Back on Monday 29th April, Stagecoach made a significant enhancement to the section of the Humber Flyer between Hull, Barton and Humberside Airport, alongside some other changes to the full route between Hull, Barton, Humberside Airport, Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
The Humber Flyer now also has a route number - 250 - to go alongside it's name. Despite the 250 number having previously been used for services between Barton and Grimsby via Barrow, Ulceby and Immingham, there was no re-routing of the service and my speculation in this post was proved incorrect. I presume the number is to bring the service 'in line' with the 350 Humber Fastcat, with which it is now much more co-ordinated with between Hull and Barton, as detailed later on.
Almost all journeys between Hull and Cleethorpes have been retimed, the vast majority to operate 5 minutes later than previously to improve co-ordination with the 350, though some peak journeys have been retimed more substantially. The last three journeys from Hull to North East Lincolnshire now terminate in Grimsby, not Cleethorpes. This means the last service from Hull to Cleethorpes is now at 1555 rather than 1910, and from Grimsby to Cleethorpes via Clee Road is at 1732 rather than 2047. A small but disappointing change to the timetable.
In addition to the hourly Monday to Saturday daytime service between Hull and North East Lincolnshire, Stagecoach have added new Monday to Saturday hourly (with some variations) 'shorts' between Hull, Barton and Humberside Airport. Going by the timetable it would seem these are worked from Hull depot and require two vehicles. The 'shorts' are co-ordinated to give a half hourly service over this section of route, and then further co-ordinated to give an even interval Monday to Saturday daytime service of every 15 minutes between Hull and Barton when combined with the 350 Humber Fastcat. Barton had previously enjoyed three buses an hour to Hull, but they generally departed Barton Interchange at an 'uneven' 03, 10 and 33 minutes past the hour, and Hull Paragon Interchange at 10, 40 and 50 minutes past the hour; now it is 03, 18, 33 and 48 minutes past the hour from Barton Interchange and 10, 25, 40 and 55 minutes past the hour from Paragon Interchange.
Whilst the 'headline' beneficiaries of the enhancement are Barton and Humberside Airport, the improvements also benefit Boothferry Road and Anlaby Road on the North Bank, On the section of Boothferry Road between the Humber Bridge and Darleys Roundabout services have increased from four to five per hour (250, 350 & X55) and between Darleys Roundabout and the Hull City boundary from five to six per hour (155, 250, 350 & X55). Around the Humber Bridge/Boothferry Road roundabout there is significant housing development and the on going development of the Bridgehead Business Park.
Looking in more detail at the new 'shorts', the first additional 'short' of the morning runs between Hull and Barton only, and only on Mondays to Fridays, leaving Hull at 0645 and Barton Interchange at 0728, getting back into Paragon Interchange for 0800, nicely 'filling' the gap between the 0653 and 0743 350 departures from Barton that arrive in Hull at 0725 and 0825 respectively. In Barton this service adopts a one-way 'loop' serving the Market Place before the Interchange, something it would be good for the Saturday late evening 350 Hull to Barton shorts to do, to serve more of the town.
In the afternoon the 1325 'short' from Hull terminates at Barton Market Place on weekdays, and does not serve Barton Interchange. There is no return working so I am not sure why this occurs? On Saturdays the 1325 operates through to Humberside Airport as normal. The following 1425 from Humberside Airport, 1525 from Paragon Interchange and 1625 from Humberside Airport are all Saturday only as well, but the 'cycle' recommences on weekdays with the 1730 from Paragon Interchange to Humberside Airport.
These variations mean that the 250/Humber Flyer now has a different Monday to Friday and Saturday timetable; they were previously identical.
Looking more closely at the 250/350 co-ordination, whilst mostly it is perfect, it is not 100%. Most notably in the evening peak from Barton there are occurances of the 250 & 350 running at identical or near-identical times, each service having journeys leaving Barton Interchange at 1733, 1803 and 1833, followed by 1902 on the 350 and 1903 on the 250. In the morning from Hull, services leave at 0620, 0645, 0655, 0715, 0725, 0755 and 0825 before the even interval service starts. In the evening peak services depart at 1610, 1630, 1640 and 1700, and then after going 'even interval' again, depart at 1745, 1810, 1825 and 1910.
Stagecoach have supported these enhancements with a 'bespoke' timetable leaflet delivered to homes in Barton that shows a consolidated timetable for all services (250 & 350) between Humberside Airport, Barton and Hull, plus times for Cleethorpes and Grimsby on the 250. The leaflet also includes a brief selection of tickets (duo, dayout and Humber Megarider). Both the Humber Flyer and Fastcat leaflets also include a slightly different consolidated timetable, just covering Barton to Hull - the Humber Fastcat timetable having been reissued just to include this as the 350 timetable itself has not been amended.
As a Bartonian, these improvements are a 'step change' in buses to and from Hull, at least during Monday to Saturday daytimes. I very much applaud how Stagecoach have developed services, it is worth noting that until March 23rd 2009 (when the 350 gained Humber Fastcat branding and went from hourly to half hourly), the Barton to Hull frequency was just hourly. Services have been quadrupled in just over ten years. I really hope these latest improvements are a success. However there are unfortunately three not so positive points that come to mind.
Firstly the fares; Stagecoach are charging £5 Barton to Hull single and £9 return. Sadly this just isn't competitive with the car for 'one-off' journeys. On Friday I went into Hull for the morning and used Park and Ride - £2.70 both ways bridge toll with a tag, £3 Park and Ride fare and a bit of petrol/car wear & tear - it's about two thirds of the price of a return from Barton to Hull, and I don't have to walk 15 minute between my house and the nearest bus stop on the 250/350 route in Barton. It maybe that the high return fares are helping drive profits and helping to make the business case for investment, but they do make the bus uncompetitive with the car for trips like mine. The Humber megarider at £27 remains an attractively priced weekly ticket however - £5.40 per day if used 5 days a week, and £6.75 if used 4 days a week.
Secondly the doubling between Barton and Humberside Airport is a bit surprising to me. The section of route has no intermediate stops apart from at Barnetby Top and features seven miles of non-stop dual carriageway running from Barton to Barnetby Top followed by another two or three miles non-stop to the airport. Even allowing for the on-site business park, the airport sadly isn't that big and I would have thought the existing hourly service would suffice. There are no earlier journeys possible with the airport 'shorts', and the only later journey offered is at 1840 rather than 1810 from the airport to Hull.
An alternative option maybe to send the 'shorts' to the village of Barrrow, population 3022 in 2011, instead - and maybe even beyond to other neighbouring villages. However, in what I guess is a good example of how bus planning is not always straightforward, there are a few potential issues. An extension to Barrow, and possibly beyond, would add at least one extra route number to the Hull-Barton corridor, and in Barton to retain a consistent route for all Hull services in the town would require a convoluted route - from Whitecross Street, through the Market Place, Brigg Road, Preston Lane and back to Whitecross Street. If just extended to Barrow, the viability of the Stagecoach operated 260 and 450 tendered services maybe seriously impacted, which could be another factor to consider.
Finally, the Stagecoach website. The Humber Flyer improvements were logically posted on the Hull and Grimsby Service Updates pages. Put Barton in as your location and you are directed to the Scunthorpe information which didn't mention the changes. Logical if the Scunthorpe information is meant to be for Scunthorpe only, but not when it is also meant to include Barton. I'm sure I have mentioned this before, but either Barton needs it's own bespoke information, or the Hull, Grimsby or Scunthorpe information needs to include all Barton services. A similar occurrence happens for Barrow, which directs to Grimsby information, but the 260 is run by Scunthorpe depot so never gets mentioned; at Christmas the service updates for Grimsby therefore never included the 260 operating to a normal weekday timetable between Christmas and New Year rather than Stagecoach's standard Saturday operation.
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