Monday 14 March 2011

Relatively Minor Cuts = Bad PR

Changes to the Humber Flyer (Hull-Barton-Humberside Airport-Grimsby-Cleethorpes). Not anything new as Stagecoach battle to make the service viable. From April 4th the service will be revised, with Hull depot sharing operation with Grimsby, enabling the 0620 from Grimsby and 1900 from Hull to be withdrawn.

This isn't a fundamental change to the service, but understandably for those who use these journeys they aren't happy, and they are making their voices heard. However the journeys are not well used - just 4 to 10 people on the 0620, but with 25-30 needed to break even. From a commercial perspective it is hard to argue with Stagecoach. They have also pointed out that passengers from Grimsby can use the 250 to Barton and connect onto the 350 Humber Fastcat to get to Hull before what will be the new first arrival of the Humber Flyer. There is also the train, if passengers can get to a railway station on the Cleethorpes-Barton line. The 0600 Cleethorpes-Barton train connects into the 0653 Barton-Hull Humber Fastcat arriving in Hull at almost the same time as the current 0620 Humber Flyer. Likewise in an evening passengers can use the 1925 Hull-Scunthorpe Humber Fastcat and change at Barton for a train back home.

Is there a way to save these journeys? One option could be to divert the 0620 into Barton, replacing the current 0653 Humber Fastcat, which carries around 15 passengers based on a couple of recent trips on it. The problem though is that EYMS operate the 0653 and I doubt they would just give it up, especially as most passengers are buying weekly tickets or full fare returns (i.e. not many OAP concessionary fares). And what could Stagecoach give them in return (there is a qualifying agreement that allows co-ordination of timetables) - there are no other short Hull-Barton journeys and an all-day diagram would be a huge sacrifice by Stagecoach. So this idea is really a non-starter.

North East Lincolnshire Council funding is another option, but council budgets are being cut, and funding the 0620 and 1900 is unlikley to be a prudent use of taxpayers money due to the small number of affected passengers.

A better option maybe to promote the train/Humber Fastcat and 250/Humber Fastcat options. The latter will not even cost anymore for weekly ticket users, assuming it does not get into Hull too late for them. Showing the connection in the Humber Flyer timetable would be a start. I doubt Stagecoach really want to promote the train connection at the expense of their buses, but it's something North East Lincolnshire Council may wish to do.

What this situation also highlights is the sensitivity of the service. Even a relatively small change can provoke a big reaction. Plus it will probably overshadow the introduction of low floor vehicles onto the route. And it also highlights the impact of the Humber Bridge tolls once again.

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