01 March 2009

Lincolnshire's Fast-cat

Stagecoach has innovated with a pilot hovercraft scheme crossing the Firth of Forth, which ended around a year ago. Now they plan to have a go at operating a Fast-cat-style service crossing the River Humber, here in the LEYTR area.

Both Stagecoach's Hull and Scunthorpe depots will provide the majority of services, while East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) will also provide some workings.

I am of course alluding to the re-branded Service 350. Once the domain of RoadCar, the original name to the cross-Humber service has been revived: The FastCat Humberlink will be "coming down your alley soon".

A combination of increased toll charges to cross the Humber Bridge, coupled with the ever-rising price to park your car in Hull city centre, has seen a rise in patronage aboard the current Service 350, linking Scunthorpe and Hull via Winterton and Barton-on-Humber. Add to this the current economic downturn and the motor car is, we're lead to believe, now so costly that residents along the route's length have been turning to the bus in their droves.

This has seen Stagecoach double the route's frequency, and give the service an image make-over. Currently, Stagecoach in Lincolnshire's Scunthorpe depot provides two vehicles on the route, with EYMS contributing one. While EYMS's contribution will remain the same under the new FastCat Humberlink regime, Stagecoach are doubling theirs, and supplying new MAN/Enviro300 single-deckers with Euro 5-rated engines. Their Hull depot is also getting involved with the operation, enabling socially-responsible early evening journeys to be operated, unlike the very poor evening timetable offered at the moment.

The new 30-minute frequency is introduced on 23 March and with more advanced warning than we're normally used to, Stagecoach has released full details of the timetable, special fare deals and general publicity surrounding the new FastCat Humberlink service.

The timetable - akin to virtually all those produced by the Stagecoach East Midland divisional HQ in Lincoln - follows an identical format to that used by RoadCar in its latter years - it's never been abandoned for those in the style of Best Impressions that other Stagecoach depots use ad nauseum.

Although the new FastCat Humberlink livery shows absolutely no sign of Stagecoach corporatism, it's not the first time EYMS has come-in with Stagecoach in the name of uniformity and the financial benefits this can give operators. In 1997 both Stagecoach Hull and EYMS allocated one vehicle to the then named Ridings Express X62 between Hull-Leeds. EYMS' coach was painted in the then corporate stripes belonging to Stagecoach.

A few years later and Trent Buses, as was, had a number of Volvo B10M/Plaxton Premiere Interurban coaches supplied and painted in Stagecoach stripes for Service 757 (Doncaster-Leicester) - some of which can now be seen in Transpeak livery - and by the turn of the century had also offered-up two DAF/Optare Deltas in Stagecoach stripes for operation on Service 737 (Chesterfield-Nottingham).

Both Trent Barton and EYMS are still in independent hands - their original NBC-buyout teams at the respective helms no less - and both are committed to image to the point that they would be willing to paint their vehicles in their competitor's livery for the sake of unity and the financial rewards this would bring. I can't see Arriva willingly painting some of their vehicles in First's corporate 'Barbie' colours on a seemingly joint venture.

We'll be bringing full details of the new vehicles for the FastCat Humberlink in the next LEYTR. (GL)