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The new (May) version of the Stagecoach Hull Bus Map has a couple of interesting things in it. Firstly the 350 and Humber Flyer are now shown on the map, recognising their role as local services within Hull. But secondly and more notably the 677 and 678 Cranswick Foods workers buses are now shown and a timetable included within the bus map to start from 5th July. I take it then from this date they become available to the public?The 677 and 678 link the Interchange with Cranswick Foods factories in Sutton Fields (678 only) and Preston, as well as serving the BP site on Hedon Road. They operate via Beverley Road, Clough Road, Sutton Road, Ings Road and Holderness Road to Preston before returning via Hedon Road. Some journeys however divert via the P&O Ferry Terminals at Hull Docks; here they will operate as existing service 70 back to Hull Interchange.The 677 and 678 operate Monday to Friday only, in the early mornings and at peak times, roughly half hourly. The 70 has two departures from Hull Docks in the morning (0815 and 0900), and two departures from Hull Interchange in the afternoon peak (1700 and 1730). The current weekend service on the 70 is unaffected (0900 from the Docks, 1715 from the Interchange).
As a user of the service who very much appreciates the increased frequency, it feels a bit wrong to be writing this, but it is a question that needs asking. How successful has the March 2009 Humber Fastcat relaunch been?A snippet of information in 2009-10 Stagecoach East Midlands Annual Report made me think about this - the service is carrying 40,000 passengers a month, up 23% from last year. This increase has actually reduced from 30% as off last Autumn.While the 'headline' increase of the 350 was from hourly to half hourly, in reality it was a less than 100% increase. Scunthorpe-Winterton was already two buses an hour for most of the daytime and Sundays only gained one extra return journey. Early mornings and evenings haven't seen a 100% increase either. However the increase in mileage is still well above 50% - at a guess around 70-80%. Yet the passenger increase is just 23%. So after a year mileage has increased probably around three times more than the increase in passenger numbers. This does raise questions over how successful the relaunch has been. Expecting passenger numbers to rise in line with mileage is probably unrealistic. Especially when the section into Hull at least is very 'one-sided', with not many North Bank residents travelling south over the river from my observations. So some empty services at certain times of day are to be expected. Similarly the recession may have had an impact on those travelling for leisure purposes who may have decided to stay at home instead of going out. Also from my observations fare-paying commuter traffic has increased with the increased frequency and new route in Hull City Centre. However even allowing for this, a big gap between the mileage and passenger increases has to be disappointing.Based on this it would be expected that Stagecoach and EYMS would look to change the timetable. If not a reduction back to hourly, changes to early morning, evening and Sunday services that would not affect the core frequency. Yet beyond a very minor college day change in September the timetable remains unaltered. And then in April Barton got a third bus to Hull with the diversion of the Humber Flyer into Barton.So are the passenger increases not telling the whole story? Or are Stagecoach and EYMS hoping things will pick up and reluctant to reduce a flagship service? To a end on a positive note, what could be done to boost passenger numbers? The weekly ticket prices are reasonable, and the fares did not get increased in the May EYMS fare changes. The Barton-Hull return fare is £6.30; dropping that to say £6 is unlikely to see many extra passengers while a bigger drop may not cover the operators costs. And the service is even being advertised on Viking FM.Maybe a short term promotion to encourage new users to try the service - for example two adults travelling together get one ticket half price. Or a family ticket that could boost weekend and school holiday travel. Possibly a flexi-rider version of the Megarider Fastcat (Stagecoach's weekly ticket). An add-on to the weekly tickets for local travel in Hull or Scunthorpe would be another option, though with EYMS and Stagecoach's competing networks in Hull I doubt this would be practical.
The diversion of the newly relaunched service 3 away from Hainton Avenue and Weelsby Road to Bargate has caused some disquiet from those residents affected. A diversion of the 51 from Louth via the two roads is being considered, though potential unreliability issues need to be addressed. The idea of using Phone n'Ride instead was not well received.Hainton Avenue also has the Humber Flyer for journeys into Grimsby. This service is hourly - and I don't think Hainton Avenue has had a sustained period of more frequent service for quite some time. The change however did leave a relatively short part of Weelsby Road without a service.
With the new ExecutiveConnect 3 timetable starting today, the last departure from Lincoln to Grimsby was moved forward from 1740 to 1710. However that is not the last bus from Lincoln to Grimsby - not that many people will know. Without any announcement that I can find a new service 23/C has been introduced following the same route as service 3. The new 23 will depart from Lincoln to Market Rasen at 1740 Monday to Saturday before continuing as a 23C to Grimsby. Postings on the Stagecoach East Midlands Yahoo Group report a change of bus will be required at Market Rasen.Apart from the lack of publicity, the choice of service number is also odd. There is also a separate service 23 operated by PC Coaches under contract to Lincolnshire County Council. It also links Caistor and Market Rasen to Lincoln. While it follows a very different route, surely the new 23 could confuse passengers?