Sunday 22 February 2015

Stagecoach North East Hull Changes - 31, 32, 51, 52, 110

In November 2013, Stagecoach significantly revised services in North East Hull, with 'trunk' routes 32 and 51 receiving 'A' variants as Stagecoach attempted to offer a wider range of locations linked by through buses while maintaining or increasing frequencies into Hull City Centre. 2014 saw substantial revisions to the 32A and 51A including their renumbering to 31 and 52. It would seem however that Stagecoach's idea hasn't worked - their announcement cites 'lack of support' - as from tomorrow (Monday 23rd February), the 31 and 52 are withdrawn and it's back to just the 32 and 51.

The 31 and 32 had been providing a link between Hull City Centre, Summergangs Road, Gillshill Road and Sutton Village before the 31 extended to North Point and Kingswood and the 32 extended via Noddle Hill Way to North Point. Weekday daytimes had a combined 10 minute frequency and Saturday daytimes a combined 15 minute frequency, alternating between the 31 and 32.

From Monday the 32 will operate every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes and every 10 minutes during the weekday peak, thus maintaining peak time and Saturday frequencies, but seeing a reduction of 2 buses per hour on weekday daytimes. Noddle Hill Way receives more frequent service 32's, but this is to compensate for the withdrawal of the 52. Evening and Sunday 32 frequencies are unaffected. The withdrawal of the 31 means Summergangs Road, Gillshill Road and Sutton Village have lost their link to Kingswood Retail Park and have longer journey times to North Point. The (new?) area of Kingswood around the health centre has lost it's peak time service entirely.

The 32 also gains three weekday morning 'Workers+' services, with the first three departures from North Point at 0615, 0630 and 0645 extended from the City Centre via Hull Royal Infirmary to Smith and Nephew before serving Paragon Interchange. A series of improvements to early morning services was introduced by Stagecoach in September, called 'Workers+', but the 32 wasn't included at the time. Hopefully the inclusion of the 32 means 'Workers+' has had encouraging results.

The 51 and 52 had been providing a link between Hull City Centre, the Ings Road Estate, Spring Cottage and Kingswood. The 51 operated via Holderness Road between the City Centre and Ings Road Estate, and via North Point and Bodmin Road between Spring Cottage and Kingswood. Meanwhile the 52 served Garden Village and Savoy Road between Hull City Centre and Ings Road Estate before operating via Noddle Hill Way between Spring Cottage and Kingswood. Weekday daytimes had a combined 10 minutes frequency and Saturday daytimes a combined 15 minute frequency, alternating between the 51 and 52.

From Monday the 51 will operate every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytimes and every 10 minutes during the weekday peak, thus maintaining peak time and Saturday frequencies, but seeing a reduction of 2 buses per hour on weekday daytimes. Evening and Sunday 51 frequencies are unaffected, though a later last weekday bus is added at 2345 from Hull Truck Theatre (previously 2323 from Paragon Interchange). The withdrawal of the 52 means Garden Village and Noddle Hill Way have lost their links to Kingswood Retail Park, while Savoy Road becomes unserved. The withdrawal of the 52's 'Workers+' journeys is not replaced (except for Noddle Hill Way passengers served by the 32); these had operated via Cleveland Street as well as serving Hull Royal Infirmary and Smith and Nephew, and provided a 15 minute weekday early morning service when combined with the 51.

Replacing the 52 in Garden Village is an amendment to the 110 service between Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, Hull City Centre and Bransholme. The 110 had operated in East Hull via Cleveland Street, Stoneferry Road, Chamberlain Road, a small part of James Reckitt Avenue, Gillshill Road, Cavendish Road, Dorchester Road and North Point before then performing a circular route around Noddle Hill Way, Kestrel Avenue, Howdale Road and Sutton Village back to North Point.

From Monday the East Hull route will be substantially revised. From Cleveland Street the service will operate via Chapman Street, the whole length of James Reckitt Avenue, to replace the 52, and Ings Road to Cavendish Road. While Stoneferry Road and Gillshill Road are well served by other services, Chamberlain Road becomes unserved. In Bransholme the circular route is shortened to omit part of Howdale Road which becomes unserved, and Sutton Village.

The timetable remains largely hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes, but with some peak time extras between Paragon Interchange and North Point. The first Saturday service from North Point is now an hour earlier at 0720, and there is a new Monday to Saturday 1750 from Castle Hill Hospital to Hull Interchange. For Garden Village this is a significant frequency cut as over the past few years it has enjoyed 2-3 buses per hour into Hull City Centre on various routes.

Not for the first time this weekend, I find myself noting that Stagecoach have tried something, it hasn't worked, and they are now cutting back.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Not A Lot Of Love For The X62

A year ago the Stagecoach X62 between Hull, Brough, Goole, Glasshoughton and Leeds was relaunched with 'Love Your X' branding. The number of return journeys was increased from 7 to 9 Monday to Saturdays and from 2 to 4 on Sundays as part of the relaunch. The relaunch came after a period of relative stability for the service, which has been prone to regular timetable changes over the past decade. September saw some minor pruning to the timetable, with a 'bold' attempt at a very early 0450 Hull to Leeds service and 0645 return cancelled, plus some Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday daytime journeys dropped.

On Monday (23rd February) however the X62 timetable is substantially reduced to 3 return journeys on weekdays, 4 on Saturdays and 2 on Sundays. Stagecoach have given up on the Leeds commuter market with remaining weekday departures from Hull at 0910, 1110 and 1510, returning from Leeds at 1130, 1400 and 1730. The weekday journeys also run on Saturdays along with a 1710 Hull to Leeds and 1930 return. Sunday departures from Hull are at 1010 and 1540, returning from Leeds at 1230 and 1800.

It would seem passengers simply didn't Love their X - either that or their 'Love' wasn't enough to generate an acceptable margin for Stagecoach. What was a comprehensive marketing initiative from Stagecoach would appear to be a failure. After seeing the new timetable I have to wonder if last year's Love Your X relaunch was a final attempt by Stagecoach to make the X62 work as an all-day service? The new service level is the lowest I can recall for at least a decade (there is a post I made in 2009 which contains some timetable history from the 00's).

I don't know for sure what is behind the X62's problems, but I would expect the train service between Hull, Brough and Leeds to be a significant factor. It's quicker, more frequent, starts earlier, finishes later, and when (hopefully not if) the route gets electrified, will only get more attractive - maybe even a doubling of frequency to half hourly. The X62 is also probably heavily focused on travel to Leeds and Glasshoughton and not to Hull which could lead to light loadings during the morning to Hull and in the afternoon from Hull.

Hopefully there is a future for the X62. Whatever the future holds though, at least Stagecoach showed the X62 some love last year with their relaunch and improved timetable. Substantial timetable cuts are far more 'acceptable' when the operator has been proactive and tried new ideas out first.