Tuesday 29th October 2019
It’s good to see Stagecoach introducing another new commercial inter-urban bus route with the Group’s Yorkshire company trailblazing a brand new service between Chesterfield and Nottingham this week.
The new X1 provides an attractive alternative to the long standing Pronto branded route Stagecoach East Midlands operate jointly with TrentBarton running every thirty minutes via Mansfield. The X1 takes a shorter more westerly route via Clay Cross and Alfreton as well as using a section of the M1. It also offers a much quicker journey between Alfreton and Nottingham than TrentBarton’s half hourly Rainbow 1.
The X1 timetable offers an hourly frequency on Mondays to Saturdays and every ninety minutes on Sundays with an end to end journey time taking around 80 minutes depending on the time of day.
Operated by three double deck buses based in Chesterfield to the 2014 version of the Stagecoach Gold specification (Wi-fi and pretend leather seats but no usb), the first weekday journey heads down to Nottingham as early as 05:27 to provide a 06:54 return with the last southbound journey at 18:50 and 20:15 back. Saturday’s timetable starts about an hour later but includes a late evening northbound departure back from Nottingham at 23:00. A 12 hour day from 08:30 to 20:30 is available on Sundays.
The X1 has kicked off this half-term week with an eye-catching fare offer of just 1p single so I couldn’t resist taking a ride today to try it out.
I arrived at Nottingham’s Victoria bus station in time to catch the 13:06 departure to Chesterfield. The bus was due to arrive on its previous journey into Nottingham at 12:55 and was only a few minutes late having brought in a good load from Chesterfield.
Julie from Stagecoach Yorkshire had been busy handing out timetable leaflets for the X1 to passengers passengers waiting in Nottingham’s Victoria bus station and was impressively promoting the new service to everyone passing through.
A large banner also helped to draw attention to the new route and it was good to see the departure bus stop flag and timetable case had been updated.
Although the TrentBarton departure stand listing hadn’t yet been updated …
…. but they did have a supply of leaflets alongside their travel information window in the bus station.
Around 25 passengers boarded the X1 and we set off on time at 13:06 picking up a few more at bus stops on the way out of the city centre.
Bus stop flags had all been updated in both Nottingham and once we’d passed into Derbyshire and it looked as though new timetables were on display too.
We joined the M1 at junction 26 at 13:30 and continued for ten minutes to junction 28 where we left to do a 6-7 minute double run to serve the vast East Midlands Designer Outlet.
This Outlet is dominated by a massive free car park ….
…. with the bus stop for the X1 a bit of a walk from the shops but on the upside the bus won’t get stuck in a queue of cars seeking out an empty space.
We lost a bit of time passing through a busy Alfreton and temporary traffic lights near Clay Cross cost us a couple of minutes so we pulled into Chesterfield at 14:30, six minutes late. It’s quite a tight schedule although differential running times through the peaks will help.
We must have picked up about a dozen passengers during the journey indicating interest already being generated on only the second weekday for the service.
Some of the passengers were abstracted from TrentBarton but the novelty of a 1p fare all this week has undoubtedly also helped and half term week is always a good time to launch a new service especially with the build up to Christmas in the coming weeks as shopping centres get busier.
Julie was telling me the idea for the service came from a number of different travel demands including students, shoppers and commuters, particularly the quicker journey between Alfreton and Nottingham thanks to the X1 using the M1 and taking just over 45 minutes (longer at peak times) compared to 80 minutes on TrentBarton’s Rainbow 1.
Julie pointed out a passenger catching the 17:15 X1 from Nottingham would be in Alfreton by 18:14 but not until half an hour later at 18:45 on the similar timed 17:15 departure on Rainbow 1. Mind you, they’d arrive at Alfreton station half an hour earlier at 17:43 if they caught the 17:17 Northern train from Nottingham but that might depend how convenient the stations are located at each end of the route for their end-to-end journey.
East Midlands Railway and Northern Trains provide a half hourly train service between Nottingham and Chesterfield (the hourly Norwich-Liverpool and hourly Nottingham-Leeds) taking between 33 and 38 minutes (depending on calling patterns) but the bus is likely to have more convenient picking up points. Stagecoach’s £7 day ticket offers savings on the Any Time day return of £18.80 (any train) or £15.40 (Northern trains only) and the Off Peak day return of £14.80 (any train) or £12.10 (Northern trains only).
I usually get a feeling quite quickly whether a new route is likely to be a success. Whereas I think the M2 introduced by Stagecoach South East between Canterbury and North Greenwich I reviewed back in July is going to struggle, I have a good feeling about the X1, rather like the X10 introduced by the same Stagecoach Yorkshire between Barnsley and Leeds two years ago which seems to be doing well.
I think the omens are good for the X1. It will be interesting to see if TrentBarton react to protect their Alfreton market.