least limited alternative rail services where possible in future blockades, where ever they are in the country. The Network Rail 7-day railway initiative is a good start with regards to weekend work, and hopefully some of the ideas from that can be applied to longer blockades.

As a final side note, North East Lincolnshire was totally cut off from the national rail network this past Christmas weekend as Network Rail replaced a bridge at Barnetby, which did cut the village in half and adversely affect some local businesses. Again though there is probably never a perfect time to do the work, and Christmas is probably the least worst time - from a railway perspective certainly.

Review 2009: EYMS takeover Veolia's Hull operation

March 2009 saw the withdrawal of Veolia from the region as their Hull operation was transferred to EYMS. This was part of a wider withdrawal from smaller operations by Veolia that has also seen their Lincoln depot closed and their York operation sold to Transdev (who are now in merger talks with Veolia, so Veolia may get York back!).

Veolia inherited the Hull operation when they took over Dunn Line, who had in turn bought Alpha Bus and Coach earlier in the decade. The main service was the operation of the Walton Street Park and Ride, but Hull City Council stopped funding the scheme in the Spring, which would have left the Hull operation with very little work. Other than that Veolia had various tendered services across Hull and East Yorkshire, some operating only a few days a week, others only a few journeys a day. Only the Hessle Town Service could be described as a regular Monday to Saturday operation, and even that only ran in the morning and early afternoon.

EYMS integrated the former Veolia work into their network, along with the former Veolia Hull fleet, which has led to some 'oddballs' within EYMS's fleet such as a MAN 14:220 HOCL/East Lancs Mylennium single decker. In a separate move, they also took on the Walton Street Park and Ride commercially.

Veolia's departure from Hull meant that apart from EYMS and Stagecoach only local independent operators remain in Hull, and until Lords Coaches took over Saturday services 173-5 in September, only EYMS and Stagecoach operated any local bus services in Hull. However in 2010 CT Plus (Hackney Community Transport) will set up a new Hull operation, which while not part of a large group like Veolia, are not an independent either.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Review 2009: Humber Flyer

Yet again the Hull to North East Lincolnshire bus service made the news in 2009. At the start of the year it operated from Hull to New Waltham via Humberside Airport, Laceby, Grimsby and Cleethorpes as service X1.

In April the service was relaunched as the Humber Flyer. It no longer operated beyond Cleethropes, and had a new route via Hainton Avenue and Weelsby Road in Grimsby before extending to Pleasure Island in Cleethorpes. Also the route in Hull was changed to operate down Boothferry and Anlaby Roads in Hull rather than the Clive Sullivan Way. The service was also 'technically' split into two at Humberside Airport, but in reality remained the previous through service.

Overall the relaunch was a positive move, with a new brand, and newly refreshed Volvo B10B/Wright buses transferred onto the route. There was a even a new mini website launched to promote the route.

However in November the troubles of the past resurfaced again and the threat of withdrawal has resurfaced. Buses over the Humber Bridge receive subsidies to partially cover the cost of bridge tolls, but the subsidies for the Humber Flyer are in doubt after the 4 contributors - Hull City Council, Humberside Airport and North and North East Lincolnshire Council's have not provided funding for 2009/10. Without this subsidy, Stagecoach claim the service is not viable due to it's high mileage and the fact that even with subsidy, the bridge tolls remain high. The comments on the original blog on this topic add extra information to the original post.

Some hope has been provided after North East Lincolnshire councillors passed a motion for their council to commit to it's share of the subsidy for the next three years. This is an encouraging step to save this very important, and politically sensitive, local link.

Review 2009: Hull Park and Ride

During 2009, Hull's two park and ride schemes have been one of the biggest news transport stories in the region.

At the start of the year it was Hull's original Walton Street scheme. The Walton Street site is unusual for a park and ride scheme as it is rather close to the city centre. In January Hull City Council announced plans to close the scheme as part of cost cutting measures. The service was operated by Veolia. In April, shortly after EYMS took over Veolia's Hull operation they stepped in to take over the service commercially for a trial period. As of December EYMS continue operation of the service; I would expect the trial peiod to be over by now so hopefully it is performing well for them and it's longer term future is secure.

Later in the year the newer Priory Park scheme, with purpose built facilities, made the news. Since it opened in 2003 it had been operated by EYMS under contract to Hull City Council. However in September it emerged that following a tender process the contract has been awarded to CT Plus, part of London based Hackney Community Transport. They are a new operator to East Yorkshire, though do have operations in West Yorkshire.

This decision caused a lot of local outrage. In times of recession especially, some could not understand why the contract was awarded to an 'outside' operation as opposed to a local company. The decision came under review and scruitiny but it appears that the decision stands and a VOSA entry indicates an early February operator changeover.

So EYMS started the year with the Priory Park scheme and ended the year with the Walton Street scheme. Hopefully with the Walton Street scheme being operated commercially for a while now, and the new Priory Park scheme contract seemingly having been finalised, Hull's Park and Ride schemes will enjoy a less newsworthy year.

Thursday 24 December 2009

EYMS gain Goole Town Service?

Posts on the South Yorkshire Transport Forum indicate that EYMS will takeover operation of the tendered Goole Town Service from First South Yorkshire from Monday 15th February. Some welcome news for EYMS, but doesn't help First's problems in South Yorkshire.

Saturday 19 December 2009

EYMS Changes: Why they are hapenning

So far I have mostly posted about the impact and details of EYMS's February changes. But why are they happening? EYMS's press release explain's their reasons.

Firstly the issue of the national free concessionary travel scheme. A fantastic idea in principle, but there have been considerable funding issues. The idea is for bus companies to be 'no better no worse' off than in the days of half-price concessionary travel. Bus companies used to get the half price adult fare the concession paid, plus a contribution from local councils (reimbursement). Now bus companies get an increased contribution from local councils, but this is often less than the total of the previous half price fare plus smaller council contribution. So bus operators loose out.

Some would argue that increased passenger levels make up for this. But the increase in passenger levels needed for bus companies to be 'revenue neutral' is often very, unrealistically, high. Furthermore, as EYMS have faced, in some cases there is no spare capacity for increased concessionary travel, and with the reimbursement rate being low, it is not worthwhile investing in extra capacity. This can lead to unhappy full fare paying passengers, not wanting to stand, switching to other forms of transport such as the car or train.

EYMS quote an example from North Yorkshire where another operator receives £1.48 for a concessionary traveller compared to the full adult fare of £5.50. They also note that even full buses can be unprofitable when most passengers are concessions. Not hard to imagine with such low levels of reimbursement.

So the concessionary travel scheme has these underlying problems that have been around for a while. For EYMS, the 'straw that has broken the camel's back' seems to have been the decision of Hull City Council to reduce their reimbursement by £160,000 a year. This comes after a £350,000 annual decrease in reimbursement from councils in North Yorkshire. It should be noted that council's are allocated money by Central Government to pay for concessionary travel, and thus it is the government underfunding the scheme nationally that causes councils to make cuts.

Secondly EYMS have been hit by the loss of the profitable Priory Park Park and Ride contract in Hull. Profits from this and other services have been 'cross-subsidising' other loss making services.

So overall a tricky time for EYMS. With the large budget deficit in the UK, increased funding for concessionary travel at a national level seems very unlikely so no easy solutions any time soon. But this may ignite the row over the award of the Priory Park contract to CT Plus. EYMS's explanation would imply that had they kept the contract the service cuts may be less severe.

EYMS Cottingham and Willerby Service Changes

Following up to Monday's VOSA entries, EYMS have issued a press release summarising most of their February service changes. These include a number of changes in the Willerby and Cottingham areas.

Firstly service 109, introduced in August linking Bricknell Avenue, Cottingham and Castle Hill Hospital will be axed (unless new council funding is found). This service duplicates part of Stagecoach service 110, though St. Margarets Road in Cottingham will loose almost all it's service as a result (the exception being a morning peak journey on service 61). As I mentioned back in August, maybe service 110 could be routed via St. Margarets Road?

Service 154 between Hull City Centre, Willerby, Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham Green and Cottingham Station will be curtailed to terminate at Castle Hill Hospital but shall be interworked with service 115 between Castle Hill Hospital, Cotttingham Green, Endike Lane and Hull. This shall preserve links from the 154 route to Cottingham Green, plus create new links from Willerby to Endike Lane and Hull University. However it shall mean Cottingham Station shall no longer have a bus service, which EYMS says currently sees little custom.

Furthermore service 154 shall gain a new hourly Sunday service, matching it with service 115's hourly Sunday service. The Monday to Saturday daytime and early evening service on routes 115 and 154 already match, both operating every 20 minutes in the daytime with a limited early evening service.

Route 64 between Hull, Setting Dyke, Cottingham Green, Castle Hill Hospital and Willerby shall terminate at Castle Hill Hospital from February. Cottingham, Castle Hill Hospital and Willerby currently have 5 buses an hour (services 64/154/180), and the reduction to 4 an hour (115/154 every 20 minutes and 180 hourly) is probably not a major issue Monday to Saturday daytimes. However evening links will be lost, except for limited early evening 115/154 journeys. Sunday daytimes shall be covered the the new 154 Sunday service (see above).

Route 64 currently continues as service 47 at Willerby into Hull via Kingston Road, Willerby Road and Spring Bank, which shall now loose their link to Castle Hill Hospital and Cottingham. The Willerby Road corrdor shall also see other changes, which do simplify the current complex network, but lead to some reductions.

Currently services 44, 45 and 47 link Hull and Willerby every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes but shall be simplified to just service 44 from February, albeit running every 20 minutes. Changes to service 35 shall retain 4 buses an hour from Willerby to Hull via the Willerby Road corridor. EYMS also mention that combined with service 154, Hull to Willerby shall have a service every 10 minutes, so maybe the 44 and 154 will be co-ordinated from February?

The 47 runs the same route as service 44, with the separate number indicating that it continues as a service 64 to Castle Hill Hospital. But with the 64 no longer serving Willerby (see above), the variation is no longer required. The 45 additionally serves Willerby Parkway and Well Lane but shall be replaced by changes to service 35 (see below).

Wold Road and Wymersley Road currently have a bus every 15 minutes into Hull City Centre, Monday to Saturday daytimes. The 33 operates via Spring Bank West and the 35 via Albert Avenue and Hull Royal Infirmary. From February Wold and Wymersely Road's shall retain 4 buses an hour into Hull City Centre. The 33 shall be increased to run every 20 minutes, with the 35 reduced to hourly. Like Willerby, the current even spread of buses shall be lost.

The 'new' 35 shall start in Willerby and operate via Well Lane, Willerby Parkway, Kingston Road, Wymersely Road, Wold Road, parts of Spring Bank, Albert Avenue and Hull Royal Infirmary into Hull City Centre. It's reduced hourly frequency shall mean a reduction in service for Albert Avenue, and less buses from Wold Road to Hull Royal Infirmary, but opens new links to Hull Royal Infirmary from parts of Willerby.

Another effect of these changes is that there shall be a service every 10 minutes from Hull to County Road South via Spring Bank on routes 33 and 44. Currently it is every 7/8 minutes on services 33/44/45/47, but with some 15 minute gaps when service 35 operates. So a gain at some times, a loss at others.

Indeed that seems to be the case overall. Some benefits, some losses. Apart from St Margarets Road in Cottingham, and links between Cottingham and Willerby in the evening, I can't see any major complaints about this package of changes. Most of the service reductions appear, to me at least, to be inconvenient, rather than a major loss of service. Though maybe those affected will think otherwise?

Overall the Willerby changes save 2 buses. Full details will be made available in January when new timetable are released. Other changes affect services 1C and 41. And as some comments have pointed out, I incorrectly stated that EYMS would no longer have any commercial services wholly within Hull after February. I of course forgot the 33, 62 and 700. So thanks for pointing that out.

Friday 18 December 2009

EYMS: Confirmed 41 and 1C axed

As a follow up to Monday's post, the BBC confirm EYMS routes 41 and 1C will be axed from February. The reasons given are the loss of the Priory Park Park and Ride contract, plus the concessionary fare scheme. The two services are loss making and have been 'cross subsidised' from profits on other routes - probably including the lost profitable park and ride contract.

The loss of the 41 is less severe than the loss of the 1C. The 41 operated from Hull to Greatfield and Bilton Grange every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes, competing with Stagecoach's more frequent services such as the 43 and 54. The only part of the 41 route unserved by Stagecoach is the Newbridge Road area - they withdrew their service 40 back in July.

The 41's withdrawal will no doubt please Stagecoach, who partly justified their July changes as an attempt to combat falling usage of bus services in the area. However the loss of competition may not be well received, and residents of Newbridge Road will not welcome the news either. The people of East Hull are very passionate about their bus services, as shown by their anger at October's Hull Bus Forum, and it wouldn't surprise me if there is 'loud' opposition to the 41's withdrawal. Bilton Grange and Greatfield seem to be very 'difficult' teritory for bus operators, in sharp contrast to many other parts of Hull.

As for the 1C, a number of areas will be left unserved. The service currently operates hourly from Sibeluis Road via Pickering Road, Fiveways, Askew Avenue, Hessle Road, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull City Centre, Wincolmlee, Beverley Road and Compass Road to Kingswood. It is the only service serving Pickering Road, Askew Avenue, Wincolmlee and Compass Road, while Sibeluis Road only has the infrequent remains of the 1A as an alternative.

The 1C was started by EYMS earlier this decade after Amvale withdrew from bus operations in Hull, and prior to the 2008 cuts to bus service in Hull, the western section of the 1C was supplemented by hourly service 1A to give a half hourly frequency. Now the frequency could be nothing at all.

I say could be, because there maybe significant pressure on Hull City Council to fund some form of replacement. The service carries a lot of OAP's, and even for those with good mobility, some parts of the route such as Wincolmlee are a long distance from alternative services. However at the last Hull Bus Forum (before this week's news), the Hull City Council representative said cuts to the supported bus service budget will happen next year, meaning some very hard decisions could have to be made.

The withdrawal of the 1C and 41 will also mean that EYMS no longer have any commercially operated services that operate entirely within the Hull City boundary.

Monday 14 December 2009

Major EYMS Service Changes - February 2010

Today, the VOSA website shows major changes from EYMS in the Hull area from February 7th. However readers should beware that further VOSA entries may follow in the coming days, and some services are on joint registrations, and therefore while mentioned below may not actually see any changes. As a result the list below is just an indication of what may change.

Services cancelled:
1A/1C (Sibelius Road-Hull-Kingswood)
41 (Hull-Greatfield-Bilton Grange)
109 (Bricknell Estate-Cottingham)

Services due to see changes:
33/34/44/45/47 (Hull-Wold Road/Willerby)
56/57 (Longhill-Hull-Hessle)
64 (Hull-Cottingham-Willerby)
66 (Hull-Hessle)
102/105 (Hull-University-Cottingham)
115 (Hull-Cottingham)
151/152 (Hull-Anlaby-Willerby)
154 (Hull-Willerby-Cottingham)

Thursday 10 December 2009

Stagecoach Scunthorpe Area Christmas/New Year Services

Stagecoach have released details of Christmas and New Year services in the Scunthorpe area:

Christmas Eve - normal service with early finish
Christmas Day/Boxing Day - no service
Sunday 27th/Monday 28th - Sunday service
Tuesday 29th/Wednesday 30th - normal service
New Years Eve - normal service with early finish
New Years Day - no services

Furthermore to the post on EYMS Christmas/New Years Eve plans, and specifically service 350 on Christmas and New Years Eve, the 1925 Hull to Scunthorpe and 1910 Scunthorpe to Hull shall not operate throughout. Both shall terminate at Barton before returning to their origin, with connections available for through travellers. This shall see EYMS operate the 1950 Barton to Hull, normally Stagecoach operated. Similarly Stagecoach shall operate the 1952 Barton to Scunthorpe, normally EYMS operated.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Stagecoach Grimsby Cleethorpes Christmas and New Year Services

Stagecoach Grimsby/Cleethorpes have released details of their Christmas and New Year services.

Christmas Eve - Normal service until early evening
Christmas Day/Boxing Day - No services
Sunday 27th - Normal Sunday service
Holiday Monday 28th - Sunday service
Tuesday 29th/Wednesday 30th - Saturday service, except for routes 3, 25, 45, 51 and 150 that shall have a normal weekday timetable. Service 366 will not operate
Thursday 31st - Saturday service except for routes 3, 25, 45, 51, 150 and 366 that shall have a normal Thursday service. All services shall end early evening
New Years Day - No services

Stagecoach Hull Christmas and New Year Services

Stagecoach Hull have released their Christmas and New Year Service Details. Off note are new New Years Eve evening services, which I think I have read are financially supported by Hull City Council.

Christmas Eve - normal weekday service until 2000
Christmas Day - no services
Boxing Day - usual basic hourly daytime service on routes 1, 2, 13, 14, 15, 28, 30, 32, 42, 43, 51, 54
Sunday 27th - normal Sunday service with extra 32F and 51F journeys to the KC Stadium
Bank Holiday Monday 28th - Sunday service
Tuesday 29th/Wednesday 30th - Saturday service with no nightbuses (though the 350 Humber Fastcat will be a weekday timetable, Stagecoach Hull diagrams on this service are the same on weekdays and Saturdays)
New Years Eve - Saturday service (weekday service on 350) until 2100. Then a special timetable on routes N2/N15/N32/N43/N51 from 2100 to 0310 with no other services operating. There are special fares on these nightbus services
New Years Day - no services

Full details here (would have been nice for Stagecoach Hull to explain that the 350 will have a weekday service, even if it doesn't affect Hull depot).

701 Priory Park P+R Operator Changeover Date

Looks like CT Plus will take over the Priory Park Park and Ride Service from current operator EYMS in early February. The tender award by Hull City Council has been very controversial, with CT Plus (ultimately) being a London based operator, wheras EYMS is locally based in Hull.

From VOSA:
Cancellation Accepted: Operating between Priory Park & Ride (terminal) and Priory Park & Ride (terminal) given service number 701 effective from 01-Feb-2010.