From 31st January 2011, Stagecoach East Midlands will take over operation of weekday service 260, the 'Villager' bus service that links Barrow, Goxhill, New Holland and East Halton (Thursday only) to Barton. There is also a Thursdays only link to Victoria House in Barton, as well as a schools service in Barton operated as part of the same diagram. The service is currently operated directly by North Lincolnshire Council.
In the current climate of spending cuts, you may think this is an attempt to make savings. However the cost of the service will actually rise, short term at least. Instead the motivation for contracting the service out is the age, and therefore increasing unreliability, of the North Lincolnshire Council bus fleet, as well as difficulties covering abscences from the council's small pool of bus drivers.
After putting the 260 out to tender, North Lincolnshire Council received two bids, with the winning bid being from Stagecoach. No mention of who the other bidder was, but I suspect Hornsby Travel (operators of the Barton Town Service), or less likely either Holloways Coaches or Johnsons. Stagecoach bid was for £38.729 per year, or £1.08 per passenger journey (including the interworked schools service). This is apparently higher than the council's current costs, but under the council 'limit' of £3 per passenger journey subsidy and can be offset by savings elsewhere. The contract will for five and half years, and the current timetable will be only slightly modified. No mention of what Stagecoach depot will operate the service.
Clearly the aim here is for a more reliable service and with less of a burden in terms of vehicles on the council. However have opportunities been missed, especially in terms of making savings that inevitably will have to be made next year? My idea to integrate the 260 with the Barton Town Service potentially could produce some signficant savings, eliminating the three day a week town service contract without any substantial changes in the level of service provision. In their defence, North Lincolnshire Council have not yet confirmed future budgets, but it won't be long before cuts have to be contemplated.
North Lincolnshire Council report
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