Sunday, 8 April 2018

North Lincolnshire Bus Changes

North Lincolnshire Council (NLC) are planning to make some significant changes to subsidised bus services "at the earliest practicable opportunity". The approach to bus services is summarised as:
  • "Utilise CallConnect where passenger numbers are currently low and the current service is infrequent;
  • Introduce fixed routes with CallConnect where there is sufficient demand;
  • Work to Total Transport principles of integration with school and college transport where possible;
  • Invest in concessionary fares at an annual cost of circa £1.8m;
  • Review existing networks to encourage strategic direct routes supported by CallConnect; and
  • Aim to increase the number of commercial routes operating across North Lincolnshire."
In terms of impacts on fixed/traditional services, the NLC documentation goes into some detail as to what is planned, although there are still plenty of unknowns.

Kirmington/Humberside Airport to Brigg and Scunthorpe

A new two hourly X4 services is proposed between "Kirmington/Humberside Airport" and Scunthorpe, which will operate in addition to service 4 between Brigg and Scunthorpe but via a "quicker and more direct route" - this would probably mean omitting Broughton and/or routing via Brigg Road rather than Ashby between Brigg and Scunthorpe. It is noted that a "key aim is to make the service more attractive for young people, thereby encouraging them to make greater use of the service and improving their opportunity to be both economically and socially active".

The new X4 will replace "the need to operate the [subsidised Saturday] service 366 (Goxhill to Scunthorpe via Brigg)". Subsidy will be available initially for the X4 to "encourage new passengers" and hopefully enable full commercial operation in the future. Apparently these changes also enable a "reconfiguration of the Brigg town services" 

I can only presume that the intended operator is Hornsby Travel, who operate the 4. A faster service between Brigg and Scunthorpe should have potential as journey times are currently not competitive with the car; this does however come at the cost of omitting significant en-route destinations, Broughton and/or Ashby. New links from Humberside Airport to Scunthorpe, and a much improved service from Humberside Airport to Brigg and from Kirmington to Brigg and Scunthorpe are also very much welcome. Furthermore if the X4 can eventually become fully commercial that would be some positive news for rural buses.

The villages of Wrawby, Barnetby New Barnetby and Melton Ross, between Brigg and Kirmington are not mentioned. Wrawby will almost certainly be served by the X4, and if the X4 is to serve as a 366 replacement and have a chance of being commercially viable in the future then surely Barnetby will be as well?

The 68 Wolds Villager between Brigg and Kirmington/Ulceby isn't mentioned either. The 68 provides 7 weekday journeys from Barnetby into Brigg, and 6 in the other direction, with some also serving New Barnetby, Melton Ross, Humberside Airport and Kirmington, plus Wootton and Ulceby on Tuesday and Thursdays. The new X4 could replace a large part of the what the 68 currently does if it serves Barnetby, albeit at a slightly lower daytime frequency.

Something else which isn't clear is if the X4 will serve Goxhill, New Holland, Barrow, Thornton Curtis, Wootton and Ulceby on Saturdays as the 366 does. Neither is it explained how these changes will allow the Brigg Town Services to be "reconfigured".

Humber Flyer/450

NLC propose that the Humber Flyer between Hull, Barton, Humberside Airport, Grimsby and Cleethorpes is rerouted away from the A15 to include Ulceby, Wootton, Thornton Curtis and Barrow. The press release makes this appear definite, but the NLC report states that discussions with Stagecoach are ongoing; I'm not sure if the Humber Flyer is fully commercial these days or if it still receives contributions from the various local councils it serves, but either way it's not NLC's route to just alter as it wishes.

On the one hand rerouting the Humber Flyer away from the A15 to serve four additional villages will hopefully generate additional custom, but with a longer journey time. For Ulceby, Wootton, Thornton Curtis and Barrow this will be a significant improvement, should it happen. The current 450 provides two to four services a day Monday to Saturday between Barton, these villages and Immingham, with the last bus from Barton to Thornton Curtis, Wootton and Ulceby on schooldays at 1215; connections to Grimsby are available at Immingham but they give a maximum 85 minutes in Grimsby. The Humber Flyer would provide a far superior hourly Monday to Saturday service, including commuting options, to Barton, to Grimsby without a change, and new links to Hull and Cleethorpes.

This change to the Humber Flyer would enable the 450 Immingham-Barton-Brigg service to be enhanced between Barton and Brigg, where four services a day are currently provided. My experience from ten years ago was that the non-schools services didn't get a huge amount of use on this section, but whether that is still the case or not I don't know.

The future of the Immingham to Barton section is unclear; NLC's report states "the intention, subject to the above is to then enhance Service 450 in its current form with an improved service running between Barton and Brigg"; current form to means me not cancelling half the route between Immingham and Barton, but with a diverted Humber Flyer would it be needed? NLC note that service 5 will continue to serve South Killingholme so the only unserved location would be Ulceby Skitter which has the train (and CallConnect). The current 450 is very poor for access to Immingham anyway as it doesn't serve the town centre. The through links across Barton would be lost but operational convenience probably plays a large part in them existing anyway.

Kirton Klipper/94/95

NLC propose to incorporate the Kirton Klipper (354) town service in Kirton in Lindsey into the 94 between Kirton and Brigg. The 94 would serve an "additional loop of Kirton in Lindsey" rather than Gainsthorpe/Lime Sidings, which apparently "seldom has any passengers". The Kirton Klipper currently operates 3 days a week but the 94 will operate 5 days a week "peak and off peak" and provide access to Brigg. It will also probably save a vehicle. Frequencies within Kirton will however be lower at every two hours and exact route details are not provided.

It is reported that Kirton in Lindsey Town Council supports the proposal, and overall it could be a good decision. Saving a bus, providing a five day a week service and new links to Brigg are probably worth the frequency reductions three days a week and the loss of reportedly little used Gainsthorpe services.

NLC also plan to alter the 94/95 route between Scawby, Brigg and Scunthorpe. Currently the 94 operates into Brigg via Scawby then operates to Scunthorpe as a 95 via Scawby. This means say a Hibaldstow to Scunthorpe passenger would travel via Scawby twice. The change will see "residents from Scawby travelling to Scunthorpe will catch service 94 to Brigg and then onto Scunthorpe. As such, they will no longer have the inconvenience of having to change buses in Brigg." This presumably returns to the old arrangement of running the Brigg to Scunthorpe section direct, providing a further additional fast buses between the towns in addition to the X4 noted above. Quite how the majority of Scawby residents who currently have the 95 into Scunthorpe without going via Brigg will benefit though I don't know, and I thought the 94/95 required no change of bus in Brigg? 

The withdrawal of the Saturday 366 noted earlier will reduce the bus service to Scawby unless the Saturday 94/95 is enhanced.

Service 55

Service 55 currently links Normanby, Burton upon Stather and Thealby to Winterton on weekdays then continuing to Scunthorpe via Appleby and Santon. It's not intended to be the main service from Normanby, Burton Upon Stather and Thealby to Scunthorpe - that's the 60 - but seems to fulfil three 'markets'
  • Normanby, Burton Upon Stather and Thelaby to Winterton
  • Appleby to Winterton
  • Appleby and Santon to Scunthorpe
NLC state the 55 has "few passengers" "between Appleby and Scunthorpe", not mentioning the rest of the route, and is to be replaced by 'flexible' CallConnect and a fixed CallConnect service on Fridays between Appleby and Scunthorpe that will also include Dragonby. A drastic cut in traditional/fixed bus provision, but with no data provided on passenger numbers it isn't clear if it is a justifiable cut or not. It is a shame that the local links into Winterton, also useful for Humber Fastcat connections, will be left entirely to flexible CallConnect, and that a fixed CallConnect service can't be provided for these, but again no passenger number data is provided to review how justified this decision is.

I'm not a huge fan of flexible CallConnect replacing existing services - you can't just go to a bus stop and catch a bus unlike traditional bus services or indeed fixed CallConnect services (a traditional bus service using a CallConnect bus). I would rather CallConnect is kept just for gaps in the public transport network that could never be realistically filled by traditional bus services. However if services really are very little used then maybe flexible CallConnect is the way to go.

Isle Shopper

The 58 Isle Shopper that currently operates on Wednesdays and Fridays into Epworth from Wroot and Sandtoft, and which also provides an Epworth Town Service, is to be replaced with a Friday only fixed CallConnect service, with no details on the exact route provided. It is disappointing to see the fixed service being cut back to once a week, but at least a fixed service remains and I'm sure there will be a cost saving.

The documentation from NLC also reveals that CallConnect in North Lincolnshire had 3091 registered users in October 2017, with 2510 journeys. Usage "continued to grow", and "was increasing month on month in the Brigg, Caistor, Ridge, and the Barton and Ferry CallConnect areas".


David Barrett said...

As ever the actual report published by N.L.C. raises more questions than it answers and it appears to be little more than a wish list in pursuit of the long-held dogmatic myth that it is possible to have a self supporting transport network. The report itself was of low factual content and really tells us more about the standard of governance in these parts than it does about our public services; what more could be expected from such a group of people who herald the splitting of the Scunthorpe to Sheffield stopping trains at Doncaster and their re-timing to the extent that the connections from east of Scunthorpe into and from the stoppers for passengers using the intermediate stations will be destroyed as an improved timetable?

Anonymous said...

Just going to chuck my 2p in

Brigg corridor
X4 and 94 combined hourly Scunthorpe>Lakeside>Brigg>Kirton/Humberside airport makes sense, especially if this means merging in the wolds villager, kirton town services, and even some elements of the Brigg town service. The existing "4" then is hourly (instead of the currently bizzare timetable) via Ashby, (Timberlands?), Broughton etc. Would there be any benefit to running the X4 right through to Grimsby to replace the Humber flyer, if it goes get routed via the villages?

Routing the Humber Flyer via the villages seems like a backward step, but would it actually add that much to the journey, and would the extra custom counter the slightly extended journey time? Can't see an "improved service between Barton & Brigg" doing well - Infact if the X4 went via Elsham between Wrawby and Barnetby, I would say it would be better replaced by Callconnect style service to those tiny places left over.

No idea how well the route is used currently, but diverting the Whitton journeys on the 60 that way would seem more logical. A new "60" could then run to Burton only - it could even be merged into the 37 to provide an hourly Scunthorpe-Burton service?

Humber Transport said...

Routing via Wootton and then either via the airport or via Ulceby to Keelby I don't think would make much difference to journey times, but trying to serve Ulceby and the airport in the same journey would. There would probably be a need to reverse/turn in Ulceby to then go to the airport - it's would be a good five minutes out of the way between Wootton and the airport, depending on how far you go into Ulceby. That five minutes could make the current hourly service with four vehicles impossible to keep doing reliably.

Joe said...

A Grimsby to Scunthorpe bus is needed, commuters can't afford £15 a day for train travel.
The airport usually has very few getting off the Humber Flyer, less than Keelby, often no one.

The journey time to Hull is already too long, they should consider another option of:
HF1: (mostly hourly)
Grimsby to Hull via current route.
HF2: (4 trips a day)
Grimsby to Hull via Ulceby.

Maybe an express motorway service at peak times also..