Sunday, 7 February 2016

CallConnect comes to North Lincolnshire

The network of demand responsive CallConnect services set up by Lincolnshire County Council comes to North Lincolnshire from Monday 15th February (CallConnect currently does offer the ability to travel into Brigg, but is not designed for use by North Lincolnshire residents). The first service will cover the 'Brigg, Caistor and Ridge' areas - these are the areas of Lincolnshire around Caistor currently covered by the 53C CallConnect, plus large parts of southern North Lincolnshire, stretching from Kirmington in the east to Messingham in the west, including Barnetby, Bonby, Broughton and Kirton in Lindsey. The service can be used for local journeys within the area covered, including local journeys within Brigg, and to Brigg Garden Centre, to connect with traditional bus services at Caistor (53), Humberside Airport (Humber Flyer), Brigg and Messingham (100), or to connect with rail services at Barnetby. CallConnect operates between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 6pm on Saturdays.

Later this year CallConnect will extend to cover all other rural parts of North Lincolnshire, with three further new services. One is described as covering 'Ferry Ward' - the area around Barrow, Ulceby and South Killingholme - but will also cover Barton (would be very silly if it didn't) plus Brigg, Wrawby, Barnetby, Humberside Airport and Kirmington. Another is described as covering 'Burton Upon Stather and Winterton', but as well covering the area north of Scunthorpe extends east to Barton. The third covers the Isle of Axholme, while the North Lincolnshire village of East Butterwick will be served by the existing Gainsborough CallConnect service. There is a map available on this page.

The new services are operated in co-operation with Lincolnshire County Council saving North Lincolnshire Council the need to set up a demand responsive operation themselves, and allowing for service boundaries to reflect geography rather than administrative boundaries.

Taken in isolation, CallConnect is a welcome addition to the public transport provision in North Lincolnshire. It offers far more flexibility than traditional bus services, both in terms of where you can travel between, and at what times. There will now at least be some bus connections to rail services at Barnetby. However it does come with two 'barriers' compared to a traditional bus service; firstly users must register to use CallConnect, and then they need to book journeys in advance. This maybe acceptable for those without their own transport, who would otherwise need to book a taxi, ask a friend/family member or use options such as the voluntary car scheme - however it seems unlikely to me to be attractive for those with access to a car.

Unfortunately CallConnect is not being introduced in 'isolation', it is being launched as part of 'Connecting Rural Communities' that will also see fewer traditional bus services, and then there is the impact of North Lincolnshire Council concessionary fare reimbursement rates being cut to consider. This will surely impact on hopes that the more popular traditional tendered bus services will be taken on commercially. If CallConnect leads to the cutting of lightly used traditional tendered bus services then that might be hard to complain about, but if CallConnect is used to make cuts to fairly well used traditional tendered bus services more 'acceptable' then it would be a very retrograde step. CallConnect would provide a 'safety net' against isolation, but to me, not much else. It seems unlikely to grow the market and provide an attractive alternative to the car. I'm looking at the North Lincolnshire bus network rather nervously at the moment, hopefully that nervousness turns out to be unwarranted.


Joe said...

Does this mean only Scunthorpe Shuttle, Humber Fastcat, Interconnect, Humber Flyer, & Humber Connections bus services are safe with all the others likely facing the axe?

Call Connect is no good for commuters at all. I heard huge cuts were planned in Lincolnshire, maybe both councils have some 'masterplan' for this in place already??

Humber Transport said...

I wouldn't say for 100% anything is safe as commercial services are likely to be impacted by the concessionary fare reimbursement cut.

I would hope the network wouldn't be cut to that extent. I've seen the Villager (260) come into Barton full some Friday mornings, CallConnect will be useless for Isle of Axholme-Doncaster unless it covers Finningley. Some services are part funded by others as well; Barton Town Council part fund the 254 Town Service and East Riding the 360/361. There are also some (part) commercial routes outside of those you mention that hopefully will continue; the Saturday 292 operated by Selwyn Motors, most of Isle Coaches journeys I think, Hornsby service 4. Hornsby service 4 would certainly be classed as a 'trunk' route, though the 292 may well be hard hit by the concessionary fare changes. On the other hand I have seen plenty of almost empty 450's in Barton (late morning time) so I wouldn't be surprised to see changes to the Humber Connections services

Anonymous said...

The call connect concept is fine for users who are travelling to the nearby town and are flexible in the time they arrive, but for somebody say working 5 days at set hours, block booking the bus every week for a set time will be, at best, an issue - and as such, the call connect should be an enhancement to existing services - however in the current cuts climate, I can see this paving the way for the withdrawal of many local routes. In Brigg, I can see the 94/95, the 450, and 68 all looking vulnerable - with perhaps the exception of some school runs.

I am sure some work could be done to run the current network with fewer resources that would keep the formal bus routes going?

Joe said...

I agree, there must be better options than phoney buses.
I recall an excellant article here on Humber Transport that tried to cover the 12 route in Grimsby after it's proposed withdrawal. It was very interesting, and would of helped had the route been cut.

What options exist for rural North Lincolnshire to reduce services with minimal impact?

Could the Humber Flyer go via Barnetby to replace part of the 68 all day, with the 68 ending at the airport?
Could the 450 Humber Connection be merged with the 260 Villager in some way?
And should suggestions be sent to the council?

Humber Transport said...

If a reduction in the number of services was an acceptable trade off, the Barton Town Service could be operated as part of the 260 Villager, and something similar should be possible with the 68 and the Brigg Town Service. There are certainly options.

With regards to the Humber Flyer, if it returns to it's normal timetable the service has a PVR of 4. As the Melton Ross bridge restriction has shown there is not much slack in that, as going via Croxton has required a PVR increase to 5. So I don't think any daytime diversions would work unless there was a trade off by omitting other communities on some journeys.

Anonymous said...

I would withdrawn the Barton & Brigg town services along with the 68, and replace by:
260 Barton Tesco -> Barton -> Millfields -> Meadow Drive -> Barrow -> and current route...
450 Barton Tesco -> Westfield Ave -> Barton -> Ferriby -> Elsham -> Melton Ross -> Barnetby -> Wrawby -> Churchill Av -> Brigg -> Glebe Rd -> Springfield Estate

With all services having through fares onto the HF, 350, and 4. This would give Brigg & Barton estates a 6 day a week service, whilst keeping a simular service level in the other areas, and all with fewer resources. The only one that I am struggling to think of a solution for is the 94/95 - perhaps extending some of the "short" 103 trips to Brigg via Hibolstow and Scawby as replacement (whilst keeping the direct link to Scunthorpe?)

Humber Transport said...

Based on the current timetable for the 450 if the Brigg to Barton leg was separated the service would have to wait nearly two hours in Barton, so any truncation would require a full timetable recast of the 5. Far from impossible of course. You could 'turnaround' Grimsby services in Barrow based on the current timetable, but that would probably go down very badly in Ulceby, Wootton and Thornton Curtis, who would loose their through bus to Barton. It would also make connections to Hull and Scunthorpe very unattractive, requiring a double connect in Barrow and Barton.

Unless things has changed in the past few years, the 450 needs a double decker for Brigg Schools, and I wouldn't want to try a get a double decker around some of the estates in Barton and Brigg. The schools traffic is also fare paying, so I expect it helps to subsidise the daytime journeys, and separating it into a separate contract could well have a significant financial impact.

An option could be something like:
Route the 450 via Meadow Drive in Barton, Barton Tesco and extend to Brigg Garden Centre. A double decker should be OK going around Meadow Drive - the old X21 did so briefly
Use the 260 vehicle to serve different parts of Barton in between Goxhill journeys (frequency reduction would be required to Goxhill)
Route the 68 via Vicaridge Gardens in Wrawby, Churchill Avenue in Brigg and extend to Springfield Estate (again frequency reduction to Barnetby would be required). Likewise route the 366 via Churchill Avenue
Callconnect would unfortunately need to cover Howsham and Cadney, and the Springfield Estate/Wrawby Vicaridge Gardens on a Saturday - or use the Kirton Klipper/Isle of Axholme Shopper vehicle for a Saturday Brigg Town Service.
Although that does leave a journey within Hibaldstow that the Brigg Town Service vehicle does on a Tuesday

However there are also some smaller changes that could be made. Does there need to be an early Saturday morning bus from Grimsby to Brigg, or would it be cheaper to run it empty via the A180 from South Killingholme to Brigg? Could the afternoon 450 Brigg-Barton-Goxhill journey on schooldays also run on school holidays/Saturdays instead of the current 1630 from Brigg, allowing the 260 to finish earlier?

The short journeys on the 103 seem to fill in an hour gaps between Lincoln journeys. A Scunthorpe-Lincoln roundtrip takes three hours and the full route journeys are on a two hourly frequency. That could well change though as it is partly subsidised by Lincolnshire County Council who have there own bus cuts on the way.

Redesigning services certainly can't be easy, but hopefully something useful can be worked out whenever cutbacks end up taking place.

Joe said...

Could the 450 run as follows: Immingham to Wooton as normal, then Croxton-Kirmington-Humberside Airport-Barnetby-Brigg then to Barton as normal. This should only run at times the current Brigg to Barton service runs to reduce service levels to minimal.
The 68 could be cut completely.

And the Humber Flyer then runs from Cleethorpes to Humberside Airport as normal, then goes back towards Croxton (as in current diversion) but then goes to Barton via Barrow. This would be a doubling of buses for Barrow and would still be a similar end to end time on the Humber Flyer.

And is there scope to merge the 150 with the 260 Villager?

Humber Transport said...

Interesting idea with the 450/68/HF. I imagine the timings would be tight, and it may need a different service pattern at peak times (as well as Brigg Schools, the 450 connects into the 360 at Barton for Scunthorpe Colleges), however if it could be made to work then it could be an overall improvement. The main loss would be the Ulceby-Barton link, but an East Halton 'style' variation to the 260 one or two days a week could provide a partial replacement (along with CallConnect).

I can't see much scope to do anything with the 150/260 that saves a vehicle overall. Based on the current timetable if the 150 didn't operate, the 5 would have to wait at South Killingholme for around an hour. The 260 only uses 1 vehicle. Plus Goxhill and New Holland already have Grimsby links on the train, and Barrow on the 450.

Joe said...

Okay, but Ulceby will still have the 450 to Barton, just a longer route via Brigg.