Saturday 11th June was the last day of operation by Isle Coaches of their 291 Owston Ferry to Doncaster and 399 Scunthorpe to Doncaster services. These routes had formed the main services for the southern Isle of Axholme area in North Lincolnshire, centred on Epworth. Isle Coaches now only operate the college day 647 service between Misterton, the Isle of Axholme and the Scunthorpe Colleges.
Isle's 291 had operated twice per day Monday to Saturday daytimes, and their 399 five times per day Monday to Saturday between Scunthorpe and Westwoodside, extending to/from Doncaster once per day. I believe these were mostly operated on a commercial basis.
Hornsby last month registered a very basic replacement 399, albeit on a commercial basis - which is encouraging. Their plan was for a 0910 between Belton and Haxey in the Isle of Axholme, followed by an 0925 Haxey to Scunthorpe, 1215 Scunthorpe to Haxey and 1302 Haxey to Scunthorpe, Monday to Friday only. Unlike the Isle 399, these would not have served Westwoodside (or Doncaster), and between Haxey and Epworth would have taken the direct route via Low Burnham, as opposed to serving East Lound and Owston Ferry.
That however is not the final timetable. The subsidy 'status' of the route has changed from 'No' to 'In Part' so I assume North Lincolnshire Council have funded the improvements which have been made. The 0910 from Belton extends from Haxey to Westwoodside, the 0925 from Haxey to Scunthorpe starts at Westwoodside at 0930 and operates via East Lound and Owston Ferry, the 1215 from Scunthorpe to Haxey is now a 1230 Scunthorpe to Westwoodside via Owston Ferry and East Lound, whilst the 1302 Haxey to Scunthorpe becomes a 1327 Westwoodside to Scunthorpe, still via Low Burnham and operating direct between Belton and Gunness via the A18.
In addition there has also been an 0830 Scunthorpe to Doncaster and 1215 return added to the timetable, still Monday to Friday only. These Doncaster journeys operate via Owston Ferry in both directions and ensure a basic weekday shopping link to South Yorkshire's newest city remains.
Combined with the First operated 57f morning peak Epworth to Doncaster service and the Stagecoach operated 399 evening peak Scunthorpe to Westwoodside and return (slightly retimed) - both Monday to Saturday and operated on a tendered basis - that had looked to be the final provision for the Isle of Axholme in terms of 'timetabled' buses to Scunthorpe and Doncaster. A very basic shoppers service, plus some one direction peak services (albeit that evening peak 399 does also offer a return option for afternoon shoppers). Otherwise there is the JustGo demand responsive service which does cover Isle of Axholme to Scunthorpe journeys, and also serves Blaxton for bus connections to Doncaster.
However during the past week, in what seems to be a very late change, further services have been added for the Isle of Axholme, all on Saturdays and operated by Stagecoach - I assume funded by North Lincolnshire Council.
Firstly the Stagecoach Saturday 399 has gone from one to four journeys in each direction - 0620, 0840, 1320 and 1735 from Scunthorpe, returning from Westwoodside at 0730, 1000, 1430 and 1845. Not necessarily four useful journeys in each direction - I can't see the 0620 getting much use - but certainly enough to offer a basic shopping link and to serve any Saturday commuters. That last point is rather curious though given that Isle Coaches Monday to Friday morning peak service to Scunthorpe hasn't been replaced.
Secondly the 291 survives as a Saturday only service, still with two journeys in each direction serving Doncaster shopping and leisure travellers. Going by bustimes.org, a Gainsborough depot vehicle operated yesterday's inaugural Stagecoach operated service.
The end result is the southern Isle of Axholme has a better service on Saturdays than during the week! Perhaps not so surprising though when the timetable is primarily geared towards shopping and leisure use rather than commuters or students.
Overall the Isle of Axholme has a worse service after the past week's changes, even on Saturdays. This is a backwards step for bus services in the area. However in current circumstances retaining six day a week links to both Scunthorpe and Doncaster, the former on a part commercial basis, feels like a case of 'could easily have ended up worse than this', especially with the existence of JustGo.