A rather interesting article has appeared over the future of the 260 Villager service. Running on weekdays it primarily links Goxhill, New Holland and Barrow to Barton, and on Thursdays it also links East Halton to Barton and the Victoria House area of Barton to the Tesco supermarket. A Barton schools service is also interworked with the 260.
The article is essentially a loose it or use plea. The councillor in charge of buses says "the overriding message to everybody is if you don't want to loose it, then use it". However a council spokesperson says the service is not under threat. Might be rather confusing to the casual reader.
Currently the service is funded by the Rural Bus Grant so as long as that remains there is no risk. However the council expect the government may withdraw it as part of spending cuts, which would mean if the service was to continue, the council would have to fund it directly. Services that cost more than £3 per passenger would be at risk and apparently the 260 is "close to the top of the list of routes at risk". So clearly the service is at risk, just not before the government spending review.
The article also reveals that North Lincolnshire Council wish to end direct council operation next January and seek a private operator to run the service.
However in all of this, it would be very unlikely the 260 would ever get withdrawn without replacement. While Goxhill and New Holland do have the train, the train station isn't easily located for everyone in those villages, and beyond the 260 they have few other bus services. Barrow, while not having the train, does at least have the 250 bus service. East Halton also has the 150 to Immingham and Grimsby 5 days a week, though the last time the East Halton-Barton was withdrawn it was quickly reinstated, indicating local demand for it.
So even if the 260 was withdrawn I would suggest at least a once daily weekday Goxhill-Barton 'shoppers' service would be needed, operating via New Holland and Barrow. This may also need to serve East Halton once a week. Additionally the current schools service operated the 260 vehicle would still need to be provided. The scope for cutting costs would be limited. Mileage could be reduced, but not so much the need for a vehicle and driver.
One possible idea would be to integrate the 260 with the 254 Barton Town Service, currently operating 3 days a week. The Barton Town Service currently has 4 main routes; Meadow Drive/Eastfield Road, Bowmandale/Tofts Road, Westfield Road and Far Ings Road/Dam Road (close to Victoria House). Meadow Drive could be served as a diversion to the 260, while the latter two routes could perhaps be reduced to twice a week operation. This could lead to a pattern like this:
Barton St Peters School Service
Barton-Goxhill direct service, omitting New Holland
Goxhill-Barton via New Holland, Barrow and Meadow Drive
Barton Town Service to Bowmandale 3xWeek, Westfield Road 2xWeek
Barton-Goxhill via Meadow Drive, Barrow and New Holland
In reality it wouldn't be that simple, especially if East Halton was to be served. However I'm sure it would be possible to work something out, saving a 3 day a week contract in the process. One issue maybe that the Barton Town Service runs on opposite days to the Brigg Town Service, allowing the same vehicle to be used on both. However any cost increase on the Brigg Town Service would hopefully be covered by the savings from the 254/260.
Just an idea, and all such ideas may need to be considered in order to safeguard as much of the subsidised bus network in the months ahead.
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