26 May 2008

New CallConnect services

I was given the latest copy of the Lincolnshire Public Transport Map & Guide today, it's dated as Spring 2008. The map itself is very similar to previous editions, though is now produced by FWT rather than Pindar and depicts bus routes by the number they actually display on the front. For many years LCC chose to only display the route numbers of RoadCar services on their map with all other operators' services assigned a zombie number that was referred to in the timetable booklets. This worked well when cross referring services from the book to the map but in many cases the number displayed by the bus service itself was totally different!

Now, happily, normality has been restored. Of most interest is on the back of the map where three new CallConnect demand responsive bus services have been listed: Service 15B, based around Bourne; Service 1K, based in the Kesteven area and Service 51E, based to the east of Louth. Both are listed as commencing in July. Also on the list is the most recent new CallConnect service - the CallConnect 31, based around Sleaford.

Delaine Buses withdrew their Bourne Town Service and reductions in frequency on Services 602 and 635 following Stagecoach's withdrawal from the routes (which have been taken over by Centrebus but to differing frequencies) have made Lincs CC look at a more effective method of subsidy - their CallConnect minibus services. This seems to follow a trend central government seem to be hinting at: they feel that subsidising set rural bus services to not be the best use of funds available and that in some cases providing taxis would be cheaper! Of course the "third way", to coin a New Labour phrase, is to provide a taxi-style service that is still classed as a bus, and this is where CallConnect comes in.

Many local councils throughout the country are slowly realising the benefits of similar demand responsive schemes, especially in rural areas. Lincolnshire was one of the first in the country to trial such schemes as part of its InterConnect brand and won a national award for its efforts. Come July it will be very interesting to see the number of settlements covered by CallConnect and what percentage this makes up of the entire county!